While training for the 2014 Racin’ the Station Duathlon held on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, I spent a lot of time on local roads across Madison County. Although I’ve been a regular in “spin” class (stationary bike) for over four years, cycling on the roads is relatively new to me.
Frankly, I find sharing a lane with traffic to be great exercise but dangerous at times. To prepare for the duathlon (run 3.14 km / bike 23 km / run 3.14 km), I signed up for a Fleet FeetTM Sports Training program. In addition to the training itself, we talked a good deal about safety on the runs and on bike rides.
One thing about cycling — you have time to think.
As cars zoomed by me on one 18-mile ride, I couldn’t help but reflect on the recent rash of cars colliding with cyclists.
I don’t know if there are more accidents lately, or that I’m just more aware of them since spending so much time pedaling (and sweating) on the right-hand side of the outermost traffic lane. And when it’s car against bicycle, the bike never wins.
- On June 19, 2014, a cyclist was hit by a Madison City police patrol car in the area of Old Madison Pike and Shelton Shop Road one Thursday morning. The incident was investigated by the Alabama State troopers. Fortunately, the cyclist’s injuries were non-life-threatening.
- In a car versus bikes (yes, plural) accident, on July 31, 2014, two experienced cyclists were struck from behind while riding on Redstone Arsenal near Gate 9. Both women, who were wearing helmets, reflective vests, and had blinking lights, suffered serious injuries. As yet, no charges are pending against the driver.
- On August 9, 2014, two cyclists were struck near Morris, Alabama early Saturday morning and taken to the hospital in critical condition. The investigation found that the driver who struck the cyclists, when the car in front of him unexpectedly veered around the bikes, failed to see the cyclists in time and hit them from behind.
- On August 26, 2014, a cyclist was struck on Bailey Cove Road at 5:30 a.m. while wearing a yellow reflective vest and sporting six blinking lights. The car fled the scene, and the police are still trying to locate and prosecute the driver for felony hit and run.
- On September 1, 2014, Alabama State Troopers say a three-vehicle crash involving two bicycles and a passenger car killed a Rogersville man and injured another. Troopers report that James Keith Green, age 40, was killed when his bike was struck by a car. Another cyclist, who was also injured in the accident, was transported to Huntsville Hospital for treatment of his injuries. The crash occurred on Alabama 207 one mile north of Anderson. Alabama State Troopers are investigating.
Some things cyclists can do for protection
Cyclists can (and do) do lots of things to increase their odds of staying safe: obeying traffic laws; wearing helmets and reflective vests; adding blinking lights to the front and back of their bikes; signaling their intentions to stop or turn; riding in groups; keeping emergency contact information on their bikes or under their helmets; avoiding rides at dawn and dusk; selecting their courses wisely….
But the reality is that even when a cyclist does all of the things mentioned above – the cyclist is still vulnerable.
Those important precautions focus and place the burden almost exclusively on the cyclist. The issue, however, is broader than that.
Under the law, the cyclist has as much right to the road as the motorist. Locally, there are too few bike paths and cycle-only lanes for those to be a practical solution. The legislature and local governments must consider cyclists when planning road projects and setting aside funds.
Greenways and cycle lanes are good for the community and enhance its reputation for quality of life, which in turn attracts businesses.
The City of Huntsville is aware of the problem — city planners have held town hall meetings, asking for input about connecting greenways as part of the city’s Big Picture project.
Cyclists also face open hostility from motorists. Motorists get impatient with cyclists, especially in climbs like Monte Sano or Cecil Ashburn. It should go without saying, but drivers should allow extra space around cyclists, reduce their speed, and be courteous.
Tactics cyclists can use
Here are a few clever tactics that cyclists may want to use in anticipation of encountering hostile motorists.
Some cyclists suggest riding in a shirt that has a military-service affiliation, such as “Go Army!” These cyclists say that drivers actually react positively to them — which is a pleasant reversal of attitude. Mount a GoPro camera pointed beside or behind you to film your rides. Wear a shirt that says, “Smile, You’re on Camera!” in big letters on the back. Another product gaining popularity is the “Fly6” which is a combination tail light and camera that records what happens behind you in real-time. It boasts 5+ hours of record time in HD, wide angle video.
Even if these last few suggestions won’t prevent an unaware motorist from colliding with a cyclist, they can help hold drivers responsible, both civilly and criminally.
Suppose you’re unlucky enough to be in a collision while cycling, to the extent you can:
Call the police — if the police write an accident report, make sure it’s accurate;
Get the contact information of the driver and any witnesses — never negotiate with the driver at the scene;
Seek medical treatment if needed — don’t assume that you’re not injured or your injuries are minor — some cyclists don’t realize the extent of their injuries until hours afterwards; and
Take pictures — of all of your damaged property, the scene, and your injury.
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident, whether in a solo accident that may be the result of somebody else’s negligence, or in a collision with another person, contact us for a free consultation.