Reducing the risk of bicycle accidents.

Many BC residents are health conscious citizens that embrace cycling. BC continually ranks as the healthiest province in Canada, according to reports by the Conference Board of Canada. Cycling is fun recreation with considerable health benefits and, for some, it is a means of daily commuting. BC has a network of over 300 lane kilometres of bike infrastructure in Vancouver alone. Outside of Vancouver, there are many bike paths as well and some cyclists try out exceptional mountain bike trails through Revelstoke, Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver Island.

Unfortunately, cycling comes with accident risks. In 2013, Vancouver had over 1,500 cyclist accidents, according to ICBC. Most accidents occur in urban areas, at or near a road junction and during daylight hours, though most fatalities occur on rural roads where speed limits are higher. Taking precautions can help to mitigate the likelihood of accidents. A few ways to reduce the risks are outlined here.

Plan Your Route

In each city, certain intersections, streets and locations are known as dangerous. It is best to familiarize yourself with these cyclist accident hotspots and to plan your route in advance to avoid high-risk areas where possible. If you know certain roads to be in poor condition (e.g., with pot holes or debris) or where construction is taking place, try to avoid them if you can.

Increase Visibility and Other Available Protections

“Failing to look properly” by either the driver or cyclist is the highest cause of accidents, including in situations where drivers use excessive speed, travel too fast for the road conditions, or are distracted or impaired by alcohol or excessive fatigue. Increasing your visibility as a cyclist is one of the few ways you can mitigate these accident risks. Bright and reflective protective gear is recommended as is wearing an approved bicycle helmet, appropriate footwear, clothing and gloves that protect your skin from road rash in a fall. A front and back light for evening cycling is required and new LED lights with multiple bulbs can increase brightness significantly. Some cyclists get creative about being seen, using helmet covers, reflective and colourful wheel spokes, reflective and/or LED lit ankle bands.

Other protections are available, including wearing protective sunglasses or clear glasses in the evening to shield your eyes from bugs, dust, and debris and from injuries in the event of a fall. Adding mirrors onto your bicycle handlebars helps you to see a vehicle approaching and installing a helmet camera can be valuable evidence if there is an accident, particularly since most bicycle collisions with vehicles involve the front of the automobile with the rear of the cyclist. Visiting your local bicycle shop could introduce you to functional and fun protective gadgets.

Caution in Intersections

Intersections are the most likely area for cyclists to be injured, including at two-way stop signs, four-way stop signs, lights and yield signs. Of great concern is motor vehicle drivers who emerge into the path of the cyclist or turn across the path of the cyclist. Making left turns without seeing the cyclist is a common cause of accidents. To decrease your risks, it is best to proceed through intersections with extra caution, to raise or lower your speed as needed and to always be aware that quick, evasive maneuvers may be needed.

Watch for an Opening Car Door

In urban areas, there are often parked vehicles on the road that pose extra dangers for cyclists. Once parked, drivers often think the driving is done and that they can simply get out as they do in a parking lot or in their own driveway or garage. As a cyclist, you can reduce the risk of “dooring” by looking ahead for vehicles with a person inside and staying at least a metre away from parked cars.

Be Aware of Your Own Driving

Some cyclists increase their accident risks by riding on the sidewalk, where drivers often don’t expect or see them when coming out of a driveway. Cars usually stop at roads and not at the sidewalk because that is where they expect to encounter other cars. Riding on the sidewalk can also lead to a ticket unless a posted sign or bylaw allows otherwise.

When out cycling, you need to be familiar with the rules of the road and ride in accordance with the rules that apply to all road users. You may want to improve or refresh your driving knowledge by reviewing the driver examination handbook and also a book on rules for cyclists. Every Cyclist’s Guide to Canadian Law is an excellent resource for cyclists, written by two avid cyclists, who also happen to be law professors, Craig Forcese and Nicole LaViolette.

As a cyclist using physical power to travel, you also need to be aware of your own fatigue level and skill level to help reduce your accident potential. You might want to plan to pull off the road for rest breaks, where you can recharge by drinking water and/or having a snack. Improving bike-handling skills by taking a bicycling course can also help to increase your comfort and avoid accidents, including your ability to look back over your shoulder without weaving, which is an important skill.

Some cyclists add liability to themselves by wearing ear buds while cycling in order to listen to music. Some cyclists manage to talk on a cell phone or text while cycling, which is illegal and can additionally be problematic if you drop your handheld device while on the road. Drinking alcohol and riding can lead to further complications. These distractions or activities that impair driving ability can take the focus away from driving and slow reaction time, making cycling more dangerous than otherwise.

Making Cycling Safer

Government efforts are making cycling safer in many ways. Local and provincial governments are working to provide infrastructure improvements, effective laws and law enforcement. A sheer increase in the numbers of people who ride bikes also makes communities safer for biking.

When to Contact a Bicycle Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident, you should speak to an experienced professional for legal information, advocacy and to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled. At Fishman Lawyers we have extensive experience with personal injury in the Vancouver area. We recommend that you not agree to any settlements or sign any legal documents about your injuries until you have received legal advice. We provide a free consultation where a collision has occurred. Call us to speak to a lawyer at 604-682-0717.