What’s up with all the Bicycle Accidents?

The Minnesota Lawyer Blog has a recap of recent bicycle accidents leading to injuries or death that have been in the news lately:

Getting a handle on bicycle cases

The negligence cases sometimes lead to lawsuits, of course. Minnesota Lawyer has reported this year on a $47,000 settlement procured by a bicyclist whose jaw was fractured and a bicyclist who procured a $45,000 settlement for a shoulder injury.

It should not be surprising that there are even some lawyers who fancy themselves specialists on these kind of cases. Minnesota Lawyer had an article last December about a California lawyer whose practice centers on bicycle cases.

At times, I’m frankly surprised there aren’t more accidents based on the large number of bikers I see blowing stop-signs at night in dark clothing. That’s a recipe for disaster.

On the flipside, it’s not uncommon to see cars on West River Road randomly hit a curb after drifting while sending a text message. There is little room for error on the shoulderless road, and that’s before road riders join the mix.

Occasionally I hear some strange whining out of the right-wing mega-commuter crowd about how bike trails are a waste of money. Think of it this way: if you coughed up for better bike commuting trails, you’d solve two problems at once: you’d get more bikes off the roads so you car will fit comfortably in the lane, and you’d probably also get a few of those rusted out liberal hippie cars held together by bumper stickers out of your way too.

20 thoughts on “What’s up with all the Bicycle Accidents?”

  1. Ed – I think there must be a type-o in your post…the phrase “so you car will fit comfortably in the lane” must surely have meant to say, “so your SUV will fit comfortable in the lane”. Would have hoped spell check would have caught that first…surely it knows that “right-wing” and “car” didn’t below in the same sentence.

    That said – it’s funny you mention this, because I just got back from a run and when I was between Plymouth and Broadway on the W. River Road, I heard a guy tell his buddy what a “waste of money” the path was that they’re putting in there. I suppose to him it is….but I don’t think the city of Minneapolis (and St. Paul) would be quite what they are today without all of those wastes of money.

  2. Now Ed while I agree with you on Bike paths, I think too many left wing hippies are calling for bike lanes in regular roads, and I hate to say that this is kind of dumb. Because like you said the bikes are barely following traffic laws like they are supposed to, and a number of Motorists are not paying attention like they should either. As one of those Right wingers I for one would like to see the bikes and motorized vehicles not sharing the same roads, and would like to see more bike paths where people can feel safe to ride their bikes if they want to.

  3. Jeremy says, “… bikes are barely following traffic laws …”

    When was the last time you stayed at the speed limit or stopped behind a crosswalk, or came to a complete stop at a stop sign? I hear lots of complaining about bicyclists breaking the laws, but all road users do whatever they can get away with.

    That’s the way it is. Your hypocritical complaining won’t change it.

  4. People not following traffic laws exist in equal proportions among motorists and cyclists. Bringing this up is kind of a red herring. Yeah, more bike paths would be nice, but more rational bike paths would be better. As a bike commuter I often have to calculate which is a better idea, to save time by riding on the streets or to take the bike paths which wind and meander between two points. They also have a stupid 10 mile an hour limit or in some places an 8 mile an hour speed limit. Any regular biker can hit 10 mph without trying. Give me a rational route where I do not have to share the road with drivers and pedestrians. See Amsterdam for ideas please.

  5. Down in Dakota County, we have lots of nice bike paths separated from the roads. I ride them all the time, because I’m concerned about Eagan drivers like the one who drifted into my lane (I was in a car, not on my bike) yesterday while talking on her phone and eating a breakfast bar, but the result isn’t a nice delineation of transportation, rather cars and trucks that pull up and park across the lane even when they see a bike coming.

  6. I came sooooo close to killing someone the other day. 11:45 at night, 24th and Lyndale. I was driving and had the green light crossing Lyndale. Biker, wearing no helmet, riding no-handed sped through the red light without slowing, looking, anything. I hate when bikers like that make lawful, careful bikers (like me!) look bad. And you know, almost die in the process.

  7. Add me to the list of bikers who cringe watching other bikers bike and other drivers drive.

    But it was the bikers turn last night, 6pm, 11th Ave stoplight crossing Washington Ave downtown, two about 20 year old women on cruisers with a similar guy…totally bust the light just after it turned red, totally relying on six lanes of traffic to see them and let them live. The guy was last and wisely stopped.

    They were so late, that a couple cars in the far lanes could easily have gone first before these dips even crossed their lane, another oncoming car with a couple block run had to brake (from about 30 mph to near 0) to let them finish crossing. But for alert and forgiving drivers, those women were dead meat.

