Here in the fresh mountain air of Colorado, many people enjoy biking both as a recreational activity and as a method of daily transportation. Unfortunately, as the number of bicyclists in the Centennial State has grown, so too have the ranks of careless drivers. As state data recently showed, biking fatalities have continued to increase over the last few years, reaching a fifteen-year high in 2018.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 22 bikers were killed in fatal bicycle accidents last year alone. While the numbers for 2019 have not yet surpassed the 2018 data, there are troubling signs that more fatalities are yet to come.
Why Are Bicycle Fatalities Increasing in Colorado?
In spite of the data, Colorado is often considered to be a great place for bicyclists. In 2017, The League of American Bicyclists even named Colorado the 6th most bicycle-friendly state in the country. This is because our state’s infrastructure is largely supportive for bicyclists – and state legislators show a strong commitment to improving road conditions for riders.
Although many Colorado residents share positive attitudes about bicycling, however, drivers are not always eager to share the roads. When Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently announced sweeping new bicycle plans for the city, there was an influx of criticism and outrage from automobile drivers, as well as pedestrians. And although Colorado may rank highly in “bike friendliness,” it also ranks as the 14th deadliest state for cyclists overall, with 1.9 deaths per million residents each year.
Of course, rapid growth throughout the state has also played a role in the rising bike fatality rate, as new drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians are introduced into urban centers. The Colorado Department of Transportation also found that pedestrian fatalities increased by over 75% between 2009 and 2018. As traffic increases, so does the risk of a dangerous motor vehicle accident.
Practicing Bicycle Safety
Many bicycle accidents are caused by negligent drivers, and in those situations, it can be difficult for the cyclist to prevent a tragic collision. Bicyclists are more exposed to the environment than their driving counterparts, making it easier to become seriously injured. However, by keeping safety considerations top-of-mind every single time you ride, you could be able to take preventive action against a fatal bike accident.
As a quick refresher, here are some safety tips for bicycling in heavy traffic:
- Wear reflective gear. As the days get shorter, it’s important to remember that drivers can’t always see you. Wearing brightly-colored or reflective gear may save your life by taking up more visual space.
- Always wear proper safety equipment. Helmets save thousands of lives each year by preventing traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Check that you’ve got the right safety gear from head-to-toe before you venture out on a bicycle.
- Be wary of road hazards. While you may already be scanning the road for potholes and stray objects, you may not know that even the tiny glass beads in road striping can be a road hazard for bicyclists. Because bike tires are so much smaller than car tires, it’s important to be extra alert for even the smallest hazards.
- Obey all traffic laws. Under the Colorado Revised Statutes, a bicyclist has all the same rights and responsibilities of any other driver. That means you need to proceed in the same direction as road traffic, use correct signals when merging lanes or turning, and obey traffic signs.
- Use appropriate lights after dark. Legally, you are required to have a working light system if you decide to ride your bicycle after dark. This includes a bright white headlight that is visible for up to 500 feet, as well as a red rear reflector visible for up to 600 feet.
- Don’t expect drivers to make room. Although it’s the law that cars must allow you to have 3 feet of space when passing, many vehicle drivers do not give enough room to bicyclists. To keep yourself safe, always be on the lookout for openings and escape routes in traffic.
At Klein Frank, P.C., our bicycle accident lawyers fight for the rights of injured cyclists, and we can also help families pursue legal action when their loved ones have suffered a wrongful death. We’ve successfully advocated for elite bicyclists and athletes as well as recreational cyclists, securing millions in settlements and verdicts for their families. Bringing over 60 years of experience to the table, we’ll pursue justice on your behalf.
Call (303) 448-8884 to schedule your free consultation today.