Everything You Ever Needed to Know About: Common Accidents
Getting doored is one of the more ridiculous types of common cycling accidents. It involves you, the cyclist, hitting a parked car. You think it will never happen to you—you’re a very aware cyclist, you always see what’s going on around you, and you note parked cars and are careful not to run into them. But this one can happen to the best of us. Getting doored happens when a driver of a vehicle parked in a parking lane opens his door directly in your path and you don’t have enough time to stop. The resulting force of running into the door usually sends a cyclist flying face first over the handlebar of the bike and can cause serious injuries. There are even recorded fatalities for this type of accident.
Another version of getting doored happens when you’re riding next to a parked car and the driver opens the door directly into you. Usually this results in leg injuries on the side the door hit (usually your right side), and also some scrapes and bruises on the other side of the body from falling over.
A way to avoid both versions of getting doored is to be sure to ride three feet away from parked cars. Sometimes this is difficult to do, as the bike lane and the parking lane are the same. But cyclists are allowed to leave the bike lane, so if the space between you and the parked cars isn’t enough, feel free to move over.
Wrong Way Wreck
The wrong way wreck happens when a cyclist is breaking a fundamental rule of the road, and is easily avoided. It happens when the cyclist is riding on the wrong side of the road and against traffic and a car turns into the cyclist. This happens frequently because the car that’s turning will be looking the other way, for traffic that is coming towards it in the proper direction, not looking at you, coming the wrong way on a bicycle.
This accident is easily avoided, and if all cyclists follow the rules of the road (link to post about rules), they should be safe from this particular crash.
Right Turn into a Cyclist
This accident occurs when a cyclist is cruising along on the right hand side of the lane (where he should be), and a car turns right in front of the cyclist. Often a driver is simply not paying attention when this happens, but sometimes a driver passes you because he assumes that since you’re on a bicycle you’re moving slowly.
The unfortunate thing about this particular scenario is that the cyclist is doing everything right. He’s riding in a straight line, on the right side of the right lane, and is headed in the same direction as traffic. Because the cyclist is being fairly safe in this situation, there isn’t much to be improved on to avoid the crash. The most important thing is to always be aware of the vehicles around you. If you’re paying enough attention, you might be able to slow down enough to turn right with the car and avoid running into it.
Left Turn into a Cyclist
This accident happens for a couple different reasons. The first is that the driver turning left might imagine that he has more time to get through the intersection than he really does. The second is that he might not see a cyclist because he’s distracted by watching for a gap in auto traffic, and because that auto traffic often obscures a cyclist from the turning driver’s view.
Much like the Right Turn into a Cyclist situation, the cyclist is doing everything right. He has a green light, is on the right side of the right lane, and is riding in a straight, predictable line. So to avoid this common accident, just be aware of the cars around you. If you know that you can’t be seen from oncoming traffic because cars in your lane are blocking you, you will either want to ride as fast as traffic and keep those cars between you and any turning traffic as a shield, or you will want to slow down, check the intersection carefully, and then proceed. As always, just being aware of what is going on around you is your biggest protection.
Cyclists who get rear ended are usually not riding in a straight line. They may be swerving to avoid an object, or they might be trying too hard to stay as far right as possible, to the point of swerving in and around parked cars. It is always safer to ride in a straight line, so that drivers will see you and know where you will be as you continue to ride. If you’re constantly swerving, a driver has no way of predicting where you’ll go next.
Having said that, there are times when drivers simply aren’t paying attention and will sneak up behind you, get a little too close, and then boom! You’ve been rear ended! As always, paying attention to your surroundings is important, and that includes knowing if there is traffic behind you. If you feel confident that you can maintain good control over your bicycle while turning your head to check behind you every so often, then by all means, feel free to do that. But if you’re not sure, or if your hands tend to cause the handlebar to wobble when you look over your shoulder, then you should invest in a rear view mirror. They can attach to your bike or your helmet, and will allow you to see what’s going on behind you without accidentally swerving.
Red Light Disaster
Lots of cycling accidents happen at red lights, and what to do to prevent them is somewhat confusing. Cyclists are used to riding on the far right of the lane, with cars going past them on their left, in the same lane. So when the light turns red, cyclists cruise up to the stop line right next to cars. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, unless you stop in a car’s blind spot. If you’re not right next to their passenger side window, they might not see you, and they might turn in front of you.
That’s why it’s totally acceptable to move into the center of a lane if the light is changing. Be careful if you’re making the lane change while traffic is still moving, but know that you have the right to do so. This is especially important if you plan to turn left at the light. You don’t want to be stuck on the right side of the road when the light turns green.