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I had already decided the topic of this post when I saw the news that a MTSU student was struck by a careless motorist in Murfreesboro today, which makes it even more timely. One of my favorite excuses for not riding my bike more is the narrow road filled with giant SUV’s that connects my neighborhood to the outside world. It can be quite perilous for a cyclist and costly for an inattentive driver when the two travel the same pavement. It is not commonly remembered that bicycles are considered vehicles when on the road and have exactly the same rights (and rules) as motorcycles and cars. Following is a look at the six most common causes of bicycle-automobile collisions and how both cyclist and motorist can work together for everyone’s benefit.

Generally, the motorist can avoid collisions by being alert and considerate, so I’m writing this from the perspective of a cyclist and focusing on how he or she can minimize risks in each of the six scenarios.

(1) Motorist fails to yield (approximately 30% of incidents)

Example: A motorist fails to yield the right of way entering traffic or makes a left turn in front of an approaching cyclist.

How to avoid: Don’t hug the curb on your bicycle. Keep your eyes moving and scan for possible hazards constantly. Ride in the lane approximately where the right wheel of a car would be, which improves visibility and indicates that you are taking ownership of your rightful portion of the roadway. Keep hands on brake levers and be prepared for an emergency maneuver

(2) Cyclist fails to yield (approximately 30% of incidents)

Example: Cyclist doesn’t yield when entering traffic from a driveway or disregards traffic laws by running stop signs or red lights.

How to avoid: Wait for trafffic to clear before merging or making turns. Obey traffic laws. Be attentive and courteous.

(3) Poor visibility at night (approximately 18% of incidents)

Example: A cyclist doesn’t have lights or reflectors at dusk and after dark.

How to avoid: Get a headlight and tail light for your bike. Bicycles can also be fitted with spoke lights, which children in particular are apt to enjoy. Also, reflective vests can be lifesavers.

(4) Riding against traffic (approximately 10% of incidents)

Example: A cyclist riding on the left side of the road, following pedestrian rules.

How to avoid: Ride in the proper lane of traffic and follow all traffic laws.

(5) Rear end collisons (approximately 7% of incidents)

Example: An overtaking car approaches a cyclist, possibly at night.

How to avoid: Become adept at glancing over the shoulder, remain vigilent, use proper lighting at dusk and after dark. Wear reflective clothing. Be prepared to make evasive maneuvers.

(6) Opening car doors (approximately 5% of incidents)

Example: A motorist exiting a parked vehicle opens the door without checking for oncoming traffic. (Legally, a collision of this sort is the fault of the motorist in most jurisdictions, and the cyclist may make a claim for damages.)

How to avoid: Never ride closer than three feet to a car. Maintain a lane position approximately where an automobile’s right wheel would be traveling.

If you are a cyclist injured by the negligence of an inattentive motorist, make sure you claim the compensation that is legally and rightfully yours. Contact a qualified attorney to discuss your situation.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Opus the Poet

    Just an addendum to your statistics, two separate studies have shown a distinct bias against cyclists when assigning fault in a wreck. A Canadian study of physical evidence after a wreck showed about 80% had majority fault with the motor vehicle operator, and an Australian study using helmets with video and GPS showed about 87% of incidents (including close calls with no wrecks) were majority fault with the motor vehicle operator.

    Additionally your hit-from-behind stat is a little low, NHTSA has it at 8.5% nationwide, with about 75% of those being fatal.

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