It only takes a while before one realizes that bicyclists and pedestrians run a greater risk of injury here in Baltimore or over in the District thanks to our highly dense urban conditions and other factors that pit motor vehicles against lightweight bicycles and relatively defenseless foot traffic. As Maryland automobile accident lawyers and personal injury attorneys, we not only read the stories of bicycle and pedestrian accidents, but we also meet people who have been hurt in roadway collisions.
With more and more bikes on the road, it appears that riders in Maryland cities and the District have more worries: Cars, commercial trucks and the roadway itself. According to news articles, bike safety advocates are looking for an increase in cycling-related injury accidents now that warmer weather is here to stay for a while. Closed-head injuries, broken bones, road rash, cuts and bruises are all part and parcel of the dangers facing bicyclists.
Based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were 11 fatal bicycle-related accidents in Maryland in 2009. Although some would argue that cars, trucks and SUVs may be to blame for the majority of those deaths, experts advise that our roadways are also a major factor in these statistics.
Because of our more and more crowded streets and byways, the risks associated with cycling have grown over time, according to the news. Roads that are teeming with cars and pedestrians might occasionally appear to present the bulk of the problem, but according to many bicycling enthusiasts much of the concern lies with the road itself.
Lack of cycling lanes, like that one Maryland’s River Road just north of the beltway is one example. An inviting sinuous local roadway, River Road only has two lanes — one in each direction — yet no shoulder to speak off and certainly no designated bicycle lane. Cars passing at upward of 50mph can be unnerving even for a seasoned rider. The opportunities for injury or death are numerous.
One thing in cyclists’ favor in Washington, D.C., and Maryland is the law that permits a bicycle rider to use the travel lane at times when the rider can match the “normal speed” of motor vehicle traffic. This can allow a cyclist to ride more predictably within the traffic flow and also avoid shoulder obstacles, like drainage grates and suddenly opening doors of cars parked on the roadside.
Perhaps things will improve as the “vehicular cyclist” is factored into roadway design going forward. Concept engineers call roadways designed to accommodate motor vehicles, pedal-powered vehicles and pedestrians “complete streets.” Of course, until more roadways in the state are designed to work well with all types of traffic, riders must continue to be alert to the ever-present dangers on a daily basis.
D.C. Area Bicyclists Battle Not Just Cars, But The Road Itself, WAMU.org, May 03, 2011