Ride of Silence to Honor Those Killed on Bicycles

On May 19, thousands of cyclists took to the streets across the U.S. and overseas for the "Ride of Silence," promoting the safe coexistence of cars and bikes. The mobile memorials honored cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways and consisted of packs of pedal enthusiasts traveling single file, silent and at speeds below 12 mph.

The event began in Dallas seven years ago to bring awareness to the motoring public. Tensions between motorists and cyclists continue to pose problems for public safety officials and urban planners.

David Leath, a participant in a ride in California from Danville to Dublin, says, "We can all get along out there. I'm a rider and a driver, and I see it, too. There's room for improvement on both sides." Robert Fuller, brother-in-law of a bicycle-automobile accident victim adds, "People just don't like us as users. It's like it's my road, I own the road, what are you doing?"

Recent Confrontations

On June 2, an SUV struck four bicyclists in the Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods of San Francisco. Local police treated the hit-and-run rampage as aggravated assault after witnesses said the driver "was driving to try and hit the bicyclists." David Mark Clark, a 39-year-old Albany resident, is being charged with four counts of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of hit and run. Last year, cyclist Armando Cruz was arrested in Brooklyn, N.Y., for throwing a bottle through a bus window in a fit of road rage. In 2008, a Portland resident was arrested for attacking a car with his bicycle after the driver chided him for running a red light. In Copenhagen, a man attacked a car with an axe after the driver accidentally struck him in the street and tried to drive away.

However, road rage and attempted murder are the exception and not the rule for bicycle accidents. According to NHTSA statistics, the vast majority of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes take place at intersections. Only two of the top 10 most common accident scenarios occur more than 25 feet from an intersection.

In an age of cell phones, text messaging and GPS devices, motorists are more distracted than ever, putting bicyclists in even more danger.

NHTSA Statistics

As of 2008, about 53,000 U.S. cyclists have died in traffic accidents since 1932 - the first year those types of deaths were recorded - and 716 cyclists were killed and an additional 52,000 were injured in traffic crashes in 2008 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to the NHTSA, the average age of bikers fatally wounded in an accident has increased from 32 years old in 1998 to 41 years old in 2008. The majority of those killed on a bicycle are male. In 2008, males were eight times more likely to be killed than women.

Safety Tips

In an effort to protect themselves, bicyclists should:

  • Make sure their brakes and bicycles are functioning properly
  • Follow the rules of the road
  • Wear protective clothing to become more visible to vehicles
  • Use hand signals and make eye contact with motorists
  • Always assume that they, as cyclists, are invisible to automobile drivers

It is important to call an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been involved in a bicycle accident.