While Great Exercise, Cycling Poses Many Potential Dangers

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Like many people, I enjoy riding my bicycle because of the feel of the breeze in my face, the ability to cruise to a destination and the passage of scenery as I pedal by. But I also realize that cyclists have to be conscious of what’s around them and what perils they may face.

    Here are two cases I’ve learned of recently:

    Example 1: A friend told me about a mutual acquaintance who loved to cycle, but didn’t wear a helmet. The cyclist was returning home one day on a busy road when he hit uneven pavement and was thrown from his bicycle. He suffered a brain injury as well as broken bones. Last I heard he was in a rehabilitation center getting therapy and was slowly recovering.

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    Example 2: The news is reporting on a San Francisco bicyclist who pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter. He was riding recklessly and had run three red lights before striking a 71-year-old pedestrian who was crossing the street. The pedestrian died four days later from injuries caused by the collision. The bicyclist was sentenced to three years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

    Riding a bicycle can be very dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 677 pedalcyclists (bicyclists and other cyclists including riders of two-wheel non-motorized vehicles, tricycles and unicycles powered solely by pedals) were killed while an additional 48,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2011. Pedalcyclist deaths made up two percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities. This number is nine percent higher than the 623 pedalcyclists killed in 2010. The NHTSA reported that most of these fatalities happened during commute times.  The majority of these fatalities (201 or 30 percent) happened between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7:49 p.m. The second highest number of fatalities (142 or 21 percent) happened between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. The fewest fatalities of this group occurred between midnight and 3:59 a.m.

    So what should you do to remain safe (and also to protect bicyclists when you’re in a car)? The NHTSA recommends the following:

    • Always wear properly fitted bicycle helmet every time you ride. A helmet has been found to be the single most effective way to prevent a head injury when in a bicycle crash.
    • When riding on a road, realize that you are considered a vehicle operator. Therefore, you are required to follow the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators. This includes obeying traffic signs, signals and lane markings. When you are riding your bicycle in the street, you must ride in the same direction as traffic.
    • Bicyclists should make themselves more visible so that drivers can see them. Some options include wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing while cycling during the day, dawn and dusk. If you are riding while it’s dark outside, make sure your bike has a front light and a red reflector or flashing rear light. Also, consider using retro-reflective tape or markings on your bicycle, other equipment or your clothes.
    • If you are driving a car or truck, realize that you are required to share the road with bicyclists. You need to allow at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road. You also need to look for cyclists before opening a car door or exiting a parking space. Additionally, you need to yield to cyclists at intersections and as directed by signs and signals. You also need to be vigilant in watching for cyclists when you’re making turns.

    Riding a bicycle is great fun, However, it’s important to take the appropriate steps to remain safe so you can get your workout and also reach your destination safely.

  • Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    CBS Sacramento. (2013). Bicyclist pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter for running down pedestrian.

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2013). Traffic safety facts: 2011 data.

Published On: July 24, 2013