[Ken Kifer's Bike Pages]
ARTICLE: How to Avoid Traffic Accidents
A look at all types of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, and how they could have been avoided, plus personal near collisions, and how I avoided them.

What are my five safety rules? Where did I find my collision statistics? How is a bike at a disadvantage in the event of a collision? What safety advantages does a bike have over a motor vehicle? How can cyclists use maneuverability to avoid crashes? What four groups of collisions occur between bicycles and motor vehicles? How can bike riders avoid injury when entering the roadway? How can bicyclists avoid injury from motorists entering the roadway? Why is it important for the cyclist to yield at an intersection? Why must a cyclist carefully watch motor vehicles at an intersection? How do most cyclist turning accidents occur? Which cyclists are most likely to fail to stop at an intersection? How can a cyclist avoid a collision with a car that fails to yield? What kind of turning accidents do cyclists cause? What are some causes of fault control accidents? What causes collisions with overtaking cars? How can one avoid being struck by passing cars? How do wrong way collisions occur? How can parking lot and play vehicle collisions be avoided? What methods can a cyclist use to avoid strange accidents? How do I avoid being hit by motor vehicles while cycling? What can a cyclist do if a car pulls into his path, fails to stop (from the side, rear, or front), cuts him off, fails to pass safely, fails to slow on a blind curve, or backs up. And how should a bicyclist react when the motorist flings a door open or tries to hit him? Does the cyclist have a responsibility for others' safety? How can a cyclist be safe while resting, walking, or camping?


Bike Pages Home Page

The Cyclist Lifestyle

Bike Commuting and Transportation

Bicycle Camping and Touring

Cycling Health and Fitness

Bicycling Advocacy

Bicycle Traffic Safety

Basic Skills for Cyclists

Cycling Humor and Tales

Bicycling Surveys and Statistics

Links to Other Cycling Sites

Comments on This Page

How to Avoid Traffic Accidents

Accidents Not Covered

In this discussion, I am not going to try to deal with three causes of accidents: 1) deficient bike-handling skills, 2) risky behavior and stunts, and 3) risk-taking in competition. One can avoid the first through practice on back roads and parking lots while the latter two are voluntary behaviors anyway. Nor am I going to deal with bikepath accidents because, in my opinion, mixing pedestrians, dogs on leashes, rollerbladers, and incompetent bike riders on a narrow path with short sight distances and tight curves is a sure recipe for injury. Finally, I will not be looking at general accident avoidance, as I have already done so in my previous articles. Instead, I will be focusing on how to avoid specific collisions between bikes and motor vehicles, the cause of almost all fatalities and serious injuries.

General Safety Rules

As I already discussed in "How to Ride in Traffic" and will therefore just point out here, there are five general ways to avoid traffic accidents: 1) obey the traffic laws, 2) keep alert (watch for the other's guy's mistakes), 3) be visible, 4) take the least traveled way, and 5) keep the bike in good repair. Behaving in this fashion will keep cycling very safe. Not behaving in this fashion increases the opportunity for collisions. This article will look at specific types of accidents, why they occurred, and how they could have been prevented. Rather than collisions having mysterious and unavoidable causes, they occur due to 1) a failure to behave safely or to 2) a delay in reacting to others' unsafe behavior.

My Source of Cycling Accident Statistics

I have taken my information about car-bike collisions from A Crash-Type Manual for Bicyclists by Carol Tan. Wayne Pein, who contributes to rec.bicycles.soc and rec.bicycles.misc, did much of the work on this manual. This work was based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration bicycle typologies which I believe were developed from the studies by Cross and Fisher. The information which I provide on how to avoid these accidents, however, is completely my own. In an earlier article, written for rec.bicycles.misc, I tried to determine who was at fault, even though such a determination was not in the original. In this article, I will ignore fault and focus on accident avoidance.

