After 8 months of regular and sometimes intensive bicycling in and around Vienna – even through the cold months of winter – my number came up: I was hit at about 7:30 a.m. on April 28 by a car making a right turn on a red light (legal in Virginia). The rest of the details aren’t necessary here except to say that the significant injury was a fracture to the tibial plateau on the leg that the car hit (fortunately no worse a break and now seems to be healed), and resort to legal means resulting in a settlement.
I am very grateful to the doctors, my lawyer, and especially the two people who came forth after I had to advertise for witnesses. The incident was somewhat of a jolt, first for the accident itself and the injury, and then for the way the driver handled it. The fact two witnesses did come forth was extremely encouraging during what otherwise was a very difficult time.
I am not sure about the percentage of bicyclists who have an accident with a car at some time during their life, but some old statistics on bicycle-related injuries (not only accidents with cars) estimate that 1 bicyclist in 20 is injured every year and that on the average, a bicyclist will have a minor injury every three years and a serious one every 15. And per mile of travel, cyclists are 4.5 times more likely to be injured than motor vehicle drivers.
As far as car-bike accidents, a study in Toronto, Ontario showed that bicyclists caused only 10% of car-bike accidents (which apparently is much less than popular perceptions). And the bicyclist is always much the worse off for the encounter (same thing with motocyclists). Whatever the case, as a bicyclist it is worth going to a reasonable extreme to verify what a driver *might* do, and to try to make eye contact with them.
The experience raises a question for me about how practical the slogan of “share the road” is. Driver error, or cyclist error (or road problem affecting cyclist speed or trajectory), and the cyclist loses – paying dispropotionaltely more than ther driver, no matter what compensation the latter may possibly receive.
Well-demarcated bicycle lanes are a minimum for major roads. Maybe also there is a safety in numbers – more cyclists will get more attention and respect. I also used to bicycle in Chengdu, China and was grateful for bike lanes separated by curbs (even though these lanes have been narrowed in recent years to widen the main roads) and for the number of other cyclists around when crossing most major intersections.
On the other hand, even in a city like Denver, Colorado – a community with a lot of cyclists, apparently good bicycle infrastructure, and awareness on the part of drivers – has noted that with more bicyclists, there is an increase in serious injuries from accidents with cars.
The whole thing has also prompted some increased caution when I am behind the wheel. In any event, we have moved so I am no longer bicycling in Vienna, nor for the moment anywhere else. When the circumstances are right I hope to do so again.
Oh – and I was wearing my helmet (funny how many folks asked about that).