Considering that Bellingham is known for its world-class mountain biking trails, it's no wonder that bicycling is popular in town and throughout Whatcom County. It's also an inexpensive way to get around town, saving money on car maintenance, parking, and of course the cost of a vehicle itself. It's good for your health. It's also great for the environment and reduces traffic. Bicyclists share the road safely with vehicles and also have their own trails to get to recreational rides as well as work.
However, when a car and a bicycle get into a crash, the cyclist is much more likely to incur serious injury or death than the driver.
Should this make you decide to hang up your bike and only drive your car? Some thoughts from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, an organization that is supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and housed within the UNC Highway Safety Research Center in Chapel Hill, NC:
Obviously with more than 800 deaths per year, there are risks associated with riding a bicycle. Bicycle fatalities represent less than two percent of all traffic fatalities, and yet bicycle trips account for only one percent of all trips in the United States. However, bicycling remains a healthful, inherently safe activity for tens of millions of people every year.
As mentioned, bicyclists seem to be over-represented in the crash data, but, there is no reliable source of exposure data as we don't know how many miles bicyclists travel each year, and we don't know how long it takes them to cover those miles (and thus how long they are exposed to motor vehicle traffic). Risk based on exposure varies by time of day (with night time being more risky), experience level of rider, location of riding, alcohol use, and many other factors. Until we have better exposure measures, we just don't know how bicyclist risk compares to other modes, but the health benefits of riding may offset some of this risk.
Just as in a collision between two motor vehicles, bicycle-motor vehicle crashes can be attributed to many causes, from distracted driving to drunk driving. And just like any motor vehicle driver who suffers injuries or death through another motorist’s negligence, bicyclists are equally entitled to fair compensation for their injuries, from minor sprains and abrasions to major injuries such as spinal damage or traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately many injured bicyclists will attempt to negotiate with insurance companies without the assistance of an attorney. They may receive some compensation for part of their medical bills, but find themselves grossly undercompensated in terms of loss of income or long-lasting pain and suffering.
In addition to negligence on the part of the driver involved in a bicycle-motor vehicle collision, poor road maintenance or improper manufacture of the bicycle itself can be to blame for injuries to a bicyclist.
If you've been injured while riding your bike and it wasn't your fault, call Bill Coats Law for help. A free consultation with our experienced and knowledgable staff will at the very least guide you about your best next steps.