Bicycle Accidents: Tips for Cyclists, Drivers, and Parents

May is National Bike Month! Cycling is one of America’s most popular hobbies. In 2019, nearly 50 million Americans rode bikes on a regular basis. The COVID-19 pandemic caused these numbers to skyrocket as people looked for alternative ways to exercise and socialize. So, today, there are more bikes on the road than at any time in recent memory.

Because more bikes are sharing the road with cars, there is a higher risk of bicycle accidents. This article will explain the causes of bicycle accidents and provide tips on how cyclists, drivers, and parents can prevent bike crashes.

About Bicycle Accidents

Sadly, bicycle accidents are a common occurrence. Nationally, nearly 900 cyclists were killed in 2019. While the number of crashes involving child cyclists has been steadily declining since 1975, over the same time, the number of crashes involving adults has tripled.

Notably, national reports from 2017 indicate that most cycling deaths occurred between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Unsurprisingly, biking fatalities were three times more likely in cities than in rural areas. Alcohol was a factor in over one-third of fatal bicycle crashes.

The numbers are similar in our state. According to Drive Safe Alabama, adults are far more likely to be injured in cycling accidents. The vast majority of Alabama’s injured cyclists were in their 30s. Similar to the national numbers, 88% of all bicycle crashes occurred in urban streets.

Notably, the bicyclist caused the accident in roughly 43% of all Alabama bicycle crashes.

Causes of Bike Accidents

Many factors lead to bicycle accidents.

A common cause of bike crashes is proximity. When a motorist doesn’t give a bicyclist enough room while passing – or vice versa – the car can “sideswipe” the bicycle. This type of accident often occurs during turns or lane changes.

Another factor in cycling accidents is inattention. When a driver or cycler is not paying attention to the road – particularly at an intersection – the chances of an accident increase.

Cyclist visibility is also an issue. While the inability to see cyclists is clearly an issue at night, it also matters during the day. Cyclists often wander into a driver’s “blind spot” – the area that a driver cannot see without turning their head. Because cars can’t easily see objects in the blind spot, it’s easy to hit a bike in that area during a turn or lane change.

One type of accident unique to bicycles is “dooring.” As the name implies, dooring accidents happen when a bicyclist hits an opened car door. These accidents usually happen on busy streets during high traffic times.

How Drivers Can Avoid Bicycle Accidents

In Alabama, drivers cause 57% of cycling accidents. Here are some things drivers can do to protect cyclists:

Look for Cyclists

You should always be on the lookout for cyclists and pedestrians, but take special care near parks, bike paths, and other popular cycling sites. If you spot a bicycler, keep an eye on them until you have safely passed.

Pass Safely

Passing too closely is one of the main causes of cycling accidents. To safely pass, make sure that you are at least three feet from the bicycle. This means that every part of your car – including mirrors and other protrusions – should be at least three feet away from the cyclist before you attempt to pass. This buffer zone will help you avoid accidents.  

Be Careful Backing Up

Because bicycles move swiftly and more quietly than cars, take special care when backing up in crowded areas like parking lots and shopping centers. Rather than relying on back-up cameras or other technology, do a quick visual check of the area and look for bikers and pedestrians before you reverse.  

Look before Opening Your Door

Before you fling open your driver’s side door, double-check to make sure that no cyclists are approaching.

Do Not Drive While Distracted, Tired, or Intoxicated.  

Driving while distracted, fatigued, or under the influence increases the risk of traffic fatalities. In just five seconds – the time it takes to look at a text – a car can travel the length of an entire football field. Only drive while alert and sober. Always pay attention to the road. 

Follow the Rules of the Road

Speeding, running red lights, and other “minor” traffic violations increase the risk of biking accidents. Obey all posted signs and be courteous.

How Cyclists Can Avoid Bike Accidents

Cyclists contribute to accidents in a variety of ways. Here are some tips for safe cycling:

Check your bike before each ride.

Damaged bikes make accidents more likely. Before every ride, examine your bike for damage and check your brakes and tires to make sure they are in top condition.

Know the road.

Potholes are annoying to drivers but can be deadly for cyclists. If possible, avoid new roads until you’ve had a chance to explore them and look for hazards.  

Be visible.

Because most fatal cycling accidents happen at night, avoid evening rides if possible. If you must ride at night, wear reflective gear. During the day, wear bright clothing and be mindful of drivers’ blind spots.

Leave a Buffer.

Avoid getting too close to cars. Stay on a bike path when possible. If there is no path, stay at least three feet from traffic.

Leave the Headphones at Home.

Playing music during your ride might prevent you from hearing important information like honking horns or emergency sirens. Use your headphones once you arrive safely at your destination.  

Follow the Rules of the Road.

If you’re on the road, you must adhere to the rules of the road. Obey all traffic signals and road signs

Don’t Sip and Cycle.

You probably know that drinking and driving is illegal. But did you know that in Alabama, it is also illegal to operate a bicycle while under the influence? Only ride when sober.

Wear a helmet.

Alabama law does not require helmets for adult bike riders. However, studies show that helmet usage can reduce the risk of severe brain injury by 66 to 88 percent. Helmets provide valuable protection. Use them.  

How Parents Can Keep Children Safe While Cycling

While the number of childhood bike accidents is falling, it’s still a good idea for parents to help young riders learn important safety rules.

Wear Helmets

In Alabama, every rider under age 16 must have a bicycle helmet. This guide from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can help you learn how to select a helmet that will fit your child properly.

Provide Supervision

Ride with your children or supervise them until you are certain that they can ride without your guidance.

Choose the Right Bike.

It’s okay for children to grow into clothes, but the same is not true for bikes. To operate safely, a child’s feet should touch the ground. If the bike is the wrong size, the child cannot control it.  

Set a Good Example

Children do what they see, not what they are told. Parents, guardians, and older siblings should set the tone by wearing helmets and practicing good safety habits.

More Questions About Bicycle Accidents?

Hopefully, these tips will help you be a safe cyclist or share the road with bikes. If you’ve been injured in a bike accident, contact Collins Law, LLC. The team at Collins Law, LLC is committed to providing excellent representation and superior service. Call us at (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule a free consultation.