No matter what you do for exercise or recreation, anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle along a busy street, or worse, in traffic likely has felt a sense of extreme vulnerability. This is nothing to ignore, since it’s probably the body’s way of indicating a sense of danger and potential injury just waiting to happen. As Baltimore personal injury attorneys, I and my colleagues are all too aware of the real possibility of bike riders being hurt in a collision with a passenger car or commercial truck.
Even as automobile and trucking accident lawyers, we’d be the first to admit that pedal power is one of the more pleasant was to exercise and see the sights at the same time. In urban areas especially, bicycles as a mode of transportation make for a healthier environment as well as a healthier population. But this comes with a large caveat: Bicycles, like pedestrians, are no match against even the most diminutive four-wheeled motor vehicle.
Despite all the hype and public awareness focused on the benefits of cycling and the corresponding increase in the use of bicycles throughout areas like Baltimore, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Washington, D.C., the frequency of bicycle-car traffic collisions would indicate that we have a long way to go before cycling becomes less risky when conducted in or near motor vehicle traffic.
As evidence, consider the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which reported that 618 cyclists died as a result of traffic accidents on our nation’s roadways in 2010. Whether one considers that number high or not, it is sobering to recognize that 52,000 bike riders were injured that same year. In fact, bicycle-related deaths accounted for about two percent of all the traffic fatalities in 2010. And, while the trend for total bicycling-related traffic accidents has been more or less declining in past years, fatal bicycle crashes as a percentage of all traffic fatalities has remained mostly stead over the past several years.
Much of what safety advocates point to as dangerous conditions would have to be the very environment that makes commuting by bicycle so attractive; living and working in urban areas also means those individuals who choose to bike to work or pedal for recreation face greater risks. According to experts, most bicycle accidents happen in urban setting, most often between the hours of 5pm to 9pm. Since serious bicycle crashes can occur in a variety of ways, it’s instructive to recommend caution at all times.
One of the most common circumstances can be when a motorist fails to yield the right of way to a bicyclist who is legally due that right of way. But whether through distraction or lack of knowledge of the actual laws in that area, a driver can seriously injure or kill a bike rider with so much as momentary loss of concentration. Even the best and most attentive riders can be caught off guard and find themselves on the way to a hospital emergency room with little or no notice.
We mention this because of a news item that we saw recently detailing the death of a South African Olympic mountain bicycle champion who was killed in a traffic collision with a taxi cab in a fatal roadway accident near his home in Kwazulu-Natal province on the country’s east coast. According to the news article, 25-year-old Burry Stander was training on his bicycle when the accident occurred.
The circumstances surrounding the deadly crash were still being investigated at the time of the news report, however it was mentioned that the two-time Olympian was the second cycling competitor to be killed in a road accident in South Africa in the past few years. That earlier crash involved Carla Swart, who was struck by a truck while on a training ride back in January 2011.
Olympic mountain biker, 25, killed; FoxSports.com, January 3, 2013