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How to avoid cycling carnage on our roads

Written by:
Garreth Turner
Legal Practice Manager, Special Counsel

Each year, Shine Lawyers expert cycling law team represent hundreds of cyclists involved in serious, and sometimes catastrophic, road incidents. Garreth Turner. Shine Lawyers Branch Manager and avid bike rider wrote the following opinion piece.

Unfortunately we see all too often cyclists, who end up significantly injured and suffering with devastating ongoing effects for themselves and their families after crashes with cars and other road vehicles.

As an avid cyclist myself, I see and hear of accidents happening regularly, and often think how easily avoidable these incidents are.

In the interests of reducing some of the two-wheel carnage on the roads, I've compiled a list of the most common types of accidents and how they might be avoided.

CAR DOORS: A common scenario for cyclists is passing parked cars while trying to keep out of the passing traffic.

Without warning a car door opens, leaving the cyclist with no time to brake or stop. Inevitably the cyclist impacts the door head-on and is often flung on to the roadway and into the line of traffic.

Tip - As a cyclist always try to anticipate this scenario keeping a lookout for newly parked vehicles, and if possible pass wider.

Likewise car drivers should always check their mirrors and be cautious when opening their doors.

INTERSECTIONS AND ROUNDABOUTS: Whether controlled by traffic lights, road markings or a roundabout, accidents often occur at intersections. Vehicles and cyclists are travelling in various opposing directions and can often fail to give way or even see each other.

It's not uncommon for drivers to actually see a cyclist approaching and think they have sufficient time to pass through an intersection resulting in an accident. Unfortunately drivers often don't realise the speed at which the cyclist is travelling (anywhere from 20-50km/h plus).

Visually the cyclist appears smaller and potentially further away than other road users and this adds to the misconception.

Tip - As a cyclist always be extra cautious when approaching intersections and if possible try to make eye contact with drivers to determine if they have seen you. Motorists should take a couple more seconds to evaluate the situation and speed of an approaching cyclist, being careful as they enter an intersection.

PASSING TOO CLOSELY: In most Australian states, motorists are legally required to allow a safe passing distance of one metre between them and cyclists. All too often, serious accidents occur when drivers misjudge the passing distance and either make contact or pass so closely the cyclist is forced off the roadway.

Many drivers might not realise the wind force created by their vehicle is actually sufficient to physically blow a cyclist completely off course and off the roadway altogether. This can have severe consequences including crashing at high speed.

Tip - Cyclists should remain as far left as possible and be courteous in traffic. Drivers should show patience, slow down and give cyclists extra space when you are overtaking. Slowing slightly may delay your day but causing an accident certainly will.

TOUCHING WHEELS: Cyclists travel in packs to stand out more and have some group safety but this can make it congested on rides. As a result, they can veer into each other's paths and touch wheels - triggering falls for the colliding riders and those behind.

Tip - There is an art to riding in a pack as far as keeping a safe distance between each other and swerving in unison, as well as signalling. Communication and space are key.

Other safety tips

  • Abide by the road rules.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Wear bright or light-coloured clothing when riding in hours of darkness.
  • Ensure bikes are fitted with front and rear facing lights, as well as bell to warn when approaching.

What to do in a cycling accident

In the unfortunate event of an accident and if you are well enough to do so, you should gather the following information:

  • Exchange contact details with each other.
  • Each party should record details of the accident, including street names, vehicle details and registrations, names of any witnesses and take photographs of the scene if possible.
  • If the police have not attended the scene, call them and report the incident.
  • If suffering injuries and symptoms, see a doctor for assessment and treatment.
  • If you suffer loss and damage to your property or will have ongoing losses or time off work, you should speak to a lawyer to determine your prospects of recovering and being compensated for your losses.

Shine Lawyers - we're here to help

If you’ve suffered a cycling accident, the injuries can impact your life forever. One way to get some sense of a normal life back is to make a claim for compensation. Shine Lawyers have cycling safety lawyers who work on a no win, no fee basis and can help you get your life back on track. There are strict time limits that apply to bringing a claim and it's important you don't miss these, Contact Shine Lawyers today.

*This opinion piece has been adapted from an original column Garreth Turner wrote for the Townsville Bulletin. *

Written by Garreth Turner. Last modified: August 7, 2019.

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