    Then they turned east on Washington and the guy caught up to them at the next light at 12th Ave merely by riding the (empty of walkers) sidewalk parallel to them…their risky move had gained them absolutely nothing but a chance to activate Darwin’s Theory.

    So, in the end, accidents happen, most for very good reasons, because being human makes it hard to be perfect–but we should try harder, eh? Especially on bikes when you are not protected by sheet metal and air bags, and as a driver around these bikes. The bikers above screwed up, but the car drivers wisely let them get away with it, they were mildly inconvenienced (and probably majorly annoyed) in getting to the next stoplight (which was red and stopped them anyway).

    In the end, it was nothing, but it sure could have been far worse. I was a first (citizen) responder on a bike-car accident a year ago involving a serious head injury to a (young woman ~18) cyclist and two very concerned and shook up (adult couple ~50) drivers who caused the accident. It messed with my mind too–I thought she might be dead, but she pulled out of it.

    No one (drivers who do not focus on driving, bikers who ignore traffic rules, or taxpayers who think all services–but their favorites–are a waste) should get or expect a free pass.

    It begins with stepping up and being accountable for yourself, folks. Then, if you are blessed (and everyone reading this is truly), share the blessings with those others who are less fortunate or aware. None of it is a waste, since it comes from your untapped consideration for others and excess wealth.

  8. While I agree that many drivers do speed and try to get away with what they can, the above examples prove my point. And I think the major problem is not with the bikers, I think it is with the police officers who are not stopping these bikers who run red lights, cross 4 lanes of traffic, etc, etc. and do not do anything about it. I have seen bikers do this in front of cops and the cops do nothing, even though it is a ticketable offense. If a motorist had done anything close to that he would have been pulled over. So I think if a couple of Bikers actually start getting tickets for their offfenses it might slow down all of the bikers. And yes I know that it is mostly a few bikers who give them all a bad name. But I also think it is a few drivers who give them a bad name also. The Real solution is still to make it so that Cars and bikes do not have to share the same road. that is the safest way to do it.

    The problem is that it is hard for any Politician to justify bike paths, that can legitimatly only be used for part of the year in this climate. and yes I know some people ride their bikes year round and do not care about the weather, but you have to admit this is the vast minority. most bike riders feel if there is a chance of a couple of drops of rain decide it is a good day to drive instead of bike.

    So is there a perfect solution, no. And I hate to say it there never will be the ways things stand right now.

  9. To explore one more angle here–the idea of segregation…bike paths being separate but equal to roads. I am happy about them, but let’s be real here, it just is not going to happen beyond some of the more high profile areas (like the lakes, rivers, rails-to-trails).

    So I am not going to let drivers off the hook–cars will always have to learn to give some consideration to bikes. They cannot point bikes to the few bike trails or roads with bike lanes or those weak arrow deals, just so they will never have to learn how to slow down once in a while to allow a bikers to live too.

    When I first started biking around the big city here, I was (and still am to a degree) very concerned with the lack of visibility of bikes to the drivers here. I soon realized a couple things–
    (1) No matter how hard I try, I cannot carve out all my bike rides limited to bike paths–even though the Twin Cities have many good paths and I use them whenever possible, including when it is adding miles to my ride. And–
    (2) Just like motorcycles have learned, even with the advantages of better lights and loud pipes and being granted official ‘motorist’ access to the roadway, I learned I will be invisible to some cars; and as such, being the one who will suffer in the collision, I had to drive defensively and yield my right of way or brake/steer out of the trouble area…where the driver might never realize or sheepishly shrug later.

    There are alot of bad drivers out there–the too young, too old, too tired, too distracted, etc. Too bad, driving is where your focus should be, americans are too spoiled with their large cars and wide roads that are so highly engineered that drivers rarely have to even slow down or look for road hazards.

    Same thing with bikes, would it kill you to stop at a red light, how much time do you lose by riding defensively? Awake up and drive/ride right people and all your time will be better spent.

  10. Kyle, thanks for pointing out the car vs. SUV typo. I wrote the post in Firefox, which has spell check but doesn’t have contextual environmental grammar check yet.

  11. Jeremy, how about this: suburbanites leave their car at the Minneapolis city border or pay a $20 entry fee. We’ll use the money to build awesome bike paths within the city so city folk can get around without dodging so many suburban cars.

  12. Now that I would have no problem with, but you know that politicians would never go for it, because a tax like that would be one of the most unpopular ones in existence. but the problem is still not one of getting bikes to the city, it is what to do with them once you are there. and lets be honest, there is no room right now to build separate bike paths in Minneapolis. so it is not just the cost of of the paths it is the cost of buying the land you need to build the paths.

