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The role bicyclists play in preventing bicycle accidents

Bicycle accidents seem to be a growing problem in major cities like Oakland and San Francisco. And the same is true nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bicycle accidents kill about 1,000 riders each year and send another 550,000 to the emergency room with injuries.

Many of these accidents can be blamed, at least in part, on drivers. They often fail to keep an eye out for cyclists and forget (or refuse) to maintain a buffer zone when passing. But bicyclists also have a role to play, and some critics believe that they need to take more responsibility for their own safety.

A recent opinion piece in the news was written by a woman recounting her experiences in Philadelphia. But the problems she describes regularly occur in cities throughout the United States. She reported being “pretty shaken up” after nearly hitting a bicyclist who crossed her path.

She explained that she had just started pulling into an intersection from a stoplight when a bicyclist blew through his own red light and zipped past the front of her vehicle. He was not wearing a helmet.

Critics of bicyclists frequently complain that they want to be protected and respected, yet they frequently fail to obey traffic laws. Most cities have laws requiring bicyclists to:

  • Stop at red lights
  • Stop at stop signs
  • Wear a bicycle helmet
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic
  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Signal or otherwise indicate turns, when possible

This is not to say that all bicyclists are scofflaws. In fact, many advocates for bicycle safety are very conscientious about obeying traffic laws. But individuals who disobey laws can definitely create the impression that all bicyclists do the same.

If you regularly ride a bicycle, please remember that by obeying traffic laws and wearing appropriate safety gear, you are both protecting yourself and furthering the cause of your fellow bicyclists.

Source:, “Bikers, be safe!” Kimberly Garrison, Nov. 5, 2014

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