The remains of a road bike after being run down by a heavy-duty truck. Thankfully and amazingly, the cyclist survived but suffered a number of broken bones and had been rushed off to hospital by the time we arrived at the scene.
The Risks of Bicycle Riding
Bike riding has become increasingly popular in recent years and is an excellent way of improving fitness, staying healthy and of socialising. A bicycle has a number of different uses, such as a vehicle for transport, an exercise tool, a way to network socially and a means of seeing the countryside. Road bike riding has been a central part of my cardio fitness routine for well over a decade and I never cease to enjoy getting out with my regular social group, the more serious prearranged bunch riders or even on my own. Nevertheless, bike riding has its dangers and particularly when you are sharing the road with motorized traffic.
A number of years ago, I witnessed a particularly bad pile up of bikes whilst riding in a peloton. I was fortunate to have been able to dodge the accident but stood wide eyed and shaken by the scene that was before me. Groans, prostrate bodies, buckled wheels and a couple of mangled bike frames filled the scene. A very good friend of mine, who happens to be an Olympic cyclist as well, also escaped unhurt and surveyed the accident with me. I will never forget what he said to me as we stood there together; “Buddy, one thing you will come to understand about riding and that is, there are two categories of cyclists. There are those who have had an accident and those who will have an accident!!” It was not long after that when I had my first peloton crash and there have been a few more since. The vast majority of seasoned cyclists that you talk to, will have been involved in more than one accident and will have experienced the pain of broken bones or, at the very least, road rash.
A couple of months ago, I was riding with my regular group of friends on a Friday morning and we were confronted with a particularly bad accident. As we rode through an area that is well known for being congested with traffic, the lead cyclist signalled for us to stop. In front of us was the remains of a carbon composite road bike that had been totally destroyed and was in many pieces (the photo at the top of this article shows that bike). There were a couple of police vehicles at the scene of the accident as well as the offending heavy duty vehicle, but fortunately the victim had already been ambulanced to hospital. Considering the extent of damage to the wrecked bicycle, the cycle group was both relieved and surprised to hear that the accident had not caused a fatality.
For us, this was a stark reminder to be extremely vigilant whilst riding and to not only follow the rules and laws of the road but to go well beyond them. Cyclists are extremely vulnerable and the rules of the road are not sufficient to prevent an accident. To stay safe, cyclists must set rules and signals within their ride group and ensure that everyone has a full understanding of these. They need to obey the law, ride predictably, share the road respectfully and safely with other road users, and maintain their bicycles properly. Most importantly, it is imperative to always be alert and on guard.
Bicycle Accident Statistics
Road accident statistics indicate that cycling is more dangerous than other means of transport. Bicycle fatalities represent between two and three percent of all traffic fatalities, despite accounting for about only one percent of all trips. On average, however, cycling trips are longer in duration than other traffic trips and therefore, exposure levels are greater.
Between 45 and 50 percent of all bike accidents are due to collisions with vehicles. In these accidents, the motor vehicle drivers often claim that they did not see the rider or in many cases, accidents occur when the driver is making a turn at an intersection and the bicycle rider is in their blind spot. The remainder of cycling accidents are the result of riding without due care and attention or poor road conditions (slippery road or road debris) and issues pertaining to equipment. It is important to have the correct equipment, including the right bicycle for your size and needs as well as appropriate lighting. It is interesting to note that approximately 75 percent of accidents occur at, or near a road junction.
Bicycle Safety Equipment
Always wear a helmet, as statistics show that this will reduce the risk of brain damage in an accident, by up to 88 percent. Last but not least, be sure to service your bicycle and ancillary equipment on a regular basis, as this will reduce the risk of accidents occurring as a result of equipment failure.
Next week I will discuss ways of staying safe on a bicycle and the use of hand and other signals within a bike group (read this follow up article by clicking HERE).