Biking Boon: How Can Cyclists on the Road Stay Safe?
June 17th 2021
With the arrival of warmer weather and many areas continuously in lockdown due to COVID-19, more and more people are taking up bicycling. In fact, US bike sales in May 2020 more than doubled from the previous year. And in Canada, 30% of people who occasionally rode their bikes before the pandemic reported increased cycling activity since the beginning of COVID-19.
Of course, with an increasing number of cyclists on the road, so too are the overall risks and number of accidents involving cyclists likely to rise. An average of 74 cyclists are killed in collisions each year in Canada, with 73% of those collisions also involving a motor vehicle.2 In 2019, 846 cyclists were killed in traffic collisions in the US.
Risk Factors for Cyclist Fatalities
There are specific risk factors that increase the chances of cyclist collisions and fatalities, which apply to both cyclists and other drivers on the road.
Time of Day: Most collisions involving cyclists occur between rush hour and dusk – between 4PM and 8PM.
Location: Not only are cycling collisions more frequent in urban areas (75%) versus rural areas (25%), but the number of people commuting on their bikes in Canadian cities is about three times higher than in US urban areas.
Impaired Driving: In 2017, alcohol was involved in over 37% of fatal bicycle collisions in the US.
How to make travelling safer for cyclists?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) recommend the following measures to ensure increased bike safety on the road and to decrease the likelihood of collisions and injuries.
What Cyclists Can Do:
- Be Prepared: Ride a bike that fits you, wear clothes or equipment that makes you visible to others at any time of day, carry your items in a backpack or safely strapped to the back of the bike and plan ahead to find the safest route possible, preferably one with a bike lane or a bike path.
- Drive Defensively: Always assume that nearby motor vehicle drivers cannot see you. Keep an eye out for hazards or obstacles. Drive in the same direction, and with the flow, of traffic. Finally, obey street signs & signals, just like you would in a car.
- Drive Predictably: Cycle where you are most likely to be seen, slow down for cars that are turning or backing up and watch for pedestrians. Either use a bell or announce aloud that you will be passing “on [their] left” when cycling past.
What Drivers Can Do:
- Obey Safety Rules & Traffic Laws: According to Statistics Canada (StatsCan), 1 in 3 cycling fatalities occur because of drivers not obeying the most basic road safety rules. With more cyclists on the road, drivers need to always be on the lookout for more vulnerable parties such as cyclists and pedestrians.
- Remain Alert in Bad Light/Weather: While cyclists share the responsibility to make themselves visible to drivers while riding at night, drivers should pay even more attention when driving during later hours or times of inclement weather. This includes poorly-lit parking lots and when approaching a stop sign at night.
- Share the Road: Always give cyclists room, especially in areas with little to no cycling infrastructure implemented on the roads. Be sure to yield to cyclists just as you would motor vehicles. More importantly, in order to avoid turning in front of a cyclist on a road, intersection or driveway, do not underestimate the cyclist’s speed..
Suggested Policy Changes:
- Increased Infrastructure: In a poll conducted last year, 31% of Canadians said that they would ride their bikes more if cycling infrastructure was better. Additionally, 40% suggested they would feel encouraged to bike more if physical barriers to separate lanes were implemented.
- Helmet Laws & Legislation: Neither the US nor Canada possess any federal policies specifically dedicated to cyclists of all ages (not just cyclists under 18) being required to wear a bike helmet. Given how drastically the use of a helmet while riding can help prevent injuries or even fatalities, the idea of countries implementing legislation requiring all bicyclists to wear a helmet is hardly a groundbreaking initiative.
LISKE & Cyclist Safety
Accident Reconstruction is a fundamental building block in determining both how and why an accident happened. LISKE Accident and Injury Experts conduct a systematic and methodical step-by-step forensic investigation, identification, interpretation, validation, rectification, and analysis of available evidence; applying the accepted practices, principles, and laws of science and engineering to determine the reconstructed sequence of events. Whether in a car, on a bike or on foot, LISKE Accident and Injury Experts reconstruct all accidents and injuries, anywhere.
 UCI (2020). “2020 cycling boom in the USA.” UCI. Retrieved from: https://www.uci.org/news/2020/2020-cycling-boom-in-the-usa
 CAA (n.d). “Cycling by the Numbers.” CAA. Retrieved from: https://www.caa.ca/sustainability/cycling/bike-statistics/
 NHTSA (2020). “Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019.” Retrieved from: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813060
 StatsCan (2019). “Circumstances surrounding cycling fatalities in Canada, 2006-2017.” StatsCan. Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00009-eng.htm
 NHTSA (2019). “Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists.” NHTSA. Retrieved from: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812765
 Victoria Transport Policy Institute (2005). “Why Canadians cycle more than Americans: A comparative analysis of bicycle trends and policies.” John Pucher, Ralph Buehler. Retrieved from: https://www.vtpi.org/pucher_canbike.pdf
 NHTSA (n.d). “Bicycle Safety.” NHTSA. Retrieved from: https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety
 PHO (2015). “Impacts of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Legislation.” Public Health Ontario. Retrieved from: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/M/2015/mandatory-bike-helmet-impacts.pdf?la=en