Your chances of being struck by a vehicle are lower than you think. Here’s how to reduce your risk even further.
By Bob Mionske
People are often reluctant to ride because they worry about getting hit by a car. But the risk is much lower than you might realize. A Centers for Disease Control study found that cycling is safer than such activities as tennis, swimming, fishing, driving, even walking. What should have you quaking in your pedals: the prospect of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease from inactivity. When bike accidents do occur, only 11 percent involve an automobile. The vast majority—73 percent—involve no one but the cyclist. Embarrassing-but-true fact: Fifty-nine percent are solo falls. The other 14 percent are collisions with stationary objects such as trees. (The most common victims are children, so keep an eye on yours while they’re getting the hang of riding.) Another misconception: People think they’ll get hit from behind. But collisions with a car driving in the same direction are relatively rare, accounting for less than 2 percent of all bike crashes. You’re more likely to be hit at intersections, which account for 45 percent of car-on-bike accidents. Here are some common scenarios—and how to avoid them.
1. Stop Signs
Accidents can happen when somebody fails to yield—and cyclists are at fault about 50 percent of the time.
Risk Reducer Yield to traffic that has the right-of-way at stop signs, and don’t assume that drivers will observe the law when you have the right-of-way.
2. Left Cross
A driver coming toward you makes a left turn across your direction of travel. Risk Reducer Wear bright clothing and proceed slowly enough that you will have time to stop if necessary. Assume the driver will not see you.
3. Right Hook
A motorist traveling in your direction makes a right turn across your direction of travel. Risk Reducer When traveling straight through an intersection, check for traffic behind you and don’t pass cars on the right. Also, take the lane: Ride with traffic, not on the shoulder.
When to Break the Rules
The best way to prevent crashes: Follow traffic regulations. That said, some laws allow you to make exceptions to stay safe.
If the law says you must… Ride in the bike lane
You’re still allowed to…Leave the bike lane to avoid an obstacle such as a pothole.
If the law says you must… Ride as far to the right as practical
You’re still allowed to…Move left to avoid hazardous conditions.
If the law says you must… Continuously signal your turn
You’re still allowed to… Return your hand to the handlebar if you need it to control your bike.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.