Recently, a young cyclist was tragically killed in Harlem; the cyclist was riding in the bicycle lane when a person in an adjacent parked car opened the door, pushing the cyclist into the street. The rider was then struck and killed by an approaching truck.
This is not the first death of a cyclist in New York, nor will it be the last. When bicycles and cars collide, the bicyclist is likely to bear the brunt of the injuries. As long as cyclists and cars are operating in close proximity, cyclists are at risk.
However, much like defensive driving tactics, defensive cycling tactics can help to avoid bike accidents and protect cyclists. What can a cyclist do to reduce the risk of injury? Be aware of the major threats to a cyclist's safety:
- Car Doors: Parked vehicles pose a serious risk to cyclists, because those inside the vehicle are unlikely to be looking for bikes. When riding, keep an eye on parked vehicles and make note of anyone inside the cars. Assume that the doors may fly open at any moment, and be prepared to stop.
- Motorists Failing to Yield: Despite the number of cyclists in New York, not everyone acknowledges that cyclists have the right to share the roads and the right of way enjoyed by other vehicles. Unfortunately, when a motorist doesn't yield, a cyclist is still likely to suffer the injuries. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared for other vehicles not to yield.
- Cars Leaving Driveways or Parking Lots: Drivers exiting driveways are looking for other drivers, not for cyclists. These drivers may look right past a cyclist and drive into the road without a second thought; cyclists have to be prepared for this possibility.
- Cars Turning Left or Right: Again, drivers are looking for other drivers, not cyclists. Watch for cars preparing to turn, and avoid getting in the path of the turn - even if you have the right of way.
In addition to being aware of these potentially threatening situations, cyclists should do everything possible to make themselves visible. Get a headlight and a rear light. Wear bright colors or reflective gear. When appropriate, use the whole lane. If you are not riding close to the curb, it is easier for other vehicles to see you.
While working to make themselves as visible as possible, cyclists should ride as if they are completely invisible. To many drivers, they may as well be. Drivers may not see cyclists, and regardless of the fault or responsibility for a collision, cyclists suffer the consequences.
New York City has expanded its bicycle lanes, routes and greenways. The City wants to encourage bicycling as a mode of transportation because it reduces traffic, is pollution free and beneficial to one's health. However, cyclists have not yet seen a change in motorists' behavior towards them.
In the event that a driver is negligent and causes a bicycle accident, that driver can be held legally responsible for the injuries and damages stemming from the collision. For more information regarding potential liability, speak with an experienced New York personal injury lawyer.