Safety Disadvantages and Advantages of Riding a Bicycle

There are three important characteristics of motor vehicle-bike collisions that put the cyclist at a great disadvantage: 1) the motor vehicle is big,  2) heavy, and 3) usually moving fast.  However, there are also two other characteristics that give the cyclist the advantage: 1) the bicycle permits better sensory awareness and 2) faster turning ability. The sensory awareness includes hearing as well as sight; when I am on a winding road, I can hear some idiot approaching at too high a speed long before I can see him. Using my stereophonic hearing, I can tell if the car behind is passing correctly without moving my head.  As to sight, I can see well over 180° unobstructed, and a quick glance to the left and right extends this to 270° or more. My two-wheeled turning ability allows me to turn 90° at any speed, and I can leave the road at any time without getting seriously hurt.

It Takes Two for a Collision

Very much in the cyclist's favor is the simple fact that it takes two to have a collision. One person must break the law while the other is not watching or both must break the law at the same time or one must ignore safety considerations while the other pays no attention or both must ignore the safety considerations at the same time. Basically, this means that nearly every accident is avoidable, at least for someone on a highly maneuverable bicycle who is playing close attention and is already prepared to react. The exceptions would be 1) when the cyclist is moving very slowly or is stopped, 2) when the cyclist can't turn out of the way due to other cyclists, traffic, or other barriers (for instance a wall or bluff next to the roadway), or 3) if the motor vehicle should change directions quicker than the cyclist can react (due to momentum, this is unlikely; however, if one vehicle should hit another, it's quite possible). Of course, motorists can't depend on avoiding collisions: their vehicles are too fast, too wide, too unmaneuverable, and too restricted in vision; therefore, they have to depend on seatbelts and airbags instead.

The Advantage of Visibility and Maneuverability

Mark Twain wrote about a tourney in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court that illustrates this point well.  To battle the knights of the Round Table, Sir Boss refused the heavy horse, strong armor, stout shield, heavy lance, and blinding helmet and instead mounted a light-weight steed while wearing tights and using a lasso. With their bulk, weight, and poor vision, the knights had no possibility of catching him, so he was easily able to slap them on their backs before he finally lassoed them in. On the highway, I have had motorists deliberately try to hit me or to run me off the road and fail for the same reason. The speed of the car was of no help to them. A car at 60 mph is moving at 88 feet per second while my bike, at 15 mph, is moving only at 22 feet per second. But the bike only needs to move a few feet to be out of the pathway of the car, and I can turn off the road at full speed and thus be out of the way in an instant, or I can jam on my brakes, stopping much quicker than the motorist can react, and watch the car rush by.

Bike-Car Collision Groups

But maneuverability doesn't help everyone.  Here are the actual bike-car collisions which are occurring on our roads. I will provide the percentages of accidents that they represent, but it must be noted that accidents will vary from region to region and from one type of cyclist to another, so these percentages may not be very significant in telling you what kind of accident to look out for. I have combined these accidents into several groups of my own choosing to give a better prospective of the whole.

Group I crashes (21.3% of all collisions) are all road entry collisions. They consist of collisions between a bike rider entering the road and a motor vehicle traveling on the road (12.5% of all collisions) or between a motor vehicle entering the road and a bike rider traveling on the road (8.8% of all collisions).

Group II crashes (54.3%) are all intersection collisions. Either the bike rider failed to yield for the other vehicle (16.8%), the motorist failed to stop (12.7%), the cyclist was turning (6.5%), the motorist was turning (15.4%), or the details are unclear (2.9%).

Group III crashes (15.9%) are all straightaway collisions. Either the control of the bike or motor vehicle was faulty (4.5%) or the motor vehicle was passing the bicycle (8.6%) or one of the vehicles was on the wrong side of the road (2.8%)

Group IV crashes are hard to define. Some did not happen on the road (4.2%), and some involved strange or unknown events (2.8%).

Group I -- Collisions while Entering the Roadway

The Group I collisions all involve collisions in which either the cyclist or the motorist was entering the roadway.  Accidents could be avoided here through observing two simple safety procedures: 1) Always stop and look before pulling onto a street and 2) watch carefully any vehicles that could be entering, especially the ones that are nearby.

