VanMeveren Law Group April 2019

Foundations 970

SOUTH 2038 Caribou Drive, Suite 101 Fort Collins, CO 80525

OLD TOWN 123 North College Ave., Suite 112 Fort Collins, CO 80524

APRIL 2019

Why Are Our Roads So Dangerous for Bicyclists?

Y ou would think that, with improvements in road safety and bike helmets, we would see fewer bicyclist fatalities on our roads compared to a decade ago. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports say otherwise, because more cyclists are dying now than before. Here are a few numbers from 2006 to 2015: • In 2006, 772 cyclists died in traffic accidents across the country, and that number jumped to 818 in 2015. Comparing 2006 to 2015, 6 percent more cyclists died in car crashes. • Bicycle injuries have also increased over the years, with 44,000 injured in 2006 compared to 45,000 injured in 2015. That’s a 2.3 percent increase in injuries over this time frame. Is the increase in deaths simply because there are more people riding bicycles? Despite these long-range statistics, there was a 3 percent decrease in fatalities from 2013 to 2014. Also, analysts are not certain whether the increase in bicycle deaths is because the roads are more dangerous or because more people are now riding bikes. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Transportation has pursued a policy to double the distance traveled by cyclists and pedestrians in the U.S., while at the same time reducing the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries by 10 percent. Unfortunately, we have yet to achieve this goal as a nation. With more Colorado cyclists commuting to work, it’s vital that our state doubles down its efforts to keep these people safe. Municipalities need to resolve risky road conditions, and motorists need to pay attention to the road instead of their cellphones. Cyclists need to learn the rules of the road and need to utilize helmets, reflective gear, and lights on their bikes. Cyclists injured by dangerous road conditions and negligent drivers may also want to hold the parties financially responsible for their injuries in court. Serious bicycling accidents don’t just happen on the open road either. Another major concern is “dooring accidents,” which are often caused by a lack of awareness. Dooring accidents happen when a passenger or driver in a parked vehicle opens their door without looking to see if the way is clear. • The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that cyclist injuries and deaths cost the nation approximately $4 billion annually.

If a bicyclist happens to be passing at an inopportune moment, hitting an open door could result in catastrophic and potentially fatal injuries. Regardless of whether the door simply clips the cyclist or causes the cyclist to ride directly into it, you can imagine how terrible an incident like this can be.

Automobile drivers and passengers may be financially liable following a dooring accident, but it’s certainly better to just avoid these accidents in the first place. Here’s what safety- conscious bicyclists can do to prevent getting doored. Give parked cars plenty of clearance. If you’re riding along the side of the road where parked vehicles are present, you should always put three to four feet of space between yourself and the parked vehicles. If it’s impossible to leave this kind of room, then you should get off your bike and walk until the way is clear, or enter the roadway and ride in traffic as if you’re a car. Both of these options are better than putting your life at risk. Scan for heads. Cyclists should also scan ahead to see if there are any occupants in the parked vehicles along the road. If a head can be seen, that person might soon be getting out of the vehicle without warning, so make sure you give that vehicle a lot of space. Even if you can’t see any heads, be careful because a shorter person might not be visible on the other side of the seat.

Sometimes there’s nothing a bicyclist can do to prevent a dooring accident. If you were hurt like this, make sure you understand your options with regard to pursuing financial

restitution in court. That said, as more cyclists hit the roads this spring, we need to all do our due diligence by keeping our eyes on the road and following safe driving and cycling practices. We need to do what we can to avoid adding to more unfortunate statistics.

–Bryan VanMeveren

970-495-9741 • 1

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