Friday, 9 December 2011

Common Car-Bicycle Crashes

You have bikePHL to thank for this Post.  Thought it was worth sharing

By recognizing some of the common types of crashes that occur with cars, it's easier to be careful, know how to avoid them, and ultimately get where you are going safely.

The examples below (although not exhaustive) also show the importance of making sure you are visible and predictable - the more cars can see you (especially at night!) and know what you're doing, the safer you will be:

The Right-Hook: A motorist turns right without seeing a bicyclist, blocking or hitting the cyclist who is attempting to pass on the right. This can also occur when a car turns right suddenly from a stop light.

Tips to watch out for:
  • Watch out for turn signals, turning front wheels, cars drifting to the right and cars slowing down near the intersection. (Yeah, I know, “This is Philly and no one signals!”, so look out for turning front wheels, slowing down and/or drifting).
  • At a stop light, there are two options. Stop a little in front of the car in the queue and make eye contact with the driver so they know you are there. Or, stop a little behind the first car in the queue, and watch for it's movement through the intersection (either going straight or turning).
  • If a car is trying to turn, slow down to let it go by, or pass on the left (after looking behind you and signaling to make sure it's safe to enter the lane of travel).
  • If you have frequent problems at particular intersections with motorists turning right, try taking the lane. This will force turning motorists to wait behind you. Or, you can take a different route with less problem intersections.

The Drive-Out:
A motorist pulling out from a side street, driveway, or going through a stop light hits a bicyclist going straight.

Tips to watch out for:
  • Be wary and ready to stop at side streets, driveways, and intersections even if you have the right of way.
  • At stop signs, wait until you have the right of way, and stop moving if you don’t. Make eye contact with motorists, and be ready to stop until you are sure that they are actually waiting for you.

The Left-Cross and Left-Cross in Blind Spot:
Motorist turning left across an intersection hits a bicyclist going straight. This is extra dangerous because the turning motorist often cannot see bicyclists, especially when there are buses and/or trucks. Readers also note to watch for the “Philly left-turn-jumping-the-green-light”.

Tips to watch out for:
  • Slow down at complicated intersections and look all around you. Taking the lane at these intersections will also make it easier for motorists to see you.
  • If following a large vehicle through an intersection, move far left so left-turning motorists see you.
  • If passing a queue of traffic on the right (such as in a bike lane), go slowly and check gaps between traffic.

Dooring and Cars Pulling Out of Parking Spots
: This is the classic crash. The door of a parked car opens into a bicyclist, or a car pulling out of a spot doesn’t see the cyclist and hits them. (Little know fact- A bicyclist who runs into an open car door can total a vehicle. Although not common, the force of the bicyclist hitting the open door (acting as a lever) can shift the frame of a vehicle out of alignment.)

Tips to watch out for:
  • Whenever possible, avoid the door zone (the area closest to cars where doors pose a threat), or take the lane. It is good to note that 4 feet typically clears an opening door. This video shows you how to avoid the door zone.
  • If riding in a bike lane, ride on the left side of the lane. Look out for parked cars with lights on, people in them, or people getting into them.
  • Pay extra attention to taxis, which often stop, pull out, or let out passengers suddenly. Control your speed and slow down in tight areas.
  • Readers note to avoid hotels, taxi stands, and other areas with lots of passengers getting in/out and unpredictable temporary parking.

What other Urban or Philly-specific tips do you have? Please post any advice that you have to add!

For a much more thorough exploration of these and other common crashes, check out the Florida Bicycle Association's Drive Your Bike and BicycleSafe.Com's How to Not Get Hit By Cars

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