“Obey the law” is the second layer of crash prevention. About half of bike-car collisions are the cyclist’s fault, and half are the motorist’s fault, so by obeying the rules of the road, you can reduce your risk of a car-bike collision by half.
Common causes of bike-car collisions*:
Bicyclist wrong-way riding: 14%
Motorist left-turn in front of cyclist: 13%
Bicyclist left-turn from right side of road: 11%
Motorist right-turn in front of bicyclist: 11%
Bicyclist fails to yield from a driveway: 9%
Bicyclist runs stop sign or signal: 8%
Motorist runs stop sign or signal: 8%
Motorist opens a car door into path of bicyclist: 7%
Motorist fails to yield from driveway: 6%
Bicyclist swerves in front of car: 5%
Motorist didn’t see cyclist: 3%
By implementing the first two layers of crash prevention, Control Your Bike and Obey the Law, you can reduce your risk of a crash by over 90%!
The rules for biking are similar to the rules for driving.
- Use lights at night. The brighter, the better! Reflective gear is great in addition to lights, but it is no substitute for proper lights for visibility. Missouri state law requires lights at night, a white front light and a rear red light.
- Stay off the sidewalks. While only downtown sidewalks prohibit bicycles by law, sidewalk cyclists can be hit by vehicles backing out of driveways or pulling out of parking lots, and are at increased risk of collision in intersections.
- Ride on the right hand side of the road. Wrong-way cycling might seem safer because you can see oncoming traffic, but it is statistically more dangerous because turning vehicles aren’t looking your way.
- When entering a road or changing position on the road, yield to traffic. Just as when driving a car, don’t pull out into traffic or merge across a lane without scanning, signaling, and yielding.
- Signal your left- and right-turns, and scan first, checking also for cross traffic and turning traffic.
- Choose your position at intersections based on destination. Use the left turn lane to turn left, and the right turn lane to turn right, just like in a car. When there is only one lane, mentally divide it into three “mini-lanes” (left turn, straight through, and right turn). Don’t turn left from the right edge of the road!
- Choose your position between intersections based on speed.Pass on the left, never on the right. At a traffic signal, line up with the traffic and take your turn. Don’t pass a line of cars by riding up the right edge, because you can get right hooked.
The Five Layers of Crash Prevention developed by the League of American Bicyclists for their Smart Cycling program are:
1. Control your bike. 83% of bike wrecks don’t involve a motor vehicle. Learn the common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
2. Obey the law. In half of car-bike collisions, the cyclist was not obeying a traffic law.
3. Discourage drivers’ mistakes. Just like defensive driving, you can discourage drivers from making common mistakes by choosing where and how to ride. A key concept is learning how to control the lane.
4. Avoid drivers’ mistakes. For those mistakes they make anyway, there are a couple maneuvers you can learn—and practice!—to avoid a collision.
5. Wear a helmet. Practicing the four principles above prevents over 90% of bike wrecks. The helmet can save your life for the few you can’t avoid.
*These statistics were compiled by the League of American Bicyclists
. They do not add up to 100% because there is overlap when both the motorist and the cyclist contributed to the collision, and there are causes not included on this list. I have seen a wide variety of statistics presented in many ways. For example, a Toronto study
found that bicyclists were at fault in less than 10% of bike-car collisions. Regardless, obeying the law will decrease your risk, though the exact amount is debatable.