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Perceptions of Accidents(8 posts)

Perceptions of AccidentsPsyDoc
Mar 16, 2001 8:22 AM
Doug's post got me to thinking about how others view cyclists involved in accidents. I came across an article from the Wisconsin Bicyclist that was published in 1995. The URL for this organization is:

The article that appears below, and others, can be found at:

Motorists at fault in 70% of bike/car crashes

In analyzing the data from police department crash reports, City of Madison officials discovered what is true in most bicycling cities: Most crashes are the fault of the motorist, and most happen when a driver turns at an intersection in front of an oncoming bicyclist.

The study also found that almost a thousand bicycle accidents were reported over a four year period in the Madison area, with the vast majority involving adult bicyclists.

While only about 10 percent of the crashes were deemed to be the fault of bicyclists, a recent Madison survey showed that most people believe that bicyclists are more often at fault.

The survey also found that:

1.Non-bicyclists and those over age 45 were more likely to suggest that bicyclists were at fault more often.

2.Most area residents are not aware of the most common situation resulting in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes. Bicyclists appear to be more aware of the collision potential at intersections than non-bicyclists.

3.Most tend to believe that more bicycle/car collisions involve children than actually occurs. In Madison only 12 percent of the collisons involved children under age 15. National and statewide figures show that the average is above 50 percent, which is also why national studies show a higher incidence of bicycle at fault than in Madison. When children get in collisions, it's usually due to riding out into the street without first stopping and scanning from a driveway or side street.

4.While in general, Madison residents feel that bicycle and motor vehicle operators have equal rights and equal responsibilities on the road, they are less supportive of equal rights. While 94 percent agreed with equal responsibilities, only 80 percent agreed that the two groups have equal rights.
Absolutely agree, but still...Silverback
Mar 16, 2001 9:05 AM
I'm surprised it's not HIGHER than 70 percent, but they told you in driver's ed: You can be right, and you can be dead right, and you can be dead, right?
I see cyclists every day doing things that are technically legal but stupid by any other criteria. Start with the oh-so-fashionable black tights and jacket when you ride at dusk this time of year, and continue through running into an intersection ASSUMING the drivers see you (you have the right-of-way, but you'll still lose the crash), insisting on your "rightful" place in traffic, not making eye contact with people who are turning, and on and on.
They're all legal--in most states we have equal rights on the road. But it's just dumb not to realize that bikes are at a huge physical and public relations disadvantage. First you get hammered in the crash, and if it goes to court, you're almost certainly going to lose because the jury will be made of of 11 drivers and one guy with an old Varsity in his garage. Plus you piss people off every day, so when voters have to decide on things like bike paths and commute lanes, they turn them down.
Similar for motorcycles ...Humma Hah
Mar 16, 2001 10:18 AM
I recall reading a similar article a couple of decades ago for motorcyclists. Again, a car turning left is a big hazard to a motorcyclist going straight.

Something interesting came out of that study -- when the motorists who had hit motorcyclists were interviewed, most of them would say they NEVER SAW THE MOTORCYCLE! And when that claim was compared to the other statistics, it turned out that the people who failed to see bikes had never ridden one and had nobody in their immediate family who did. Such a person, it turns out, can look directly at an oncoming motorcycle and it simply does not register in their mind.

I was fascinated by that, because it brought to mind a close call. I was bookin' down a hill at about 35 mph on the Schwinn, passing a shopping center on my right. A car waiting to pull out of a driveway pulled right in front of me, even though the driver had me pinned with his eyes for several seconds as I approached -- I was SURE he had seen me. How closely did we avoid a wreck? I definitely removed some dust from his bumper and fender with my pants leg, and I'm pretty sure one pedal kissed his bumper.

They don't see you, folks. You are invisible. Totally, absolutely, invisible.
The invisable man.Hap
Mar 16, 2001 11:04 AM
Not only do a lot of motorists look right through cyclist like we're invisable men/women, but often when they do see us they don't anticipate our speed correctly. They may see a bike coming and assume that it is traveling 8 to 10 mph or less when it's really going 20 to 25 mph. They turn thinking that they've got enough time and boom. Their experience from children, childhood, etc. tells them that bikes move just slightly faster than pedestrians, not comparable to vehicular traffic. They either don't see you at all or they see you and misjudge your speed.

Be carefull. Even when you have the right-of-way.

All IMHO. Hap
You're exactly right.E3
Mar 16, 2001 11:19 AM
They misjudge our speed. I've had drivers who proceed to haltingly pull out in front of me while watching me approach, definite eye contact. I think it is a combo of misjudging speed and being totally bewildered that a guy on a bike is asserting himself as another vehicle. Their brains are not trained to recognize or accept that.
the ones that worry meDog
Mar 16, 2001 12:00 PM
The ones that worry me the most are careless (maybe even malicious) drivers hitting me from behind. You'd never see it coming, and couldn't do squat about it.

All other times, I ride as if drivers are trying to kill me, until I can determine that they are not. Got to be very distrustful.

the ones that worry meE3
Mar 16, 2001 12:41 PM
It drives me nuts not to be able to see what's coming behind me, so I rely on my rearview mirror. It may not necessarily matter if some idiot bears down on me, but it does make me more comfortable on the road.

It might give me a chance to at least see my life flash before my eyes.:)
Somewhere between the two ...Humma Hah
Mar 16, 2001 1:45 PM
... I do watch to see if the cars I hear behind me seem to be staying in lane or swinging wide around me, although often there's no place to hide if they're coming at you.

But something I have experienced a time or two is some young punk leaning out the passenger window preparing to lob something my way or else take a swat at me. The mirror is pretty good for dodging that kind of stuff.

Passengers can be more malicous than drivers. Fortunately, they're not armed with a weapon with the equivalent energy of a 32-pounder cannon.