Group IA -- Cyclist Entering the Roadway

There were four distinct types in which the cyclist entered the road: 1) In the most frequent (5.1% of all crashes of which 24% were serious or fatal), the cyclist entered the road from a residential drive. Children up to fourteen were involved 85% of the time, and in one fifth of the cases, some obstruction partially blocked the view. 2) A very similar accident involves the cyclist leaving a commercial driveway in the same fashion (2.3% of which 22% were serious or fatal). The ten to fourteen age group had 45% of these collisions. 3) The cyclist enters the road from a sidewalk (4.4% of which 20% were serious or fatal. In one in five cases, vision was partially blocked. Children up to fourteen were involved in over 70% of these accidents, and 45% of the adults over 25 had been drinking. 4) The cyclist enters the road from a sidewalk via a driveway, 70% of them moving against traffic (.7% of which 18% were serious or fatal). About 90% of these cyclists are under 19. All of these accidents could have been avoided by the cyclist using more care when entering the roadway.

Group IB -- Motorist Entering the Roadway

There were three distinct types in which the motorist entered the road: 1) In the first, the motorist exits from a driveway (6.9% and 7% serious or fatal).  One fifth of the cyclists were on the sidewalk, and more than two thirds were traveling the wrong way. Few young children were involved in these accidents. 2) The motor vehicle was backing out of the driveway (1.6% of which 2% were serious or fatal). Nearly 40% of the time, the accident happen in a drive or parking lot. The cyclists were children under fourteen about 55% of the time. 3) The motorist was parallel parking or leaving such a space (.3% of which 11% were severe or fatal). This accident happened to teen and adult cyclists. All of these collisions are best avoided by carefully scanning the edges of the roadway and by predicting the driver's behavior. Some drivers have deliberately pulled out in front of me at the last moment, hoping to hurt me; however, when I see a car containing a motorist in a driveway, I am immediately on my guard.

Group II -- Collisions at Intersections or When Turning

The Group II collisions, over 50% of the total, happened at intersections or when turning. If driveway collisions are added to this group, over 75% of all bike-car collisions are of this type. Since only a very small part of the cyclists time is spent at intersections, it makes sense to use special caution under these conditions. Many motorists don't know how to react to cyclists on the road, speed through intersections without looking, or run lights and stop signs, so I watch all motor vehicles carefully.

Group IIA -- Cyclist Not Yielding

There are two cases of cyclists not stopping at the intersections, 1) at a stop sign or flashing red (9.7% of which 23% were severe or fatal), 2) at a intersection with a traffic light or no signal where the cyclist should have yielded (7.1% of which 16% were severe or fatal). Children under fourteen were more likely to be involved in these accidents (70% and 55%). The clear way to avoid these accidents is by stopping at intersections where the other vehicle has the right of way. If there should be doubt as to who has the right of way, yield anyway.

Group IIB -- Motorist Not Yielding

There are five kinds of collisions in which the motorist did not yield at an intersection, with the first type by far the most common: 1) The motorist was leaving from a stop sign (9.3% of which 10% were serious or fatal).  While it is surely the obligation of the motorist to look both ways, in 60% of the cases, the bicyclist was traveling on the wrong side.   2) The motorist ran the stop sign or signal (1.5% of which 11% were severe or fatal).  These accidents happened most often to cyclists 15 to 24 years old.  3) The cyclist was crossing multiple lanes and was hit by a car on the outside after the light turned green (.9% of which 15% were severe or fatal). In this case, the cyclist was assuming that all vehicles would wait and was not watching them.  4) The cyclist did not clear the intersection, and visibility was not blocked (.5% of which 7% were severe or fatal).  Cyclists tended to be 10 to 19 or over 65 years old.  5) The motorist failed to yield under other circumstances which are unclear (.5% of which 9% were severe or fatal). The solution to avoiding these traffic accidents is to keep the eyes on the vehicles waiting at or approaching the intersection, with special emphasis on the closest and fastest. In addition, don't be riding on the wrong side of the road or in the crosswalk.

Group IIC -- Cyclist Turning

There are three kinds of collisions in which the cyclist was turning; usually these did not happen at intersections: 1) The cyclist made a left turn in front of the motorist who was traveling in the same direction (4.3% of which 28% were severe or fatal). About 45% happened to children 10 to 14. 2) The cyclist, riding on the wrong side, made a right turn in front of the motorist traveling in the same direction (1.4% of which 27% were serious or fatal). Children below 14 had almost 65% of these accidents. 3) The cyclist made a left turn in front of an on-coming motor vehicle (.8% of which 26% were severe or fatal). Very young children were more often represented in this accident. All of these accidents could be avoided by traveling on the right side and paying attention to motor vehicles.

