Bicycle use is on the rise, driven largely by the increasing number of people who commute to work on a bicycle. Recent Census Bureau statistics indicate that commuting to work on bicycles has risen since the bureau first released statistics in 2005. Still, Census Bureau statistics for 2015, the most recent year available, indicate that the number of people commuting to work via bicycle declined 3.8 percent in 2015 over 2014.
As you might expect, as the number of bike commuters rises, so will the number of traffic accidents involving bicyclists. This inevitably will lead to more bicyclist traffic fatalities. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, fatalities from bicycling accidents rose 12.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, reaching a total of 818 biking deaths. Interestingly, injuries for bicyclists involved in traffic accidents declined in 2015, down to about 45,000 nationwide from about 50,000 in 2014. However, according to research by one bicycling advocacy group, crashes that result in cyclist injuries are dramatically underreported by police, with local law enforcement reporting as few as 10 percent of incidents. It is entirely possible that traffic injuries to bicyclists aren’t down at all.
Where you ride matters. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that nearly three-quarters of bicycle fatalities take place in cities, with urban traffic accidents accounting for 71 percent of bicyclist traffic fatalities in 2016.
Virginia remains a fairly safe place to ride a bicycle. From 2010 through 2012, Virginia ranked 38th in the nation for bicycling fatalities, with a rate of 1.2 deaths per million residents during that period. Only 12 bicycling fatalities took place in the state in 2010, six in 2011, and 11 in 2012, for a total of 29 during the three-year period, an average of less than 10 per year.
How Can I Protect My Rights if I Am Involved in an Accident on My Bicycle?
Under Virginia law, bicycles are subject to the same laws as motor vehicles. There are some differences, such as the requirement to use hand signals for turns and stops, but cars and bikes are largely treated the same under Virginia law.
This doesn’t mean they enjoy the same outcomes in a traffic accident. In almost every case, when a car and bike collide, the bicyclist suffers worse injuries than the motorist. Cars are bigger, weigh more, and provide the driver with much better protection. A bicyclist is more likely to sustain injuries, and the bike is more likely to get damaged or destroyed. Given all of that, if you are in a traffic accident while riding a bicycle, protect your rights.
- Call 911. Even if you think you are not injured, call 911 to bring paramedics to the scene to evaluate you. You also should summon the police with the same call to let law enforcement evaluate the scene and generate a report.
- If you are able, take pictures of the relative positions of your bike and the car involved, traffic at the time, the accident scene, and anything else that might prove useful later. This should include pictures of the car involved in the accident, as well as your bicycle. If you have visible injuries and your physical condition permits, photograph your injuries.
- As soon as possible after the accident, seek medical attention. Again, even if you believe you did not suffer bad injuries, seek professional care. Many injuries, including soft tissue injuries, joint sprains, neck injuries, internal injuries, and brain injuries, such as concussions, are not necessarily immediately apparent. A diagnosis of injuries soon after your accident can help you ward off claims by an insurance company or the other person involved in the accident that your injuries occurred later.
- Get names and contact information from as many witnesses as possible. This can prove especially important in a hit-and-run accident. Even if you can’t identify the driver, a witness might provide a license plate number or other identifying information. At a minimum, a witness could help establish that you were not at fault.
If You Were Injured in an Accident in the Richmond Area While Riding a Bicycle, Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers of Emroch & Kilduff
If you suffered an injury in the Richmond area in a bicycle traffic accident, take steps at the scene to help protect your rights. Afterward, consult a personal injury attorney. Emroch & Kilduff specialize in personal injury law. They can protect your rights and help you obtain just compensation. You can reach us at (804) 358-1568 or through our online contact form.