How to avoid becoming a statistic
Riding defensively with an awareness of one's surroundings is the best way a cyclist can avoid a painful meeting with an automobile.By RICHARD REED
If you ride a bicycle, even casually, and when you hear about a cycling accident, think "it won't happen to me," or "I'm too experienced to make that type of mistake," you need to rethink those ideas. Bicycle safety should be at the front of every rider's mind, before, during, and after riding.
Riders and drivers alike need to remember that if a 3,000-pound vehicle hits a 150-200 pound rider, the rider loses, even if he or she is in the right legally. Just as motorcycle-safety commercials remind car drivers to look both ways - those same drivers need to watch out for bicycle riders.
This was evident in 2006, when a driver, who was convicted of making an unsafe turn, hit Dr. Chris Cavacuiti, an avid cyclist and triathalete. "The collision left me with fractured ribs, a broken collarbone, and a shoulder blade that was shattered into a number of small pieces," Cavacuiti wrote in an opinion piece about bicycle safety.
Another example of a rider never being seen was Maryland senatorial candidate Natasha Pettigrew. Unfortunately for Pettigrew, the accident's result wasn't just a few broken bones. Pettigrew was hit and killed in September 2010 by an SUV driver, who admitted to the police that she thought she'd hit a deer, until she got home and saw the bicycle lodged under her vehicle.
According to Michael Martin, manager of Paul's Bicycle Way of Life on Fifth Street, awareness is not just the responsibility of the driver, but also the cyclist. "The most important thing a rider needs to remember is that to a driver, bicycles are invisible," he said. "Riders need to think defensively and assume the worst -- that vehicle drivers do not see them."
To cyclists, Martin also says, "Be predictable. Dodging or weaving in and out of traffic will make it harder for drivers to see you."
According to Oregon Revised Statute 814.400, "Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle."
In simple terms, this means that bike riders must obey all laws that drivers must obey. If a car is not allowed to change lanes excessively or roll through a stop sign, neither is a bike rider.
In addition to riding defensively, for Martin, the best way to avoid an accident with a vehicle is to ride where cars are not. "A bike path is safest. After that, stick to bike lanes and riding on rural roads where there are fewer cars."
At the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), bike safety is very important, with a reduction of 3 percent per year of bicyclists killed and injured in motor vehicle crashes being a goal.
Meeting this goal would result in a reduction of accidents from 708 to 555 by 2015.