Safe Bicycling on Roads Designed for Cars  

bike lane accident
Posted: June 19, 2023

Many bicycle riders lament a perceived lack of infrastructure to keep them safe, such as riding lanes separated from motor-vehicle traffic.  


In 2020, 938 bicyclists were killed in car-related accidents, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. And in 2021, 966 were killed.


Despite the risks of riding a bicycle on a roads designed for motor vehicles, bicyclists can take some steps to help stay safe. It pays to keep in mind the following from the NHTSA: 

  • Bicyclist deaths peak in summer. 
  • Most (nearly three in four) deaths occur in urban areas. 
  • Not yielding the right of way is the biggest factor in fatal bike crashes.

Every bike rider should wear a helmet, advises the NHTSA, which also advises that bicyclists can potentially avoid crashes by:   

  • Using a bike that fits  and wearing the right equipment; 
  • Driving  defensively and observing all the rules of the road,;  
  • Driving predictably; 
  • Passing pedestrians with care; and  
  • Riding in the same direction as traffic.

For their part, drivers should remember to share the road. According to the NHTSA, drivers must remember that bicyclists have rights and responsibilities too and must:  

  • Yield to bicyclists as they would motorists, being sure not to underestimate their speed; 
  • Watch and look for bicyclists, turn right on red only after looking to the right and behind ; 
  • Obey the speed limit; and 
  • Give cyclists room, being careful not to pass them too closely.

NHTSA’s bicycle safety initiatives focus on encouraging safer choices on the part of bicyclists and drivers to help reduce deaths and injuries on our roads. New York motorists and bicyclists would be well advised to consult the rules of the road, contained in the Vehicle and Traffic Law. For example, Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1231 provides that:  

“Every person riding a bicycle . . . upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title . . .” 


Section 1234 (a) of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law provides that:   

“Upon all roadways, any bicycle or in-line skate shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. 


“Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.” 


Failure to comply with the Vehicle and Traffic Law can result in an injured bicyclist being found comparatively negligent. Under New York’s comparative fault rule, this could result in a reduced award for pain and suffering.  


Psychologists from the French Institute of Science and Technology for Transport who surveyed 336 bicyclists and 92 drivers found “commonalities in their perceptions of risk,” according to the Association for Psychological Science. Notably, however, drivers perceived interactions with other cars as riskier (that is, more likely to result in a crash) than interactions with bicyclists.  


Fatal bicycle crash rates have increased due, in part, to the increased share of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks on US roads, according to some sources.  


What’s Causing the Death Toll? 

Many bike accidents could be prevented if drivers and bicyclists followed the rules of the road, observed safety tips, and watched out for one another.   

In New York, thousands of bicyclists are injured in car crashes each year. Many crashes were the result of “human factors,” such as aggressive driving/road rage, alcohol involvement, speeding, cell phone use, and driver distraction. 


Contact an Experienced Bike Accident Attorney 

Bicycle accidents involving cars can be devastating. If you’ve been injured in such a crash and are looking for an experienced personal injury lawyer, contact William Mattar, P.C. Our bicycle-accident lawyers will advocate for you to receive maximum compensation for your injuries. Schedule an initial case consultation today by completing our free online form or calling our offices, at 844-444-4444.

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