Now that warmer weather has arrived, bicycle enthusiasts are hitting the open road. Whether for exercise, recreation, or commuting, bicycling can be a fun and eco-friendly way to reach a destination. Sharing the open road with vehicles, though, can prove to be dangerous if riders and drivers do not take the proper safety precautions and follow the rules of the road.
Bike Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 850 bicyclists were killed in collisions in 2019. Children ages 5-15 are the most vulnerable to severe injuries and fatalities, making up nearly a fifth of the total.
In Pennsylvania, the total number of bicycle crashes per year averaged 1,142 between 2015 and 2019, and fatalities, 17 during the same years. Most fatalities and injuries occurred at intersections with a stop sign or a traffic signal.
Common Bike Accident Injuries
Riders in minor crashes may only suffer scrapes and bruises, while other more severe collisions can require hospitalization. Because bikes do not provide the same protection as a vehicle, riders can suffer severe injuries in collisions with motor vehicles. The most common types of bike accident injuries include:
The most severe accidents can result in permanent, life-changing injuries such as:
- Skull fractures
- Cranial hemorrhages
- Facial and dental fractures
- Ruptured spleen or pancreatic trauma
- Partial or total paralysis
In injury cases, riders should consult with a personal injury attorney who has a wealth of experience to discuss their options. Depending on the cause of the accident, as well as the involvement of automobiles, trucks or motorcycles, riders may be entitled to substantial compensation.
Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws
Many vehicle drivers falsely believe bicycles are not allowed on roadways. Bicycles, however, are considered vehicles in Pennsylvania, and riders have the same rights and responsibilities as someone behind the wheel of a car. If you are a rider, or a driver, it’s important to understand your responsibilities when sharing the road.
- Bikes can be ridden on the shoulder of a road, in a bike lane, or in the road itself, following the same direction as motor vehicles.
- Bicyclists should operate their bike in a “predictable” way, meaning acting like a motor vehicle. Riders should obey traffic signs and signals, use visual cues for turning (hand and arm signals), and keep a safe distance from other vehicles on the road.
- Some traffic lights use detection devices to change from red lights to green lights. If you are riding a bike and the device doesn’t detect your presence, you can treat it as inoperable and safely move through the intersection after a complete stop.
- Motor vehicles are required to give at least a 4-feet space between their car and a bicyclist when passing. Passing should be done at a safe speed. It is the responsibility of the driver – not the cyclist – to provide this space.
- Drivers may pass a bicyclist in a no-passing zone if the cyclist is causing excessive traffic delays. Again, the driver must provide 4-feet of space when passing.
- Drivers should stay alert and check surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles. This is especially important when making turns as bicyclists may approach from the rear of the vehicle.
Bicycle Safety Tips
The best way to avoid bicycle accidents is to follow the Pennsylvania biking laws as well as follow practical bicycle safety tips. If you are hitting the road on a bike, keep the following in mind to stay safe:
- Wear a Helmet. The first part of a bike ride is putting on a helmet. Helmets can reduce the risk of a severe injury and protect you in case of a collision with a vehicle or protect your head if you are thrown from your bike. Helmets vary in size and purpose, so be sure to choose the helmet appropriate for your use.
- Wear Bright Clothing. Many bike accidents occur because a driver did not see the bicyclist in time to avoid a collision. Make yourself as visible as possible by wearing a reflective vest or shirt. Recreational clothing companies make gear specifically designed for this purpose.
- Ride During “Safer” Hours. Whenever possible, avoid riding on busy roads between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., when most bicycle accidents occur. This may be challenging if you are riding your bike to commute to and from work, however, recreational riders may consider adjusting their routes to avoid this timeframe.
- Never Drink and Ride. Operating a bicycle takes many of the same motor skills and cognitive abilities as operating a vehicle. Riding while under the influence increases your risk of getting into an accident.
- Improve Your Riding Skills. If you are a novice bicyclist, work on improving your skills and abilities by practicing in an empty parking lot or in quiet, residential neighborhoods. Learning to ride a bike is just as important as learning to drive a car, so take time to learn how to operate your bike confidently. Even experienced bike riders can benefit from continual practice and training to become safer bicyclists.
Remember, ride responsibly and follow the rules to keep yourself safe.
Lancaster’s Top Bike Trails
Lancaster County is the perfect place to explore on a bike. There are many trails both on country roads and established bike trails. You can travel through the beautiful Amish countryside or wind along the Susquehanna River. Here are a few of our favorite bike trails in Lancaster County:
- Conestoga Greenway Trail: This 1.3-mile trail runs along the Conestoga River and is lined with greenspace and natural habitats.
- Conestoga Recreation Trail: The Conestoga Recreation Trail is a 5-mile trail that connects to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. While great for biking, it is also used for hiking, jogging, and horseback riding.
- Lancaster Junction Recreation Trail: Lancaster Junction Trail travels scenic farmland and borders Chickies Creek in its northern half. The 2-mile trail is well-graded and suited for bicycling, jogging, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Injured? Call a Bicycle Accident Attorney Right Away.
If you were injured in a bike accident, you may have a viable personal injury claim. The lawyers at Georgelis Injury Law Firm concentrate their practice in personal injury law and can help you navigate the legal system. Our bicycle accident attorneys will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-HURT-NOW for a free consultation.