Over the past few years, bicycling has increased in popularity from a weekend leisure activity to a legitimate mode of transportation for many people, especially urban dwellers. There are many advantages to biking rather than driving a car, including a much lower (or nonexistent) gas bill and increased physical activity. However, cyclists must remember that they share the road with much larger vehicles and are often cycling on roads that were not designed with bicycles in mind. As such, accidents can and do happen, and all cyclists need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities following a bicycle accident.
Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents are caused mostly by either collisions with automobiles or poor road conditions, which are each explained further below.
Collisions between bicycles and automobiles are especially dangerous because automobiles are larger and faster than bicycles, and the only safety feature available to most cyclists is a simple helmet. Below are some of the most common accident scenarios between automobiles and bicycles.
-The right cross: This is the most common type of bicycle/vehicle accident. It occurs when a car pulls out from the right and either hits a cyclist or a cyclist hits the car. To minimize this risk, get a headlight for your bike and ride farther left into the lane.
-The left cross: This accident occurs when a car is approaching from the opposite direction and turns left in front of a cyclist or into the cyclist. If you’re a cyclist, minimize this risk by getting a headlight for your bike, not passing cars on the right, and making eye contact with the drivers opposite of you who are preparing to turn.
-The right hook: This happens when a car is passing to the left side of a cyclist and then makes an abrupt right turn just in front of the cyclist or directly into him. Minimize this risk by riding fully in the lane rather than too far to the right.
-The opened door: This accident occurs when a car that is parallel parked opens its door right in front of a cyclist, causing the cyclist to hit it or be forced into the path of a moving car. Avoid this by riding farther left into the lane.
-The wrong way: Occurs when a cyclist is riding on the wrong side of the road and a car pulling out from the left does not see him and hits him. Avoid this by never riding against traffic.
Most roads in the United States are designed for automobiles first and foremost, often with little attention paid to bicycles and other alternative forms of transportation. As such, there are many road conditions that pose no risk for automobiles but can be extremely dangerous or even deadly for bicyclists. Below are some of the most common road conditions that could cause a bicycle accident.
-Potholes: Riding over a pothole can cause a number of problems for bicyclists, from
puncturing a tire to throwing the cyclists from the bicycle onto the pavement, possibly into the path of moving vehicles.
-Road paint: Applying paint to a roadway fills the asphalt's texture, which reduces the amount of grip a bicycle's tires can exert on the road, especially when the road is wet. Riding over painted lines too quickly or at the wrong angle could cause the bicycle to slip out from under the cyclist.
-Sewer grates: Any type of metal (like manhole covers or steel plates) can be dangerous for cyclists, especially when they are wet, but sewer grates pose a particular hazard because they have long, rectangular holes in them that can grab a bicycle's tire. When this happens, the cyclist could be thrown from the bicycle.
-Railroad tracks: Railroad tracks are rough, uneven surfaces that can cause a cyclist to lose their balance and fall.
In Florida, bicycles are legally defined as vehicles and bicyclists are considered drivers. As such, bicyclists are subject to the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of automobiles when they are on Florida roads. This means that they must follow all regular traffic laws, such as stopping at stop signs and lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night, and yielding right of way when required. Because bicyclists are subject to the same rules as automobile drivers, liability for accidents between bicycles and automobiles is determined on the same basis as liability for accidents between two vehicles--that is, the law is primarily concerned with determining who was at fault for the accident. Determinations of fault in automobile accidents usually come down to a determination of who had the right of way when the accident occurred. If the bicyclist had the right of way when they were struck by a vehicle, then the driver of the vehicle will be at fault in the accident.
The steps that a bicyclist should take after an accident are very similar to the steps any driver should take after any accident.
- Do not apologize or attempt to negotiate with the driver
- Get the name, phone number, driver's license number, license plate number, and insurance information of the driver
- Get the name and phone numbers of any witnesses who saw what happened
- Call the police and get your version of events into the official record
- Do not pick up your bike or attempt to clean the scene until the police arrive so that they can document exactly what happened
- Seek medical attention for any injuries you sustained and document all medical care you receive.
- Do not talk to the driver's insurance company
Contact a St. Petersburg Bicycle Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, you may need legal counsel to protect your rights and ensure that you are compensated fairly. Please contact the expert bicycle accident attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling (727) 222-6922.