The start of the summer marks a good time to focus on bicycle safety as one can expect to see more riders on the road in Richmond and throughout Virginia in the weeks ahead. By paying close attention to safety, drivers and cyclists alike can prevent bicycle accidents.
First, let’s take a look at the numbers:
A review of the most recent bicycle accident data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles – covering the five-year period between 2008 and 2012 – indicates that there is certainly room for improvement in bicycle safety within the 16-county Richmond metropolitan area.
According to the DMV data, between 2008 and 2012:
- 235 bicycle crashes occurred in the region, or an average of 47 per year. The number of crashes went up three years in a row before a slight drop in 2012. In that year, there were 53 crashes compared to 62 in the year before. For the entire state, there were 4,196 crashes, or about 839 per year.
- 221 bicycle accident injuries were reported in the region, or an average of 44 per year. Statewide, there were 3,464 injuries, or 693 per year.
- Four people died in bicycle crashes in the region, with those crashes occurring in Amelia, Caroline, Hanover and Henrico counties. For the entire state, there were 54 bike accident deaths, or about 11 per year.
The four counties in the Richmond metropolitan area with the most bicycle crashes and injuries between 2008 and 2012 – again based on DMV data – were:
With these numbers in mind, let’s now turn our focus to what we can do to avoid bicycle accidents.
As the League of American Bicyclists advises, riders can reduce their risk of collisions by:
- Following the law. Bicycle riders are expected to obey the rules of the road just like drivers of cars and trucks.
- Being predictable. Riders should signal, ride in a straight line and avoid swerving between parked vehicles.
- Being visible. Riders should wear bright clothing and use reflective devices to ensure that drivers see them. Making eye contact with others is important. Bicyclists should not ride on sidewalks.
- Anticipating the behavior of others. Bicyclists should consider what drivers, pedestrians and other bikers are likely to do.
- Considering obstacles. Bicycle riders should be on the lookout for road hazards including debris and potholes. Railroad tracks should be crossed at right angles.
- Checking their bike. Riders need to make sure their tires have enough air; their brakes are working; their quick-release levers are closed; and their chains run smoothly.
Of course, even the most careful bicyclist could still be injured if drivers don’t know how to share the road in a safe and responsible way. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises drivers to:
- Respect designated bicycle lanes.
- Leave no less than three feet of clearance when passing a bicycle rider on the road.
- Look out for bicyclists before pulling out of parking spots or opening car doors.
- Yield to bicycle riders when required.
- Treat bikes like cars.
- Look out for bicycle riders when making turns.
- Avoid driving distracted.
If a driver makes a mistake and causes a collision, the bicyclist may be able to pursue a claim for damages. It is important to contact an attorney to have a thorough review of your case.