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The 3 Most Common Car-Hits-Bike Situations

August 27, 2020 0 Comments

Cyclist riding through a city street intersection

As more cities introduce bike lanes, the roads continue to get safer for cyclists everywhere. But there are still far too many common situations where cyclists get hit every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 857 bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in 2018.

It’s critical that automobile drivers be aware and practice good driving habits to avoid hitting cyclists. The fact is, though, that many of these accidents can be averted if cyclists know the most common circumstances and how to avoid them.

Once again, we spoke with Coach Darryl to get his perspective after years of road cycling and studying the reports that cities and universities issue about road safety. His insights into the three most common car-hits-bike situations can help you stay a little safer on your next ride.

Rear-Ending Isn’t as Common as You Think 

Before we address the top three, though, let’s look at the accident that many cyclists assume is the most common: getting rear-ended by a car. This is why many cyclists are reluctant to stay in the center of the lane. They’re afraid of getting bumped from behind.  

In reality, though, this type of cyclist and automobile accident usually barely ranks among the top 10 most common car-hits-bike situations, and Darryl has only seen it happen once. Still, it can be catastrophic when it does occur, so it’s important to know the best way to ride in order to minimize the risk.

How to Prevent It:

  • If the lane is wide enough (or better yet, there is a bike lane) get to the side so that cars can easily pass you without cutting it close. Many drivers aren’t aware of how wide their car is.
  • It the lane isn’t wide enough, then take the lane. Stay firmly in the center in order to force a passing car to go into another lane to get around you.

The 3 Most Common Car-Hits-Cyclist Scenarios

3. The Left Hook

This scenario will be familiar to many cyclists. When you’re riding straight ahead through an intersection, a car coming from the opposite direction and turning left across your path can hit you head-on, swipe across and hit you from the side or swoop in front of you and cause you to hit the passenger door.

Obviously this can be incredibly dangerous. Not only is it happening in an intersection, but a head-on impact can be devastating as it combines the speed of the vehicle with the speed of the bike to maximize the force of impact. 

How to Prevent It: 

  • Always be vigilant about traffic coming from all directions in the intersection.
  • Again, take the lane. You want it to be clear that you are going straight, so don’t hang too far right in your lane, or they make think you’re turning right.
  • If a car turns toward you from the left, your options are basically to slam on your brakes or, if the way is clear, swerve left to avoid it.

2. The Right Hook

Depending on the region, this cycling accident scenario can often swap with No.3 — the two are nearly equally common. But it’s a very different situation. As Coach Darryl says, “This is quite often the one where you have little to no forewarning.”

In the right hook, a car passes a cyclist on the left (going in the same direction) and then turns right too soon, thus cutting right in front of the rider. A cyclist in this situation rarely has enough time to avoid getting clipped or running straight into the turning vehicle.

How to Prevent It:

  • Don’t stay too far to the right. If the lane is wide enough, stay firmly in the lane. If not, you can get 6–12 inches into the right turn lane, but not any farther. This leaves enough room for the right-turning car to go around you on the right instead of cutting across your path.
  • Pay close attention to vehicles passing you on the left. If a vehicle does cut right in front of you, your last defense is to try to abruptly turn right with it to avoid being hit.

1. Car Dooring

The car-bike accident that consistently makes the top of the list always surprises people. Police at the accident scene frequently refer to it as a “freak accident.” But it’s the first car-bike touch Coach Darryl ever witnessed and by far the most common. 

What Is Car Dooring?

“Car dooring,” or simply “dooring” happens when a parked driver opens their door into a passing cyclist’s path, causing them to run into it. It can be disastrous, yet Coach estimates that 50% of cyclists aren’t even thinking about the possibility when on the road. One friend of Darryl’s landed in the ER with 11 broken bones from hitting a car door. Some riders have even been killed when they hit doors and get thrown into passing traffic. It should be top of mind when you’re riding near parked cars. 

How to Prevent It:

  • This one is pretty straightforward: Get out of the door zone. If you’re riding next to a parking lane, you need to stay out in the lane, clear of any opening doors.
  • A special note for car drivers here, because they can help drastically reduce these wrecks: Open the door with your right hand, which forces you to reach across and look in the driver’s side mirror before you open the door.

No one expects to end up in the emergency room — or worse — when they set out for a ride. But any time a cyclist shares the road with cars, the possibility of a terrible accident is real. Know the dangers and ride defensively so you can stay safe and keep enjoying your time on the bike.

 

You can find more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.