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Is Road Cycling Dangerous?

Published on Nov 10, 2021 at 4:16 pm in Bicycle Accidents.

Is Road Cycling Dangerous

The benefits of using a bicycle for transportation are abundant. Fresh air. Exercise. Decreased stress levels. Reduced carbon footprint. A closer connection with the local community. Better heart and lung health. Enjoyment of the surrounding scenery. Efficiency. Improved navigational skills.

But those who take their bicycles on roads heavily populated by cars should rightly wonder: Is road cycling dangerous? There’s no doubt that a bicycle is highly vulnerable when surrounded by vehicles roughly 100 times its size in weight. A 20-pound open-air machine is no match for one ton of enclosed metal. There are certainly many dangers to cyclists on roadways. But riding a bike is statistically much safer than driving a car—only about 2% of vehicle crash deaths each year are bicyclists.

And there are steps to take to make sure that you are as safe as possible when riding among larger vehicles. Let’s take a closer look at both the worst dangers of road cycling and what can be done to stay safest.

Get in touch with one of our bicycle accident attorneys to continue a discussion on road cycling safety and what to do following an accident. For more information for local cyclists, see our blog about how to safely ride a bike on the roads of Charleston, WV.

The Dangers of Road Cycling

Is it safe to ride a bike on the road? In terms of safety, the biggest difference between road cycling and mountain biking or other off-road riding hinges on one major factor—drivers. While mountain bikers may face dangers like treacherous surfaces, steep cliffs, and wild animals, those who take their bikes to the roads of cities and towns have to deal with human dangers. The greatest threat to a road cyclist is bad driver behavior. The most dangerous drivers to cyclists include:

  • Drunk drivers
  • Distracted drivers
  • Speeding drivers
  • Reckless drivers
  • Texting drivers
  • Inexperienced Drivers

Big problems for cyclists happen when drivers fail to give them adequate space, cut them off, don’t pay attention to them, or neglect the fact that drivers and cyclists have equal road rights and follow the same set of traffic laws. Drivers should not only work to protect bicyclists but should also appreciate their presence. In fact, every bicycle on the road indicates one less car to cause traffic congestion, pollute the air, take up parking spaces, and contribute to road damage.

Outside of driver behavior, there are other concerns that road cyclists should be aware of. These environmental factors can contribute to whether or not an area is safe for bike riders. These include:

  • Potholes, cracks, road damage, and uneven surfaces
  • Pedestrians
  • Stones or other objects thrown by the tires of passing cars
  • Narrow shoulders or lack of bike lanes
  • Gravel, loose dirt, and slippery roads
  • Adverse weather
  • Debris in the road
  • Nails, glass, or other sharp objects which can puncture tires
  • Sharp turns and blind corners
  • Water on roadways
  • Animals crossing rural roads

What Are the Best Roads for Cycling?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes a Bikeability Checklist for cyclists to gauge how “bikeable” their communities are. Whether riding a bike on the road is a good choice or not depends heavily on the area in which you choose to ride. The Bikeability Checklist is a good way to judge if the environment is friendly to cyclists. The survey asks questions about:

  • How much space bicycles are given on the roadway
  • How well-lit areas for biking are
  • How crowded roads are
  • If you can safely ride on bridges and in tunnels
  • The quality of the road surfaces
  • The safety of intersections
  • How easy streets are to navigate
  • Driver behavior

By conducting a quick assessment of the roads you are planning to bike, you can make an informed decision about the safety of the area for cyclists. Prudent planning is one of the best ways to avoid preventable accidents. If you think that a road is not suitable for bikes, take a little time to plan an alternate route that is safer.

As we have seen, human behaviors account for most of the biggest dangers cyclists face on the road. The NHTSA warns of the types of drivers who make road cycling more dangerous. Their list urges bicycle riders to be aware of drivers who:

  • Drive too fast
  • Pass too closely
  • Do not signal
  • Harass cyclists
  • Cut off bikes
  • Run red lights or stop signs

Safety Tips for Road Cycling  

The West Virginia Department of Transportation (WV DOT), headquartered in Charleston, WV, publishes bicycle operation laws. The bicycle guidelines advise that those riding bikes on the road should:

  • Follow all rules of the road
  • Stay in bike lanes whenever possible, or as close to the right-hand road edge as is safe
  • Refrain from ever grabbing and hitching onto a moving vehicle
  • Ride single-file, and never more than two bicycles across
  • Keep both hands on the handlebars as much as possible, and always at least one hand
  • Only ride with properly working brakes
  • Use a white light in the front and a red light in the rear when biking at night

Additional tips for road cycling safety include:

  • Always wear a well-fitted helmet
  • Wear bright and reflective clothing
  • Never ride drunk
  • Ride in well-lighted areas as much as possible
  • Pay particularly close attention at intersections and when turning or merging
  • Make sure your bike is in top condition each time before riding
  • Don’t ride with more people than the bike was designed to carry
  • Pack an emergency kit to keep on your bike at all times
  • Avoid distractions like headphones that prevent you from watching or listening for dangers
  • Ride defensively and assume that drivers can’t see you

How a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Can Help You

At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we work to protect the rights of cyclists who have been injured in accidents caused by negligent drivers. Bicycle accident law exists to protect those who have been hurt by recklessness or inattention. It further serves the purpose of holding irresponsible drivers accountable for the dangerous behaviors that threaten our city and neighborhood streets. If you have been hurt in a bicycle vs. motor vehicle accident, call to discuss your case with a qualified bicycle accident attorney in Charleston, WV. Our team is ready to help you with your legal case.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice. Viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Prior case results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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