Many cities in California pride themselves on their bike-friendly images. The state legislature routinely considers and implements laws intended to make biking safer and easier, but their success is debatable. Why? Because the overall number of bike accidents and injuries has recently hit a 25-year peak.
If you’re a cyclist in California, you should be aware of the risks you face on the road. Below, we break down why accidents have spiked over the past two decades, why these accidents are so dangerous, and what you can do to protect yourself the next time you go cycling.
Why California Bike Accidents Have Been on the Rise for Decades
The National High Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) monitors traffic accident data at the county, state, and national levels. According to the NHTSA’s most recent report, bike-related fatalities hit a 25-year peak in 2018, with 173 reported deaths in California and thousands more accidents. While fatalities dropped in the following years, it appears to be directly correlated with the pandemic’s impact on traffic safety as opposed to successful safety initiatives.
When a statistically significant change in accident rates like this occurs, it is rarely attributable to a single cause. Instead, it is most often the result of multiple factors working together. In the case of rising California bike accident rates, it appears to be because of the following circumstances:
- Increasingly Hostile Infrastructure: As the population of California has grown, unemployment has fallen, and rideshare services have emerged, roads have become more congested. The state’s infrastructure has been altered to accommodate this increasing motor vehicle traffic at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists.
- Shift Toward SUVs: Overall, consumers have started driving larger cars, such as SUVs and trucks, instead of smaller sedans, making motor vehicle accidents more deadly for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Growth of Bike-Share Programs: Bike rentals have made biking more accessible to many, increasing the number of cyclists on the road, particularly in crowded urban areas. This increases the number of people at risk from dangerous drivers.
In short, deaths have increased because there are more and larger cars on the road, cyclists have fewer options to safely travel, and more bikers can be involved in accidents.
Why Bike Accidents Are So Dangerous
While bike crashes are not as common as pedestrian accidents, they are often more dangerous. An accident on a manual or electric bike is more likely to lead to severe injuries or death due to risks caused by:
- Location: Bikers are generally more likely to share the road with cars than pedestrians. Even if a city has bike lanes, those lanes are frequently on the same level as the road and are not protected by barriers like sidewalks are. As such, cyclists are more likely to get hit, and when those accidents happen, there is a greater risk of multiple vehicles being involved.
- Speed: The average walking pace is three miles an hour, while a cyclist can easily reach 15-20 mph on a manual bike. Electric bikes can go even faster, reaching 25-30 mph. When cyclists are in an accident, they are not just at the mercy of the speed of the car that hit them. Their own speed can work against them, making injuries worse.
- Maneuverability: While bikes are faster than a person on foot, it’s much harder for cyclists to stop on a dime or turn around. This can make accidents more likely and dangerous because the rider can’t take steps to mitigate their injuries.
- Equipment: Bikes themselves can make injuries worse. In serious accidents, metal frames can cause additional bruising, sprains, fractures, and puncture wounds. In addition, by elevating the rider off the road, the bike may make it more likely that they are thrown during an accident, leading to more severe injuries.
Protecting Yourself While Biking in California
Biking can be a safe, fun, and cost-effective mode of transportation, but it is still worthwhile to learn how to avoid a bicycle crash to protect yourself from dangerous drivers. While you can’t control what other road users do, you can take the following actions to protect yourself while you’re cycling:
- Wear a helmet when on the road. Brain injuries are among the most common serious consequences of bike accidents. Wear a helmet when you’re riding to avoid the risk of concussions or traumatic brain injuries if you get in an accident.
- Make yourself visible. Wear bright colors and use appropriate reflective striping on your bike and helmet. Even drunk and distracted drivers are less likely to hit you if you’re bright enough to see.
- Choose your route carefully. Avoid roads with lots of traffic and try to keep to well-lit areas. Staying away from major thoroughfares and biking during the day can help you reduce the likelihood that someone crashes into you.
- Remain alert to your surroundings. Avoid listening to music, talking on the phone, or being distracted while riding. If you’re alert, you’re better able to avoid dangerous drivers before they can harm you.
Pursuing Justice for Bike Crash Injuries
You may still get in a bike accident, no matter how cautious you are. After all, you can’t control whether a driver stops at a red light or turns without looking for cyclists. If you have already been injured in a California bike crash, you deserve to seek compensation for your medical expenses and other losses you may have suffered.At Fiore Achermann, our skilled personal injury attorneys can help you seek justice after you’ve been hurt in an accident. Schedule your consultation with our California bike injury lawyers to learn how we can represent you during your claim today.