Most Common Bicycle Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney

Learning how to ride a bicycle is a childhood milestone. Every bicycle rider enjoys a sense of freedom, fun, and adventure once they know how to ride. For adults, riding a bicycle might be more of a way to exercise or a practical transportation method rather than being an adventure. Bicycles provide a convenient way to reach your destination, improve your physical health, and reduce your carbon footprint.

According to data from Statista, approximately 54.7 million Americans regularly ride bicycles. In recent years, bicycling has become more popular. As more cyclists take to the roads in Los Angeles and across California, motorists and bicycle riders must understand the risks of sharing the roads. Since 2019, bicycling in large cities has increased by 37%, underscoring the importance of adhering to safety precautions.

Bicycle accidents carry significant risks of serious injuries or fatalities. This is because cyclists do not have much to protect them from the forces released in collisions and can be thrown from their bikes, drug by vehicles, or collide into fixed objects. Cyclists and motorists must understand the common scenarios that can lead to serious bicycle collisions and take precautions to avoid them.

Prevalence of Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle accidents have increased as people embrace cycling for exercise, transportation, or recreation. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,105 cyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles in the U.S. in 2022 alone. This was an increase from the 966 fatal bicycle accidents that occurred in 2021. Between 2017 and 2021, an average of 883 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents each year.

The NHTSA has also provided the following additional statistics:

  • An average of 45,400 cyclists are injured in traffic accidents each year.
  • Most bicycle accidents (62%) happen in non-intersection areas of the roads.
  • Urban bicycle collisions account for 85% of fatalities.
  • Light trucks and SUVs accounted for 46% of bicycle fatalities, the highest proportionate share by vehicle type.
  • More than half of bicycle crashes happened at dawn, dusk, or night.
  • Male cyclists were involved in 81% of the injury accidents and 86% of the fatality accidents.
  • On average, cyclists who were killed in collisions were age 49.

Many bicycle collisions can be prevented by taking safety precautions, including wearing protective clothing and helmets. Because of the risks, many states mandate helmets for bicycle riders.

Common Causes of Bicycle Collisions

Bicycle accidents can happen for many reasons, including the following common causes of single-bike collisions:

  • Losing control and falling
  • Mechanical failure
  • Clothing getting caught in the bike’s chain or pedals
  • Riding hands-free
  • Riding a bike of an improper size
  • Limited experience
  • Road debris
  • Poor road maintenance/potholes
  • Animal attacks

For collisions involving motor vehicles, there are several common scenarios in which bicycle accidents often occur.

Common Types of Bicycle vs. Car Crashes

According to Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney Steven M. Sweat, the following are the 10 most common scenarios involved in collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles:

1. Left-turn Accidents

Left-turn collisions are common scenarios involving bicycles. In this situation, a motor vehicle turns left at an intersection when traveling in the opposite direction of the cyclist. The motorist fails to check for a cyclist and yield the right-of-way. In some cases, this happens when a motorist attempts to beat a red light or is distracted. Left-turn bicycle accidents can seriously injure or kill cyclists.

2. Right-Cross Bicycle Crashes

Cyclists have the same rights when traveling on the roads as other motorists. Drivers must yield the right-of-way to cyclists traveling with the flow of traffic. Right-cross bicycle crashes happen when a cyclist travels on the right side of the road. A motorist pulls onto the road from a driveway or side street to the right of the cyclist and collides with the bicycle or causes the cyclist to collide with the car. Similar accidents can occur when a cyclist pulls onto a street from a driveway or side street, collides with a passing vehicle, or causes the vehicle to strike the bicycle. These types of crashes typically occur in residential areas.

3. Right-hook Bicycle Accidents

Right-hook bicycle accidents occur when cyclists travel on the road’s right side. A motorist attempts to pass the cyclist on the left but turns right into the cyclist’s path. This situation can occur when the motorist forgets the bicycle is in the driver’s blind spot or believes they have sufficient clearance to execute the turn.

4. Passing Bicycle Accidents

Some motorists don’t respect the rights of bicyclists when they share the road. For example, motorists sometimes get too close to cyclists while passing them, which can be very dangerous. Passing cyclists improperly can lead to rear-end or side-swipe bicycle collisions. In some cases, these accidents happen because the motorists grow impatient or angry at the slower-moving bicycle and drive recklessly while passing. These collisions commonly occur at night in poor lighting conditions and often result in injuries or death.

5. Dooring Accidents

Dooring accidents are collisions experienced by bicycle riders and motorcyclists. In these scenarios, a motorist parks along the side of a street and opens their door in the path of an oncoming bicycle or motorcycle. The cyclist does not have enough time to stop or swerve into the adjacent lane to avoid colliding with the door. These types of collisions are more common in residential areas and in shopping or business districts with street parking.

6. Backing Accidents

Some tragic bicycle accidents occur in residential areas when motorists attempt to back out of their driveways and collide with passing bicyclists. In many cases, these collisions involve children riding on bicycles in their neighborhoods. The driver fails to see the child because of their shorter stature. Backing accidents can be prevented by carefully checking for traffic before reversing from your driveway and using backup cameras.

7. Accidents Caused by Riding Against Traffic

Bicyclists are supposed to ride in the same direction as traffic, but many choose to ride into traffic instead. Some cyclists feel more secure when riding against traffic because they can see oncoming traffic instead of vehicles moving beside or behind them. However, riding against traffic is dangerous. Motorists have trouble seeing cyclists and don’t expect them to be traveling against traffic. When you ride, always ride on the far right side of the road while traveling with the flow of traffic.

8. Accidents in Uncontrolled Intersections

Many bicycle accidents happen in uncontrolled intersections that have no stop signs or traffic signals. In these situations, a motorist and a bicyclist arriving at the intersection don’t know who has the right of way and move into the intersection at the same time, resulting in a collision.

9. Road Rage Bicycle Accidents

While fortunately rare, some motorists intentionally strike cyclists in road rage incidents. Road rage can be easily triggered when a cyclist uses the same road as a motorist. Bicycle riders should obey the traffic rules and yield when appropriate. If a motorist becomes aggressive, it’s best for the cyclist to quickly move off of the road and allow them to pass. Avoid making eye contact, yelling, or making offensive hand gestures.

10. Pedestrian vs. Bike Collisions

Bicyclists sometimes strike pedestrians when they ride on sidewalks or on pedestrian paths. Cyclists should ride on the streets instead of sidewalks. If a bicycle lane is available, cyclists should ride in them.

Tips to Avoid Bicycle Accidents

To reduce your risk of being involved in a bicycle collision as a motorist or cyclist, follow these tips:

  • Cyclists should wear bicycle helmets and safety gear at all times.
  • Bicycles should have lights and reflectors to make them more visible.
  • Cyclists should wear brightly-colored clothing to make themselves more visible.
  • Motorists should watch for cyclists while driving.
  • Motorists should obey speed limits.
  • Motorists should avoid distracted driving.
  • Motorists should look carefully for cyclists when preparing to turn.
  • Motorists and cyclists should avoid operating or riding while impaired.
  • Cyclists should avoid wearing headphones while riding so they can hear the traffic around them.
  • Cyclists and motorists should obey all traffic laws.

Following these tips and remaining aware of traffic can help to reduce your risk of being involved in a serious bicycle accident. However, even if you exercise caution and follow all laws, you can’t control the actions of others around you. If you are seriously injured in a bicycle accident, call for help and seek medical attention immediately. Prompt medical care can help identify your injuries and prevent them from worsening. It can also help preserve your legal rights to pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.