It was about a week ago in conversation a friend told me she was ‘hooked’ when a car driver passed her then immediately made a right turn into her.
“It was so weird,” she told me. “I’ve never heard of anyone get hit like that before.”
I, in my super knowledgeable bike advocate smarminess, informed her that this collision is, in fact, the most common type of bike vs car collision. It even has a name: The Right Hook.
It turns out I’m wrong, at least in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The city traffic department analyzed accident reports involving bicycles from the year 2000 to June 2009. The infamous Right Hook — or what the city calls “Overtaking Turn Accidents at Intersections” — is the second most common collision at 13% of the total in their count.
The most common collision is “The Broadside,” at 60.5% of crashes. That’s when a motorist goes straight through an intersection even when there’s a bike right in front of him.
The Coloradoan article on this analysis highlights the fact that of the 214 “broadside” collisions, 123 of them involve a cyclist riding against traffic. Naturally, the public comments section focuses on the scofflaw cyclists as the cause of this traffic mayhem.
What the article failed to mention is that in 10% of the broadside collisions, the motorist failed to stop at a stop sign or even a red light. Two of the drivers were DUI. In 130 instances, the drivers were cited for “failure to yield right of way.”
To be sure, cyclists should ride with traffic for safety, but that’s not the only problem. There’s a problem with the bull in the china shop, and that bull should be controlled (to use the methaphor from Copenhagenize).
The third most common collision type is the left cross at 9.3% of collisions. This is when a left turning motorist slams into a cyclist going straight through an intersection. Of the 33 left crosses, 3 involved a cyclist riding on the sidewalk, 2 were going the wrong way, and two failed to stop at a signal or sign. The overwhelming number of these were motorists who just kept going in spite of the presence of a bike in their path.
Hit from behind
After that, the next collision type is the dreaded “Hit From Behind.” The 30 “sideswipes” recorded account for 8.5% of bike collisions. With the exception of a single head on, all fatalities are these types.
The report also counts 25 severe injury (including fatalities) collisions out of the 354 bicycle accidents in the analysis. About half of the severe injuries are from the “Broadside” collisions.
Many risks are controllable while cycling and the city report highlights some of the contributing factors that involve bicyclists — you should generally ride with traffic, avoid sidewalks, and obey traffic control signs and signals. There’s still work to do to reign in the bull as well — Ft Collins with a population of 137,000 has a serious injury accident almost once a month.
But is it dangerous?
For the 9 year period that Ft Collins examined, the accident rate is 0.93 per 1,000 population. Compare that against an injury rate of 7.7 per 1,000 population for all people involved in car accidents. There were four bicycle fatalities in Ft Collins in nine years, compared against two to four traffic fatalities total each year.
While bicycling is generally a safe activity, there are risks in bicycling, and it’s good to see Ft Collins quantifying some of those risks.