A few weeks ago, I started compiling bicycle safety facts for this weekly column. I wanted to share that Ukiah is a safe community for cyclists. I was really proud that within the City Limits we hadn’t had a bicycle-related fatality in more than 20 years and that we’ve had an average of only 4 to 6 injury-related cycling accidents reported each year for the last 10 years. The point of the column was simply to remind everyone that with school back in session, we should all watch for students on bikes, teach our children good cycling habits, and as cyclists we shouldn’t forget to cycle as defensively as we can.
All that changed on Friday, August 24, when a beloved community member and long-time cyclist, psychiatrist Dr. Doug Rosoff, was killed in a collision with a truck while riding his bicycle. It’s hard to understand how horrific this collision is to Dr. Rosoff’s family, the truck driver and his family, and our entire community. As long as the devastating collision is under investigation I cannot share details about the case, but I think it is very important to raise awareness that motorists and cyclists share the road, and to think about how we can prevent similar accidents in the future.
Most accidents have multiple causes, but wherever blame lies, a bike will always lose against a car—and especially a truck. It doesn’t matter if you are riding your bike or driving a car, you must follow the rules of the road. Even so, most experienced cyclists will tell you they ride defensively because no matter how
right they are, they can still be injured or killed by a motorist in the wrong.
A website that really gets into detailed recommendations on how to ride safely is www.bicyclesafe.com. The article titled, "How to Not Get Hit by Cars" reviews ten collision scenarios and how to avoid them. The article points out that wearing a helmet is a GREAT idea; it can save your life, but it doesn’t prevent you from being hit. The same can be said for bright clothing: it really helps drivers see you IF they are looking for you, but a bright jersey alone won’t save your life like defensive riding will.
Cycling is great exercise and great for the environment, so how can we make it safer? As our community continues to develop, we can change the physical structure of roads to include bike paths. We can create greenbelts that bypass roads altogether and provide alternate routes for cyclists and pedestrians. These changes can’t happen overnight, but each time there’s an opportunity to include a safer route, it would be great if we could take advantage of it.
Each year, in the United States, approximately 900 people die from injuries due to bicycle crashes and more than 500,000 people are treated in emergency departments. Head injury is by far the greatest risk posed to cyclists. Properly wearing a helmet while you’re cycling is your best means of protection against injury. According to recent research, helmets provide a 63 to 88 percent reduction in the risk of head injuries for cyclists.
The best way to avoid injury, however, is to avoid the accident all together.
If you or your loved ones ride bicycles on the road, please wear your helmet and bright clothes, follow the rules of the road, and ride defensively.
For those of us who drive, we need to be present both physically and mentally…pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re behind the wheel. Think of how devastating it would be to hit a cyclist and destroy a life. If we focus on driving while we’re driving, instead of talking on the phone or allowing distractions to grab our attention, we will be safer and so will all those who share the road with us.