Group IID -- Motorist Turning

There are four kinds of collisions in which the motor vehicle was turning: 1) The motorist made a left turn in front of the cyclist (5.9% of which 24% were severe or fatal). About 20% of these events happened at night and in another 15% there was some visibility problem. The riders were 20 to 44 years old 70% of the time. 2) The motorist made a right turn and struck the cyclist (4.7% of which 11% were serious or fatal). In about 20% of these cases, the cyclist was riding on the wrong side of the road, but at least 60% of the time, the motorist turned in front of the cyclist (in the rest, the cyclist was or could have been passing on the inside).  Bike lanes were involved 8% of the time.  3) The motorist struck the cyclist while making a right turn on red (3.6% of which 6% were serious or fatal). About 80% of the cyclists were on the wrong side and 45% were riding in a crosswalk. 4) The motorist made a left turn in front of the cyclist when both were traveling in the same direction (1.2% of which 9% were severe or fatal). Almost 80% of the cyclists were traveling the wrong way, either on the road or sidewalk.  These collisions fall into two quite different groups: one in which the cyclist, by riding on the wrong side or sidewalk, was outside the vision of the motorist and the second in which the motorist did, should have, or could have seen the cyclist, but refused to yield. The solutions for these accidents are 1) to not bicycle on the sidewalk, 2) to ride on the right side of the road, 3) to have a light at night, 4) to be assertive enough so the motorist notices you (don't ride next to the gutter), 5) to be prepared to react if the motorist should fail to react to your presence.

Group IIE -- Details Missing

There are two kinds of collisions at intersections about which the details are unclear: 1) At a stop sign or traffic signal (2.1% of which 16% were severe).  Cyclists were riding in crosswalks in 24% of these cases.  2) At an uncontrolled intersection (.8% of which 14% were severe). Lack of details prevents much comment: Obey the law and stay alert.

Group III -- Straightaway Collisions

Group III traffic accidents mainly occur on straight roads and involve loss of control, improper passing, and traveling the wrong way.

Group IIIA -- Faulty Control

There are four kinds of collisions caused by faulty control: 1) The cyclist strikes a parked vehicle (1.4% of which 10% were severe). Over 55% of the riders were 20 to 44 years of age.  About 40% included some roadway or weather difficulty. 2) The cyclist strikes a slow or stopped vehicle (1.3% of which 5% were severe). This accident has same associations as the former.  3) The cyclist lost control (1.2% of which 33% were severe or fatal). Children under nine and adults were involved.  Over 40% of the adults 25 and older had been drinking, and 14% of these happened on a curve. 4) The motorist lost control (.6% of which 37% were severe or fatal).  About 65% of the motorists had been drinking, more than 40 percent happened in low light conditions, and 45% on high speed roads.  The advice for this group of traffic accidents: don't drink and bicycle, watch the road in front of the bicycle, keep the bike under control, and watch for irregular or speeding behavior on the part of the motorist.

Group IIIB -- Motorist Passing Cyclist

There are five kinds of collisions in which the motorist was passing the cyclist: 1) The motorist was passing, details unclear (3.9% of which 28% were severe or fatal). About 15% of these were at intersections, 9% on curves, and the rest on straight-aways. Almost 40% happened at night. Over 40% were hit and run. These accidents happened more on high-speed roads and mostly to adults. About 16% of the cyclists and 6% of the motorists had been drinking.  2) The motorist was passing, but the cyclist swerved into his path (2.0% of which 22% were severe). About 65% of these riders were under fourteen. 3) The motorist was passing and did not see the cyclist (1.3% of which 54% were serious or fatal). About 40% happened in darkness, another 20% in poor light, and sun blinding occurred another 28% of the time. The cyclists were almost entirely adults, 16% of which had been drinking (and 11% of the motorists).  4) The motorist was passing and clipped the cyclist (1.2% of which 22% were severe or fatal). More than 20% of these happened at an intersection; 14% of the cyclists were on the shoulder and 5% in a bike lane. These accidents happened to riders over 25 years old 65% of the time.  5) The motorist was passing, and the cyclist struck an object or the motor vehicle (.2% with none serious). These accidents are the ones that scare most beginners and keep many people from riding on the road. However, the cyclists are ignoring the traffic. The use of lights at night would prevent many of these, and being especially cautious during times of poor visibility (fog, low sun, twilight) could prevent others. When cars are passing, keep an ear and the corner of an eye on them, and be prepared to brake or turn off of the roadway.

