Wednesday 18 December 2013

Actual cycling accident history proves how safe it can be

Summary: Urban cycling can be very safe if you control your circumstances, learn about risks and how to avoid them, and choose to ride defensively. The good news is it gets safer with experience and as you apply what you've learned. In this post, I'll track all of my cycling accidents (and selected near misses), why they occurred and what I learnt from them.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Daniel Lobo

Related Posts:
> See the safety and health category of this blog.
Where are Melbourne's real cycling danger spots?
Is cycling really more dangerous than other forms of transport?

- I've ridden most days since 2009 as my primary means of commuting and getting around Melbourne. I'd rate my Cycling Skills at 7/10.

- Everyone balances priorities differently. My relative priorities are: Safety (7/10), Saving Time (9/10), Convenience (9/10), Enjoyment (8/10), Comfort (7/10).

- So I could ride even more safely if I wanted to and sacrifice some time and convenience, but I like zipping freely around town and so am happy with the balance I've found.

- As you can see from the table, there is plenty to learn about urban cycling. And most riders will initally make mistakes and be involved in minor accidents. The smart ones learn why and take steps to minimise these types of accidents happening again. It's clear from my accident history that the frequency of my actual crashes has steadily decreased as I've learnt how to avoid or mitigate these risks.

- There would be plenty of other near misses or accidents to list (due to drivers not paying attention or giving way, dooring, etc) but these have been largely eliminated due to safer, defensive, anticipatory riding.

- In 5 years of riding I have not been responsible for any accidents, damage, injury to others or bumped into a single pedestrian. I've never needed insurance (I self-insure). I have also not received any cycling fines or warnings.

Accident / ProblemCause or ReasonLessons and Changes
Mar 2009 - Slipped off bike while accelerating to stay ahead of a taxi
(minor scrape)
- Wearing flip flops and my foot slipped off and jerked the handebar around
- A steady front wheel is critical to not coming off
- Only wear flip flops if riding leisurely and typically not on the road
- Take more care to keep the front wheel steady
Apr 2009 - Got stuck in a tram track and had slow fall
(no injury)
Did not cross tracks at right angles so tyre slipped into groove- Cross tracks at reasonable angles
- Keep a firm grip on the handlebar and the front wheel steady when doing so
Jun 2009 - Spokes suddenly broke and wheel buckled- Tyre pressure likely too low, possibly jumped kerbs too fast
- Didn't true (straighten) wheels
- Maintain tyre pressure
- More careful not to bang wheels into kerbs/potholes
- Learnt how to true wheels myself and keep straight
Aug 2009 - Wheel slipped on rainwater drain, almost came off bikeSome surfaces (like metal drains) are very slippery especially when wet- Avoid slippery surfaces (metal, plastic, solid paint), especially in the wet
Nov 2009 - Clipped wing mirror of car while lane splitting (no damage)Hybrid bike had wide handlebars and at slow speed I wobbled while splitting- More practiced at keeping a steady line while splitting
- Current single speed bike has narrower handlebars
- Will wait rather than risk contacting a car while splitting (never have since)
Jan 2010 - Car cut into my lane leaving intersection and kept pushing across to get a clear lane to accelerate through. Came too closeMany drivers believe cars have priority on the road and will try to use their size to intimidate cyclists into moving aside- Wherever safe, claim your lane by riding confidently and assertively in it. Use bike boxes to get ahead. Don't leave inviting lane space for cars to push through
May 2010 - Pedal clipped ground while cornering fast. Almost came off bike.Inside pedal must be kept high when cornering at speed or will touch ground- Stop pedalling through fast corners; keep inside pedal high
Dec 2010 - Car in roundabout didn't see me and came close to collision- Drivers are often blind to cyclists and pedestrians
- Many drivers treat roundabouts like racetrack chicanes
- Always use visible, rechargeable lights
- Never assume cars have seen me at roundabouts; wait for them to stop or make eye contact
May 2011 - Door opened by car in traffic causing me to slam on brakes
Bike flipped and hit parked Mercedes (roof damage)
To further their own convenience, road users often thoughtlessly cause danger to others- Slow down and be prepared to stop whenever within dooring distance from stationary cars (either side).
- Keep weight toward back of bike when braking
Nov 2011 - Pedestrian stepped out early on crossing; braked just in timePedestrians are worried about cars not bikes (cars were banked up).- Ride defensively to anticipate pedestrians taking the most convenient option
- Ensure brakes are working well and learn how to maintain them oneself
June 2012 - Car swerved across me into parking spot. Slammed brakes, went over handlebars
(Wrist soreness for a few days, minor car damage)
- Drivers don't worry about bike lanes like regular traffic lanes as they can't die by swerving across them
- E.g. If a truck might be in them they'd be careful
- Ride defensively and make no assumptions about drivers not swerving across the bike lane if there might be some advantage in them doing so

Dec 2012 - Car swerved in front of me to change lanes;
Braked sharply and back wheel rose off ground but stayed on bike
In areas (e.g. intersections) where drivers feel the only threats are from cars in front they can be especially unpredictable and dangerous- Learn to anticipate sudden, opportunistic actions from drivers and evade them
- In dangerous situations prioritise your own safety as no-one else can be relied upon (e.g. use the footpath if need be)
Mar 2013 - Taxi passenger opened door into bike lane; I had slowed down and braked in timeTaxi drivers and passengers are a constant hazard to cyclists- Always ride carefully near taxis, particularly avoiding dooring.
Aug 2013 - While raining, came down hill and braked while cornering, lost rear wheel traction and almost came offBraking while cornering (especially if wet) risks losing rear wheel grip and it will then fishtail and you may come off- Make braking before cornering a habit
- Keep weight back over rear wheel when braking
Nov 2013 - Saw cyclist overtake me and try and race through the inside of a turning car and get knocked overOther cyclist's actions shouldn't be followed blindly and don't be afraid to hold up other cyclists to protect your safety- Learned to ignore pressure from cyclists behind me to proceed if not safe to do so
- Give way to cars when required or reasonable (e.g. when waiting to turn across bike lane)
Oct 2014 - I had right of way in roundabout but slowed down to ensure car was stopping.
- Older woman then accelerated through roundabout right in front of me
Some drivers (e.g. some older ones) may not be used to sharing the road with cyclists.- Roundabouts are the closest I come to being hit by motorists but I've become quite confident in my "always check they're stopping" approach.
- This was a reminder that roundabouts leave little margin for escape if a driver is negligent so double-check and have the brakes ready.
Nov 2014 - Dangerous driver ignored Stop sign and had to brake sharply to avoid hitting me at an intersection of the St Georges Rd bike pathDeliberately reckless and dangerous drivers are a risk that's hard to mitigate.- Assumptions about right of way and visibility won't always protect you from dangerous drivers so take extra precaution at intersections and in high risk situations.