Biking is an efficient and eco-friendly means of transportation. It is a much cheaper mode of transport than vehicles; we do not have to spend money on gas and minimal maintenance funds. However, biking in urban areas comes with hazards and risks, and one in 20 bicyclists are injured each year. Learn how to practice basic bike safety and maintenance in order to protect yourself on the road.
Bike Accident Statistics
Bikes are designed to share the road with cars. With this dynamic comes inherent risks; cars travel much faster than bikes and typically contain large blind spots, creating a hazard for bicyclists. Accidents could occur if drivers are not careful or do not respect bicyclists’ right to share the road. Approximately one-third of all bicycle accidents involve a motor vehicle, and bike accidents with cars cause some of the most serious injuries.
There was a 34% increase in traffic deaths in 2018 in Washington, D.C. alone. These incidents led to the deaths of 15 pedestrians, eight motorcyclists, seven in cars, three cyclists, and one scooter rider. Though the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has implemented additional measures, including “No Turn On Red” signs and “hardened left turns” at dozens of intersections, safety issues still persist.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicycle crashes have common characteristics:
- Bicycle deaths occur most often between 6 PM and 9 PM, regardless of the season.
- Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (71%) compared to rural areas (29%).
- Bicyclist deaths were 5.6 times higher for males than females in 2016.
- Alcohol was involved in 35% of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2016.
Basic Bike Safety
Bicyclists have the same right of way privileges as cars, but this alone will not protect you from being struck by a vehicle. Often, this is due to distracted drivers, intoxicated drivers, defective vehicles, poor visibility due to weather conditions or blind spots, faulty traffic lights, improperly marked roads and bike lanes, drivers unfamiliar with your city’s traffic rules, and road rage.
- Put on a helmet before getting on a bike. Traumatic brain injury is the most common cause of death in bicycle accidents, and wearing a helmet may help reduce the risk of head injury in an accident.
- Make sure your helmet fits properly. The helmet size can vary between manufacturers. Follow the helmet’s guidelines to ensure the helmet is adjusted for proper fit. Review this guide from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute for helpful resources.
Decreasing Risk of Crashes
It is important to be prepared before heading out on a bike ride. Follow the basic safety tips below to help reduce the risk of accidents:
- Ride a bike that fits you and is in good working condition.
- Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like reflective gear and front and rear bike lights.
- Carry items in a backpack or strapped to the back of the bike.
- Tuck in shoelaces and pant legs, so they do not get caught in the bike chain.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic.
- Obey the same road rules as a car (stop at stop signs and street lights, signal when turning, etc.).
- Do not drive distracted; put away phones, music, or anything that may take your eyes off the road.
Proper Bike Maintenance
Following the rules of the road is not the only way to keep you safe as a bicyclist. Practicing proper bike maintenance is important to ensure you remain stable in your seat and protect you from unsafe road conditions that may be out of your control.
Review these basic bike maintenance tips to keep your bike (and you!) in one piece:
- Inspect your bike. Even one loose component on your bike could turn into a safety hazard. Inspecting your bike for any loose parts before you ride can help you catch potential problems before they develop into bigger issues. Cyclists who regularly use bike-share services such as Capital BikeShare should also follow this maintenance tip.
- Check your “ABCs.” Before heading out, check your bike’s air, brakes, and chain to make your ride safer. Make sure your bike’s tires have their proper air pressure, squeeze your front and rear brakes to make sure they engage properly and keep your chain lubricated to ensure proper gear shift.
- Keep your bike clean. It is important to clean your bike frequently, particularly if you travel in wet or muddy areas. Bike owners should have the cleaning items below on hand:
- Clean rags
- Soap/general cleaner
- Chain lubricant
- Bike stand
Involved in a Bike Accident? Hire Qualified Representation
Bike accidents are serious. Injuries sustained include traumatic brain injury, crush injuries, broken bones and fractures, neck, back, and knee injuries, paralysis, and more. Oftentimes, injuries sustained in a bike accident may not present symptoms until days, weeks, or months later. If you are experiencing injury symptoms that you believe were sustained during a bicycle accident, it is important to hire qualified legal representation.
Our team of Washington, D.C., personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel are ardent protectors of injured bicyclists’ rights. We are a proud sponsor of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and are here to fight for you.
If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a bicycle accident that was not your fault, allow one of our personal injury lawyers to review your case. Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. at (202) 659-8600 for a free consultation today!