Group IIIC -- Wrong Way

These collisions are caused by the cyclist or motorist traveling the wrong side of the road: 1) The cyclist was riding against traffic (2.7% of which 32% were severe or fatal). The age of the cyclists followed the normal distribution.  More than 25% happened after dark and  22% of the cyclists over 25 had been drinking.  2) The motorist was on the wrong side (.1% of which 33% were severe). Being on the wrong side is a major cause of motor vehicles accidents, but due to the characteristics of the bicycle, this accident is rare for cyclists. These accidents can be avoided by riding with the traffic and away from the middle of the road. Don't hesitate to get off of the road when you see a swerving motorist.

Group IV -- Untypical Collisions

These collisions are untypical of most accidents.

Group IVA -- Off-Road or Play Vehicle

These collisions either happened off of the road or involved non-road vehicles and involved mainly young children: 1) The cyclist and the motorist collided in a parking lot or drive (3.7% of which 11% were severe). About 65% of the cyclists were under fourteen. 2) The child (nine or under) was riding a big wheel, tricycle, or bicycle with training wheels (.5% of which 28% were serious).  About 37% happened off-road and 44% of the motor vehicles were moving backwards. These accidents can be avoided by teaching our children to be careful, by watching them while they are riding, and by being careful ourselves when operating motor vehicles near them.

Group IVB -- Strange or Unknown

These collisions have odd characteristics or the events are unknown: 1) Unknown collisions are ones for which not enough evidence is available to classify (1.7% of which 11% were severe or fatal). About 30% happened in the dark, 46% were hit and run, and weather or visibility was involved 44% of the time.  2) "Weird" accidents involve unexpected features, such as deliberate assaults, falling cargo, or equipment on the road (1.1% of which 22% were severe). About 30% were in poor light, 24% were deliberate assaults, and 24% were hit and run.  These accidents can be avoided by paying attention to odd situations and occurrences.

My Near-Collisions

In looking at accidents, I have looked at common ones that happened to other people. Now, I want to look at some tricky ones that nearly happened to me. Or at least they seemed especially tricky to me; most of them fit within the types above. These cases illustrate the point that a cyclist can escape from even the worst-looking situation by being alert. Remember that the primary way to avoid accidents is by obeying the law, being predictable, and being visible. The cyclist who follows those rules will have fewer cases of bad behavior to look out for; nonetheless, never completely relax, and always monitor the behavior of nearby motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, people in parked cars, and animals.

I can't claim that a cyclist can avoid 100% of all accidents; I just don't have -- and can never have -- enough experience to say that. However, I know that in cases where I should have hit the car or the car should have hit me, it didn't happen.

The Vehicle Pulls into My Path

Potential accident no. 1): The car suddenly pulls straight out in the road immediately in front of me, completely blocking my path: this has happened many times to me; three times I was scared enough that I still remember everything clearly. In one case, I was going 30 mph downhill and watched the old man carefully look both ways and then pull out in my path, in the other two, I was going about 15 mph, and the cars rapidly backed directly into my path; I wonder in both of the later cases if it wasn't deliberate; the men were not upset or apologetic and told me that I ought to be more careful. Not much to report about what happened; I did not have enough room to stop, but I did anyway. Besides locking the brakes, I also jerked the bike around sideways. Somehow I stayed in the saddle.

