Bicyclists are exposed when riding and can suffer severe injuries in the event of an accident. Most bicycle accidents are preventable. The root cause is usually a simple failure to follow the rules of the road and failure to treat the cyclist with respect.
Bicycles have the same rights as drivers on the road. However, whether intentionally or unintentionally, many drivers fail to give bicycles the space they need or to honor their right to share the roads. Drivers fail to yield to bicyclists in a number of common situations, including:
Simply put, the car does not always have the right of way. Motorists must follow the rules of the road and honor the bicyclist’s right to be on the road in order to prevent bicycle accidents.
Drivers must maintain focus at all times to avoid potential hazards, including bicycles. Cell phones, navigation systems, or eating and drinking can all distract a motorist’s attention from the roadway, leaving cyclists in serious danger. Drivers who try to engage in this kind of “multitasking” present a serious risk to bicyclists.
Drowsy or impaired drivers are equally dangerous, both to themselves and to others on the road. Drowsy drivers run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel and losing control. Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol have slower reaction times and may lack the judgment needed to stay in their lane, properly execute turns, and avoid oncoming obstacles, such as bicycles.
Aggressive driving, or road rage, occurs when a driver exhibits purposefully reckless behaviors that endanger others. It is very dangerous when a driver acts in this manner with another motorist, but it can be deadly when a bicycle becomes a target of road rage. Examples of aggressive driving include:
When confronted with an aggressive driver, the safest strategy for a cyclist is to avoid them if at all possible. Engaging with an aggressive driver can escalate the situation, which is a danger for bicyclists as well as other vehicles on the road.
In some cases, it is not other vehicles but the road itself that causes accidents. Sudden changes in the road surface affect bicycles much more than larger vehicles and can cause bicyclists to lose control. Potholes are common due to long-term wear and tear on a roadway, or poor weather conditions. When potholes remain unfixed or are given low-quality patches, they can present a serious hazard for bicycles. Sewer grates and railroad or trolley tracks are also dangerous, as bicycle tires can get stuck and cause the cyclist to fall off or veer into oncoming traffic.
While one may think that the government or public agency responsible for maintaining the road would be responsible for harms caused by potholes, they typically have at least some degree of immunity and may not be liable where an “ordinary person” would be. Under some circumstances a government entity may be held liable, but doing so generally requires that they be given notice of the intent to bring a claim early on. For example, in New Jersey, the government must usually be given notice within ninety (90) days of the injury or the claim may fail.
Defects in a bicycle can present a hidden danger which the rider cannot discover until it is too late. Defects can arise from a serious flaw in the design of the bicycle or one of its component parts, or because it was manufactured improperly. Defects often lead to recalls. Bicycles may be recalled for many reasons, such as:
It is also essential for bicyclists to have a helmet that is properly fitted and free of cracks or other defects. Helmets should be replaced if they have struck the ground or other object in a crash. A helmet which has “done its job” protecting the rider in such circumstances may appear intact, but may be compromised and no longer offer protection.