Many commuters are choosing to ditch their cars in favor of a bicycle. While riding a bike is better for your health and the environment, it can also be dangerous. Dozens of bicyclists are injured and killed in Bakersfield every year. Despite recent efforts to provide safe conditions for bicyclists, fatal accidents continue to happen.
Earlier this month, a 32-year-old Bakersfield bicyclist was struck and killed by a truck while crossing through an intersection in Stallion Springs. The impact of the collision was so forceful that the victim was thrown from her bike. She suffered severe injuries, which were likely aggravated because she wasn’t wearing a helmet. She did not survive.
The cause of the accident is still unknown. Many factors can contribute to a bicycle crash. Police will likely begin their investigation by considering the most common causes of bike accidents in California.
Failure to Look for Bicyclists
Drivers have an obligation to use care and caution behind the wheel. This involves remaining alert and paying attention to nearby traffic. This includes bicyclists who are sharing the road. Unfortunately, drivers often fail to look for bicyclists. One study found that a driver’s “failure to look properly” is a leading cause of bike accidents. This is particularly true at intersections, where cars and bicyclists are most likely to meet. Drivers often attempt to make a right-hand turn without searching to make sure the coast is clear.
Speeding and Aggressive Driving
Traffic in and around Bakersfield can be tough to navigate. Drivers often become impatient and try to speed up their commute. Speeding, changing lanes without signaling, and trying to beat red lights at intersections create dangerous situations that put bicyclists at risk.
High speeds not only cause accidents, but also lead to severe and life-threatening injuries. The higher the speed, the greater the risk of a fatal accident. Bicyclists are already extremely vulnerable to fatal injuries in an accident. Speed simply reduces the likelihood of a bike accident victim surviving his or her injuries.
Bicyclist Using Pedestrian Crossing
Bakersfield has made it a priority to embrace safe bicycle infrastructure in the city. However, it takes time to determine which features will be most beneficial to riders. Once officials know what kind of infrastructure to provide, it takes even more time to put those measures into place.
While bicyclists wait for dedicated riding and crossing lanes, they’re forced to use sidewalks and traditional lanes of traffic. Many accidents happen when bicyclists leave the sidewalk and enter a busy road. This is particularly true at intersections when bicyclists attempt to cross the road using a pedestrian crosswalk.
Distracted Riding and Driving
Accidents are more likely to happen when drivers and/or bicyclists are distracted. The number of accidents caused by unnecessary and avoidable distractions has increased in recent years. Distractions can include texting, talking on the phone, checking social media, playing with a navigation system or radio, eating, or even applying makeup.
When a driver is distracted, they are more likely to:
- Follow too closely and rear-end a bicyclist
- Fail to yield the right of way to a bicyclist
- See a bicyclist while changing lanes or crossing through an intersection, and
- Strike a bicyclist with their door.
When a bicyclist is distracted, they are more likely to:
- Veer into traffic
- Ride through a stop sign or red traffic light
- Strike a pedestrian or vehicle, and
- Hit hazards or debris on the roadway.
Limited Visibility and Riding at Night
Despite California laws requiring cyclists to wear and install reflectors and lights, visibility remains a problem. Many bicycle accidents happen because drivers simply cannot see cyclists on the road. Accidents happen when bikes aren’t equipped with the proper safety devices and cyclists wear dark clothes. Bicyclists should do their best to wear bright, reflective clothing and install the proper reflectors on their bikes. This is particularly true when they will be sharing the road with larger vehicles.