The Vehicle Fails to Stop (from the Side)

Potential accident no. 2): The car suddenly pulls out into the road in the space where I am. Again, this has happened repeatedly. In the most dramatic case, I was traveling down a highway at a good clip, and the driver, approaching from a 90º side turn, pulled out onto the road without stopping. Without thinking about what he or I was doing -- there was no time to think -- I matched his path and was not hit. I found myself riding along side his door, partially in the wrong lane. I shouted at him, "What the hell do you think you're doing? You nearly hit me!" and he looked up at me in a daze, and I said, "Please, get out of my way, you've got me into the wrong lane," and he pulled off the road, and I went on. I credit my survival here to good reflexes alone. However, after this occurance, I watched for this behavior, and no one has gotten that close again.

The Vehicle Cuts Me Off

Potential accident no. 3): The car starts to pass me and then suddenly turns right. Which case do you want here? the little old ladies, the 18-wheeler traveling at 50 mph, or the friend I was talking to just a few minutes before? A lot of people just don't realize how fast the bike is going; in the case of the 18-wheeler, I think he wanted to murder me. He blew his horn, but he did not signal a turn, slow down, or give any other indication that he was turning. If I hadn't turned just as quickly as he did, I would have been rubber tire jam. Of course, you have to realize that no car or truck can turn as fast as a bike, if the cyclist is paying attention.

The Vehicle Fails to Pass Safely

Potential accident no. 4): The car or truck starts to pass me and suddenly moves into my space. I think this has sometimes been a deliberate attempt to force me off the road by an angry motorist. So far, I haven't even been forced off the pavement. I just hit the brakes hard, and the car slides into an empty spot. Actually, any time a car passes me, I am prepared to get out of his way; what if a truck suddenly appears in front of the driver, is he/she going to worry about me or about the kids in the car?

The Vehicle Fails to Stop (from the Rear)

Potential accident no. 5): I stop for a red light or a pedestrian, and the car behind me doesn't. Again, this has happened numerous times. I never put my feet down until that guy has stopped. Many times I've crossed the intersection or pulled to one side because that fool wasn't going to stop. For what I do if this happens after I've already stopped see the next one.

The Vehicle Fails to Stop (From the Front)

Potential accident no. 6): I am stopped in the turn lane, and a car moves into my space. The most dramatic incident of this was witnessed by a friend of mine. Four lanes of traffic were crowded with cars, and I was in the middle lane, waiting to turn left. Suddenly, from straight ahead, a car shot into my lane, traveled over the place where I was standing, made a left turn, and disappeared. I don't think it took more than three seconds total for her to travel that distance and make her turn, and my calculations say the same thing. Maybe four seconds. And I had half that time to get out of her way with no place to go. I was sitting there on my bike with my left arm signaling a turn and suddenly there she was. I jumped off of the bike, picked it up, flatten myself up against a car moving at 30-45 mph, and was not hurt. I even had time to look at her and to wonder if she was on drugs or homicidal; she looked straight ahead as if she couldn't even see me.

The Vehicle Fails to Slow on a Blind Curve

Potential accident no. 7): Some fool or drunk is traveling at high speeds down a road with limited sight distances. When he reaches me, I'm off of the pavement. For many years, my only rear "light" was a reflector. Of course, a reflector is actually brighter than the winking light I now use, but it doesn't work around a corner or up or down a grade. So, I got into the habit of pulling off the road whenever a car passed me in poor sight conditions, and I do it still. For instance, in Pennsylvania last year, I went over the top of a hill with a curve in a road cut, no shoulders, heavy traffic; how did I make it safely? I walked. Anytime I get to unsafe road conditions, I get off the bike and walk. I enjoy walking anyway. Or I wait for the traffic to move on. Unlike the motorists, I'm not willing to risk my life to save five minutes.

The Vehicle Backs Up

Potential accident no. 8): The car or truck passes me and then suddenly stops or stops and starts backing up. This is a piece of cake compared to the others. I've even had a postman do it to me.

A Threat from the Side

Potential accident no. 9): The driver flings open the door, the pedestrian steps into the street, the dog jumps into the road directly in front of the bike wheel, etc.  As I said, I watch everyone and everything near the roadway. In one case, two men passed me, pulled into a parking space just ahead of me, and then the driver waited until I was passing, and flung the door open in my path -- except I had already moved to the left to avoid getting hit. This was deliberate; but over a dozen people have done it accidentally; I expect the door to fly open after the car stops.