    There is no easy solution for this, but Just saying it is easy to build bike paths, or telling drivers to watch for bikers is taking that easy path, that does not just solve the problem.

    Now do I think there is a problem, yes, do I think the solution is to just throw money at it, No. Do I think there is a solution, Yes. Do I know what it is, no idea. But I think that it needs to be discussed, and find a solution that solves a few things.

    A. gets cars and bikes off of the same roads, cause I think we all can agree this is the only way to slow down the number of accidents. both sides are guilty of doing stupid things and that is not going t change anytime soon.

    B. Has to be reasonably priced, not a $20 tax for the Privilage to drive your car into the cities, it is that type of taxes that mean businesses will start to move out of the cities, and that will not help in the least. There has to be a way to solve the problem that is not completely over the top priced. Cause let’s face it, it will not get passed unless it is reasonably priced, cause the politicians see it as a expense that will only be used by a small percentage of people for only part of the year. ( and Yes I know many of you will disagree with this, but it is true, the overall percentage of people who will bike to work is very small)

    C. has to find a way to use existing infrastructure, because teh city of Minneapolis is not going to be buying up land to do this.

    Just my thoughts on the subject.

  13. No room to build bike paths? There’s plenty of room! Just elminate a few lanes of traffic here and there and you’re set!

    Oh, right, cars are the only acceptable form of transportation. We have to widen rodes whenever possible. Oh well.

  14. Wayne, I think you’re onto something with eliminating lanes. In fact, that’s exactly what’s planned for new bike routes. Turn streets that are currently 2 lanes in each direction into 1 lane in each direction with a center turn lane and bike lanes along sides. No new infrastructure required.

    Jeremy, other places have already done that sort of a tax. London is one example. The UK also has something like 8 times the number of bike commuters as the United States in what is arguably a less bike friendly climate.

  15. That is Great, for London. but give me an example in the United States. I don’t care how much more bike friendly it is here, you will still not get it passed.

    Also taking a lane of traffic away from cars is not the solution, and I think you all know it. You are still taking away lanes that can be used year round for something that cannot be done in probably 4-6 months out of the year. and Yes i know some people ride their bikes year round, but they are a vast minority of the minority of people who drive bikes to work in the first place.

  16. Are people not human in London? If you need an American example, NYC is getting close.

    Taking away traffic lanes works fine. Look at Summit Ave in St. Paul. They did it there something like 15 years ago and it’s been an amazing success.

    Do a minority of people not ride because they don’t want to or because they can’t?

  17. yes and summit avenue is clogged up every day, and be honest, how many bikes are there every day, compared to how many cars are on there every day.

    I am just saying that it is very hard to justify eliminating a lane of traffic to put in a bike lane when it can’t be used for part of the year. especially when that lane of traffic can be used, and used more often, every day of the week.

    NYC I can see doing that. and I think for them it also makes sense. But they also have a much better mass transit system then Minneapolis. Most people there are not driving their cars in in the first place.

    I think you have a much rougher hill to climb in Minneapolis with it.

  18. If people had a problem with Summit, it would have been changed back in the past 15 years. It’s not that hard to re-stripe a road.

    It sounds like you want to live in a world where car use is basically mandated. Otherwise, what’s gained by quashing transportation alternatives?

  19. I am not trying to quash alternatives, I am just saying there have to be reasonable alternatives, taking away lanes of traffic is not a good solution for roads that are busy already, when you will not gain enough bike traffic to make up the difference. Also bike lanes in regular roads will not solve the problem of bike accidents.

  20. Just adding more lanes will not solve car problems.

    That is why people have to change–car people.

    Change, get it…end status quo. More lanes is not helping cities, more lanes adds more concrete and asphalt BLIGHT to cities. And it is blighted long before some bored kid paints it or weeds grow in the cracks.

    That is why car people have to change and the change to sprawl out of the city while requiring the remaining citydwellers to convert their boulevards into more lanes for suburbanites to flow more quickly through the city THEIR lazy habits and lack of vision blighted is not progress. They need to try harder and be willing to change–even the USA has a limit on land they can wreck with their laziness and snap answers like ‘build more lanes’.

    And, maybe the USA should grow up and open their eyes to other cultures who have shown more respect to both their land and people. Ironically, the forefathers of most of you readers here. Or, maybe the USA isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and is just arrogant and lazy like the politicians we seem to favor in elections.

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