Bicycle Ambassador Program
As I was preparing to teach a recent League of American Bicyclists Traffic Safety 101 (TS101) class, I came across some interesting information about bicycle crashes. What I discovered is that the majority of bicycle crashes involve the bicyclist all by themselves. Solo. No other bike, pedestrian or car involved. The reasons I can imagine include a cyclist not properly avoiding a road hazard such as a gutter grate, riding with no hands or getting distracted and losing control.
Another interesting statistic is that only 17 percent of crashes are bike/car collisions. Although this is a small percentage of overall crashes, it represents the worst injuries to bicyclists. One of my TS101 students recently called this the “lug nut rule,” meaning he with the most lug nuts wins. Since bicycles do not have lug nuts, the motor vehicle is always the winner, regardless of who is at fault.
I was reviewing causes of typical motor vehicle vs. bicyclist crashes and found some common threads. The primary causes of accidents include turning errors, failure to yield, running a light or stop sign, and not seeing the car or cyclist. The reasons cited for the accidents were identical for cars and bikes although the outcomes are not. Even though the fault of these accidents follows a 50/50 split (half the time the cyclist is at fault and half the time the motorist is at fault), cyclists always incur the injuries and sometimes death.
It is understandable that accidents happen, but we should learn from them and adapt our behavior to reduce their incidence. We can help accomplish this by following some simple rules:
- Be visible. Wear high visibility clothing. Avoid “urban” camouflage such as browns, blacks, grays and greens.
- Be predictable. Operate your bicycle as if it were a motor vehicle. Obey all traffic laws, as they are designed to reduce crashes and provide for public safety.
- Do not pass on the right. Motorists are not looking for other vehicles there.
- Use a white front light and at least a red rear reflector (but preferably a red flashing light) between dusk and dawn or in low-light conditions. Using a white flashing light during daylight hours also increases your visibility.
Do not ride against the traffic flow on the street, whether in bike lanes or on sidewalks. Riding against traffic on sidewalks is the most common place to have a bike vs. car collision.
- Expect not to be seen. Make eye contact with drivers and signal your intensions.
- Be a conscientious bicyclist and be aware of lighting conditions that will make it more difficult for motorists to see you. Night time, sunrise and sunset always make visibility a challenge.
- Wear a helmet! Eighty-five percent of bike crash fatalities are caused by head injuries.
As we ride and drive in Fort Collins, we all see examples of cars and bikes not following the rules of the road. Let’s start today to intentionally set good examples for our fellow bicycle and motor vehicle drivers by riding and driving safely.
Clay Young is a paramedic for Poudre Valley Hospital, a League Cycling Instructor and a Bicycle Ambassador (bicycleambassadorprogram.org).