How Dangerous Is It to Ride a Bicycle on Public Streets?

For many of us, the bicycle conjures many happy memories of childhood. We learn to ride with training wheels and close parental supervision, soon graduating to unsupervised liberty. As we grow older, our bikes supply transportation and freedom, expanding our geographical universe and often taking us distances we carefully conceal from our parents. Finally, in adulthood, many rediscover their love for biking. Perhaps the focus is now on exercise, competition, or environmentally friendly transportation.

Regardless of the motivation, it’s indisputable that there exist many passionate bicycle riders in Oregon and across the United States. And, of course, whether an adult or child, staying safe is always a primary goal.

Which brings us to today’s blog topic – how dangerous is it to ride a bicycle on public streets?

Statistics Show the Dangers Faced by Bicycle Riders

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), 818 cyclists - including non-motorized unicycles, bicycles, and tricycles - died across the country in 2015, representing 2.3 percent of all traffic fatalities. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center notes that cycling deaths have increased 6 percent since 2002 and more than 12 percent from 2014. The numbers are concerning because bicycle trips represent 1 percent of trips made in the U.S., but more than 2 percent of the deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a bleaker view, stating that 1,000 bicyclists died in 2015, with almost 467,000 more receiving injuries. The lifetime cost of bicycle injuries from a 2010 analysis was $10 billion.

In 2012, one publication listed Oregon as the seventh most dangerous state for cyclists, with 2.8 average annual deaths per million residents. Unfortunately, in 2015, another publication ranked Oregon as the third most dangerous state.

How Bicyclists Can Protect Themselves

Below are a few tips bicyclists should consider for protection. Oregon produces a helpful Bicyclist Manual which contains additional helpful tips.

  • Exercise extra vigilance when riding in urban areas – this is where 70 percent of deaths occur.
  • Do not drink and ride – in 37 percent of crashes in 2015, either the cyclist or the motor vehicle operator had consumed alcohol. More than 25 percent of cyclists who died had consumed alcohol.
  • Be careful when riding in the evening – 20 percent of fatalities happen between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. Use a light when riding after dark (it’s not just smart, but required by Oregon law).
  • Don’t get distracted – approximately 30 percent of injuries occur from riders falling or making an error when not paying attention.
  • Always wear a helmet and make sure your bike is in good operating order.
  • Always ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Always ride defensively, make yourself visible, and assume that cars don’t see you.
  • Know all biking and traffic laws, and follow them.

Holding Negligent Drivers Accountable for Wrongful Behavior

Taking steps to protect oneself is essential for bike riders and can prevent many dangers. However, 29 percent of cycling injuries result when bikers are hit by a car. Unfortunately, motor vehicle driver negligence causes many bicyclist injuries and deaths, no matter how carefully a cyclist rides.

The law requires drivers to exercise reasonable care and to act as a prudent person would act in the same or similar circumstances. If a driver’s negligent acts or omissions result in harm to a bicyclist, the law will hold the driver liable for the damage caused. This is an essential part of tort law – holding wrongdoers accountable for their negligence so that all of society is better protected.

Call with Questions

If you’ve been injured while riding a bicycle due to the negligence of another, you have rights under the law. If you have questions about your rights, or how to proceed, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield would be happy to answer them. We are familiar with tort law concerning bicycle accidents and the proper steps to take to protect your rights.


Call us at 1.877.928.9147 For A Free Consultation!

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