More bikes on the road means safer roads, as drivers learn to keep their speeds legal and to drive more carefully. But before the roads get safer, there’s a learning curve where drivers adjust their habits and take cyclists into account.
But how does the increasing number of bikes on the road affect other cyclists, and who’s at fault in a bike-on-bike collision? First, as our numbers grow, so does the need to learn how to ride safely around other cyclists.
Riders experienced at riding in groups—for example, competitive cyclists, club cyclists, and touring cyclists—have already developed the skills necessary for riding safely with other cyclists. For cyclists new to group riding, this is part of the learning curve.
But still, crashes happen, and they can involve any number of factors. In a race or on a training ride, two riders might cross wheels, or maybe an improperly glued tubular tire comes off. On a group ride, passing too close to a solo cyclist who is unaware of the fast-approaching group may result in one or more cyclists going down. On a trail, somebody might make unsafe passes. On a city street, a cyclist might be riding head down, or against traffic, or without lights at night—and of course, somebody might just blow a stop sign and broadside another cyclist. Somebody makes a mistake, and there’s a crash.
If a cyclist was careless and caused another cyclist to crash, the cyclist at fault may be responsible for the other cyclist’s injuries, including things like medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
With competitive riding and other organized group riding, there’s an added wrinkle: a liability waiver will likely be involved, in which the cyclists agree to assume the risks inherent to their sport. In racing, crashes are one of the risks inherent to the sport, so when you race, you’ve assumed the risk of crashing, even if the crash was caused by another rider’s negligence. This means that the negligent cyclist can’t be held liable for your injuries. However, there are limits to this—for example, you have not agreed to assume the risk of being injured by another rider’s recklessness, or even worse, an intentional act.
Whatever the cause, bike-on-bike collisions are going to become more common, as more people, many with only recently-acquired riding skills and little understanding of safe riding practices, take up cycling every year.
The good news is that riding skills improve with practice, and understanding how to operate a bike safely around others improves with education and experience. And that means, over time, as we adjust to seeing more bikes on the roads, we will all learn how to make biking, and our roads, safer.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.