One of the best ways to do some cardio and improve your fitness levels is to cycle. Cycling provides a slew of benefits such as reduction in stress, increase in muscle strength, improved flexibility and mobility of joints and better posture. Not to mention that this form of exercise helps you reach your weight loss goals. But like all forms of exercise, cycling does come with a risk of injury and accident. Unfortunately, around 75% of fatal or serious cycling accidents occur in urban areas, according to statistics supplied by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 71% of all cyclists who died in motor crashes in 2014 died in crashes in urban areas.
Equally alarming is the fact that most of these accidents happen at road junctions, roundabouts and T-junctions.
While it’s important to enjoy cycling, it’s also essential to be safe. Following the law is certainly advisable, but being safe goes beyond following rules and regulations.
The good news is that avoiding injuries can be easily done by being alert, using some common sense and keeping some tips in mind. Here is a list of five of the common cycling accidents and how you can escape them:
The Right Cross Accident
Arguably, the right cross accident is the most frequent cycling accident experienced by cyclists. This type of catastrophe occurs when a cyclist is riding on the right side of the road and a car is coming towards the cyclist from a side street or the parking lot of a driveway from the right. If neither party brakes or slows down, two things happen: The first scenario is that the car slams the cyclist and the second is that the cyclist crashes into the car. Ouch. Either way, this type of accident results in the cyclist suffering from some pretty serious injuries. What can you do to prevent this from happening?
- Slow down. When you know there is a side street or parking lot coming ahead, slow down enough so that you can stop if a car unexpectedly comes your way.
- Buy a headlight. This is especially helpful if you ride at night but can even be used during the day. Flash the headlights if you notice a car veering your way. The flashes will get noticed by the driver and he will slow down enough to let you pass.
- Ride on the left. Drivers tend to focus on the middle of the road rather than the sides. If you ride more on the left, he will be able to see you better and stop. Even if the driver doesn’t hit the brakes, riding on the left gives you ample time to get out of his way and avoid a collision.
The Door Prize
Although this type of crash is easily avoidable, it’s extremely common. The door prize occurs when a cyclist is pedaling close to a parked car. The driver suddenly opens the door and the cyclist slams into it. In order to dodge car doors, here’s what you can do:
- Ride away from a row of parked cars, ideally to the left.
- Keep an eye out for parked cars especially ones with passengers or drivers sitting in the vehicle.
Crosswalk Slam or Collison
The crosswalk slam takes place when a cyclist crosses a street at a crosswalk and a motorist takes a right turn and slams the cyclist. It can prove to be fatal and doesn’t give the cyclist the option to swerve in time to avert the impending disaster.
- Don’t use the sidewalk. If you avoid using the sidewalk, this situation may not take place at all. In fact, in many states biking on the sidewalk is considered illegal. If you must ride on a sidewalk, ensure that it’s long and that you don’t need to cross the street. Prevention is better than cure.
- Slow down while crossing the street so that you can stop if you find yourself in this dangerous situation.
- Wear bright clothes or flash your headlight. This makes you more visible to the driver.
The Left Cross Accident
Similar to the right cross accident, the left one arises when a motorist makes a left turn and comes right in front of the cyclist. Usually, this kind of mishap takes place when the driver doesn’t check for cyclists and cuts the cyclist’s path. As a result of this negligence, the two vehicles collide which leads to bruises, cuts and a spate of unnecessary injuries.
- Don’t assume that a driver will see you. Slow down when you pass a junction or see an oncoming car. Signaling a driver before taking a turn is also a good way to ensure that they don’t strike you.
- Be aware and alert while making turns. Absolutely do not use your mobile phone or any device while cycling. Some bikers prefer listening to music on headphones while pedaling but this dulls your ability to hear traffic noise which can be crucial while taking turns and crossing a street. It’s better if all your senses are focused on riding.
The Wrong Way Accident
Perhaps one of the deadlier cycling accidents amongst the list of probable collisions is the wrong way accident. Picture this: You’re cycling against the traffic. A car is about to make a right turn from a side street towards you. They don’t see you because their eyes are focused on the traffic. They aren’t looking at the opposite side. They didn’t think anyone would come from the other side. Sadly, both you and the driver are inevitably going to collide since both of you are coming from opposite directions at a high speed. But don’t fret. This accident is certainly avoidable:
- Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t ride against traffic. By the way, riding the wrong way is also against the law.
- Stay out of motorists’ way. Ride on deserted streets. Avoid cycling at a high speed and as much as possible, ride on sparsely populated roads to avoid hitting cars and pedestrians.
Remember that cycling accidents don’t have to happen. You don’t need to brace for impact if you use common sense, headlights, wear bright clothing and stay out of the way. Be a responsible rider and pedal on!
Editor’s note: This article was written from a US cyclist’s perspective (riding on the right side of the road). For our UK readers, and those that also ride on the left side of the road, the side of the road referenced in each scenario should be switched.
Article by John T Lyons, in association Moment Bicycles. John grew up riding the canyons of San Diego on his single speed Huffy. After a stint working for Shelby American in automotive and then in the Aerospace industry, JT started Moment Bicycles. He developed a “better way to buy a bike” using his engineering problem-solving skills. Learn more at http://momentbicycles.com