Cycling instructor Q&A: Common, uncommon accidents

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Cyclists are right to be concerned about collisions with motor vehicles, of course, given the high risk that those accidents can result in serious and even fatal injuries.

The most common bicycle accidents, however, aren’t motor vehicle-related at all. Instead, most involve one or more cyclists, or a single cyclist and a canine.

I asked cycling instructor Paul Salomon about the most common cycling accidents, and he responded with statistics from the League of American Bicyclists showing that 20% of bicycle accidents involve motor vehicles. That means 80% of them don’t.

Some of the largest categories:

  • 50% of cycling accidents are falls due to loss of control, flats, mechanical failure or road hazards
  • 16% are bike/bike crashes
  • 7% are dog/bike crashes

Of the accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles, some are caused by the drivers and some by the cyclists:

  • Motorist turning in front of cyclist (4.8%)
  • Cyclist riding on the wrong side of the road (2.8%)
  • Cyclist turning left from the right side of the road (2.2%)
  • Running a stop sign or signal (1.6%, cyclists; 1.6% motorists)
  • Failure to yield from driveway (1.8%, cyclists; 1.2% motorists)

Accidents in which a cyclist is struck from behind by a motor vehicle are among the least common. In 1% of bicycling accidents, the cyclist swerved into the path of the vehicle. In 0.6%, the motorist was at fault.

Salomon observed:

“If you asked a group of motorists and cyclists, I am sure they would estimate the hit-from-behind type accident is more common than 1.6% of all accidents. Furthermore, if you looked at the specific hit-from-behind accidents, you would find that often these accidents occur at night and the bicycle has no lights. In addition, often the cyclist or the motorist, or both, were drunk.”

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