There are many pros to riding a bicycle in California. Not only is the weather always great, but it’s a convenient way to get around town without having to worry about parking or traffic, all while exercising and being eco-friendly. However, in a city like Los Angeles known for its traffic violence, how much safer is riding a bicycle over driving a car?
By law, bicycles on the roadway are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. Our experienced bicycle accident attorneys at West Coast Trial Employers share key insight on the subject of bicycles vs. cars while out on the road.
Though bicycle trips account for only 1% of all trips in the U.S., bicyclists face a higher risk of crash related injury and deaths than occupants in motor vehicles. Nationwide, you’re more than twice as likely to die while riding a bike than riding in a car.
Moreover, California's bicycle accident statistics are no better, and demonstrate the dangerous reality that many bicyclists face. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018 California was the second state with the most pedalcyclist deaths in the country. In 2017, the city of Los Angeles experienced a total of 1,918 bicycle accidents that resulted in 17 fatalities, according to the California Highway Patrol's 2017 Annual Report.
Ironically but expectedly, among bicyclist deaths in the U.S., 37% had alcohol involvement either for the motor vehicle driver or bicycle rider. Some more shocking facts regarding bicycle accidents in the country compiled by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention include:
- Adults aged 50 to 59 years have the highest bicycle death rates.
- Children and teenagers have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for more than one-third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments.
- Men die six times more often and are injured four times more often on bicycles than women.
- Most bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas and at non-intersection locations.
Another danger cyclists face out in the roads is a major health risk, air pollution. According to a 2015 study referenced by the Washington Post, bike commuters inhale about three times as much air pollution as drivers. Researchers at the Colorado State University found that cyclists, due to their heavier breathing and longer commute time, ended up huffing far more pollution than drivers.
With all of this said, driving a car isn’t inherently safer than riding a bike, given drivers in both situations run their own set of dangers. However, together with motorcyclists, bicyclists are more vulnerable to injuries and death in the event of an accident over automobile drivers.
Moreover, the number of bicycle deaths and injuries don’t actually tell the entire story, nor does it account for all the people who commute on bikes. The truth is that if you take cars out of the equation, biking is entirely safe. So even though bicyclists can take precautionary measures like wearing a helmet and fluorescent clothes, and have active lighting on their bikes, the best bet is for the person behind the wheel of the car to drive with precaution. The precautions a bicyclist can take are second to that since they’re not driving the more dangerous machine.
Due to the fact that a bicyclist has little protection in comparison to a multi-ton vehicle, resulting injuries will not only be severe but potentially fatal. According to the California Highway Patrol's 2017 Annual Report, 9.7% of vehicle collisions either injured and/or killed bicycle victims.
California Vehicle Code 21209 prohibits all drivers from driving within a bike lane. Any driver who injures a bicyclist in a bike lane will most likely be held liable for the accident. All motorists have a legal duty of care while operating a vehicle. This means that a driver who behaves irresponsibly and does not use reasonable care while operating a vehicle may be found liable for causing a bicycle accident.
If you were injured or suffered property loss in a bicycle accident, the party or parties responsible for your losses will have to pay for your damages. The first step towards recovering damages owed to you can be accomplished by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
An injured bicyclist can generally sue for the following compensatory damages:
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Property loss
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
Available damages will typically vary depending on the seriousness of your injuries. The most common types of bicycle accident injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Dental fractures
- Internal bleeding
- Strains or dislocations
- Head and neck Injuries
In very rare cases, an injured bicyclist may also seek punitive damages. In order to be entitled to punitive damages, an injured bicyclist needs to prove that the defendant engaged in extreme behavior, such as intentionally trying to run over a bicyclist. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a wrongdoer for his or her deliberate acts of malice.
Please consult with an experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you are entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit and claim damages for your injuries.