Newsflash: Motorists are hazardous to bicyclists' health

This post at the Freakonomics blog cites a Canadian study that found that 90% of accidents involving bicyclists in its sample were caused by "clumsy or inattentive driving" by motorists.

The only surprise about this is that the author is apparently surprised, writing: When it comes to sharing the road with cars, many people seem to assume that such accidents are usually the cyclist's fault -- a result of reckless or aggressive riding.

Really? Perhaps he runs with a cycling crowd with a heightened feeling of invincibility or an enhanced death wish, but pretty much every bicyclist I know hits the road with the fear that it and its motorized occupants will hit back. In addition, that 90% figure stated above is probably accurate with respect to the accidents leading to cyclist deaths in our area. Many of them occurred on flat straight roads with no visibility issues; the drivers just veered over and struck the cyclists from behind.

Findings like these are all the more reason why a safe passing law is needed in Texas, especially if accompanied by an education campaign.

An interesting footnote to the study is the finding that the third leading cause of cyclist accidents in the study was from drivers opening their car doors in the path of the bicyclists. I find this interesting because I don't personally know of a local bicyclist who has experienced this. I guess it's a function of cycling in a heavy urban area with lots of on-the-street parking. On the other hand, I suspect that at least a few of these "accidents" were actually caused by frustrated drivers stuck in gridlock who noticed cyclists moving through the line of cars.

8 Comments

I'm a driver and I hate sharing the road with bicycles. It's just not a fair contest, ya know?

I know that my multi-thousand lb vehicle is going to crush a bicyclist should the two meet at whatever speed. I worry about bicyclists and try my very best to give them all the room they need (which in my mind is the room they need should they fall over into my lane.)

The last wreck I had was caused by a bicyclist -- a youngster wobbling on his bicycle on the sidewalk, but there was no barrier between the sidewalk and the right hand lane of a busy street. He wobbled, I slowed down, put on my left blinker and was immediately rear-ended by a jerk who didn't see my blinker, my brake lights, or the wobbly bicyclist.

Granted, this bicyclist was in the 7-8 year range and should have not been where he was... although why should sidewalks not be safe for young bicyclists? Why would city planners not put a space barrier between sidewalk cyclists and walkers? Silly cities.

My son lives in Grand Prairie and regularly rides his bike to do all his errands. I worry about him constantly because drivers are NOT TRAINED to share the road with vehicles other than cars. I worry about my husband on his motorcycle for the same reason.

I'm all for sharing the road - truly - with the caveat that if the cyclers are on the road, they FOLLOW THE RULES THEREOF. Which means they stop at red lights, they indicate lane changes, etc. I can not count the times I've been cut off by a bike running a red light because they looked and figured it was clear enough. If bikers don't want to follow the rules, then they need to get off the road. Period.

I tend to drive as if the drivers on the road are all poised to do really stupid things, since around here that's really a given, so that makes sense. :)

I would probably see more shades of gray in a less trafficy area than the metro DC region. But our roads - honestly anything other than our neighborhood roads - are so mucked up with cars and idiots already that choosing to bike on them seems tantamount to a death wish.

And we have a good number of widely accessible rail-to-trails around here as well that follow most of the major arteries, making it less necessary for commuters to be on the roads on bikes in the first place.

All that said, I do agree there's no excuse for cars not being more careful around bikes. Period. (I dont want to come across as someone that thinks it's ok to hit people. :) )

I am still a little taken back, even a year and a half after reading the news about an old team mate from my days at Lee in the early seventies. The news that John Newton had been hit by a distracted driver and later died from those injuries was a heavy dose of reality to wrap my head around. Life is suppose to be just turning mellow when you hit your fifties.

Even if you take out of the equation the distractions that we have all have been susceptable to in varying degrees within our cars, the potential of a tragic interaction between the two transports does not diminish. You can not deny the laws of physics.

We as a society will have to address cycling and auto right of ways either by constructing new roads or pathways for cyclist or through more stringent and tougher laws. There may come a time in which the energy dynamic may force more of us to venture on a two wheel mode of transportation out of necessity.

There are so many other ways in which a life can end on a proper and dignifying note. Dying from the impact of a car while on a bike is not one of them.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Eric published on September 1, 2009 5:26 PM.

Bugged was the previous entry in this blog.

Stalking the wily petabyte is the next entry in this blog.

Archives Index