Deliberate Assault

Potential accident no. 10): The driver tries to ram me from the rear. This is clearly attempted murder. You have to realize that this is dangerous to the motorist as well as to the cyclist. If the car leaves the road, the driver is likely to get seriously hurt. In order to hit the bike, the car must slow to the speed of the bike, which is not fast enough speed to do much harm unless the cyclist falls under the vehicle. If the car doesn't slow down, this ends up being a #4. Unfortunately, on a downhill, the car and bike are at the same speed. This condition is much more dangerous; look at the statistics for motorcycle accidents. It has a simple solution; I just hit the handbrakes, and the car flashes past. However, in one case, I was on a narrow mountain road with no shoulder, the road was full of holes, and the car took up all of the space behind me. In this case, I had to depend on speed, and I was helped and hurt by the roughness of the road. However, if I had fallen, I would have been dead, and the four occupants would have made up some kind of story. However, at one point I saw a tree with a spot beyond it, and I dived into that space and stopped, and it was over.

Illegal Passing

Potential accident no. 11): I am traveling down the highway, and a car is approaching me. Suddenly, a car passes him and rushes towards me at 70 to 90 mph. In one case, the college-student motorist stayed on my side long after he could have moved back over. If you want to murder me, this is the way to do it. I stop, and I wait on the road, shaking all over, and mad enough to kill. If he kills me, he knows it's murder, and he knows the occupants of the other car are watching. Somehow, he misses me by less than a foot. I wonder if I would, at the last second, jump out of the way. At any rate, just getting off the road would remove the danger.

Other People Get Hurt

Now for the accident that really scares me:

Potential accident no. 12): A car passing me strikes an oncoming car, injuring other people. In 1967 and 1968, after my 1966 trip to Northern Ontario and several smaller trips, and after writing an article for the Anniston Star on bicycle safety, I was present during two automobile accidents that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been there. I wasn't at fault in either case, and fortunately, no one was hurt. In both cases a woman with weak driving skills was following an aggressive driver, was afraid of hitting me, and lost control of the car. Even though I had not caused either accident, I nearly quit cycling as a result. I am willing to die for what I believe; I am not willing to see others hurt. As a result, I refuse to travel on roads where people drive aggressively. When driving with more cooperative traffic, I help them pass me. I am always slowing down and speeding up, so a car can pass me at a safe spot, I signal on curves and small hills, and I pull over when a truck can't pass.

Safety While off of the Road

Now after 100,000 miles of cycling and many opportunities to have been hurt or killed, I feel reasonably safe. Maybe someone will think of something new; I don't know. In addition, I have safety measures while off of the bike as well. I stop to rest well away from the road. When I walk up a hill along the roadway, I remain alert, stay off the pavement, and keep on the safer side. When I take a long rest or camp for the night, I get out of sight of the road to avoid possible harassment.

Keeping Prepared

The expression "safety first" has been around so long that no one thinks about what it means any more: safety comes before any other consideration. Whenever you ride a bike and motor vehicles are around, keep your eyes on them and be prepared to act.


Is Cycling Dangerous  One problem with discussing accidents is that it tends to make cycling seem more dangerous; this article puts bike accidents into better perspective.


Bicyclist-Motorist Crash Type Analysis   Wade Eide has a chart of these various types of crashes with his interpretation.

How to Not Get Hit by Cars  Michael Bluejay provides diagrams of some common kinds of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions and shows how to avoid them.

Comments | SECTIONS: | The New World | Writing | Thoreau | Home | Bike Pages |
DIRECTORIES: | Lifestyle | Commuting | Touring | Health | Advocacy | Traffic | Skills | Humor |Survey | Links |
TRAFFIC ARTICLES: | Traffic | Accidents | Errors | Collisions | Children | Wrong | Fear | Gingerbread | Assertiveness | Obey | Rules | Riders | Motorists | Dogs |
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/traffic/accident.htm | Copyright © 2000 Ken Kifer | Monday, December 20, 1999