Common types of bicycle crashes in Colorado by Brian Weiss, Bike Law Colorado

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A map of an area with road intersections and cars

After talking to Dr. Mark Shimoda, with the Denver Bicycle Touring Club, he expressed the Club’s commitment to bicycle safety. We both want to make sure everyone not only has fun bike rides, but we also want all riders to get home safely. Safety issues start with yourself, your gear, and then turn to the world around you as you ride on public roads. Let me start by saying that bicycles (and e-bikes) have a right to use public roads except where prohibited like on the divided interstate highways To that end, we will be writing a series on common types of bicycle crashes and how to avoid them. This is the first of that series.

I wanted to reflect on my last 29 years of representing people in bicycle crashes and the types of crashes that I have seen in Colorado and other States. We will first focus on crashes between bikes and motor vehicles at intersections because those are among the most common.

One of the more common types of crashes is called the right hook. Let me explain that the right hook involves is a car that comes up from behind a bicycle and turns either into the bicycle or right before the bicycle rolls into the intersection. The outcome is the same, loss for the bike rider, and there’s a crash in the intersection as the car is making the right turn when the bicycle is going straight. In this situation the motor vehicle driver is at legally fault because the driver needs to make sure it is completely safe before making a turn — in this case a right-hand turn. There are complex intersections that may differ, but the below picture illustrates the basics of the crash. In addition to the rules when turning, the bike lane statute also gives the bike rider the legal right to continue going straight and the car needs to yield the right of way before turning right.

Similarly there are also left hook crashes which occurs when a car turns left either in front of or at a bicycle who has the right of way coming the opposite direction that the car is traveling one reason for the left hook type crash is the limited visibility in making a left hook such as if you were going up a hill or you have limited sight lines in the direction you are making. Also, car drivers see they have a green light and quickly make a turn. It’s not safe to make a turn unless you have the left turn green arrow as you have to yield to oncoming traffic which could be a motor vehicle, pedestrian or bicycle rider.

The right hook is one where the car is going faster than the bike rider and the bike rider should look for turn signals or any indication that the car is going to make a right turn. This may involve looking behind you or using a mirror or your helmet or bike.

By way of comparison the left hook avoidance is about being more visible. The following illustration shows the paths of travel and shows how you want to be obvious and predictable on your bicycle. Also, a flashing or bright white light on the front can help your conspicuity even during the daylight hours.

If you or someone you know if in a bike vs. motor vehicle crash, call or email me for a free consultation. I never charge clients for their damaged bike claims and seek to get people back on their bikes as soon as they can.

Brian Weiss
130 W. 11th Avenue
Denver, CO 80204
(303) 741-0249
[email protected]