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Common Causes of Bicycle Crashes

While vehicular crashes have been decreasing over the years, bicycle crashes have actually been on the rise. With the pending shut down of the L train, we are going to see a large uptake in cyclists in Brooklyn now becoming first-time bike commuters. Just spend a morning in Long Island City and see how many people have abandoned the overcrowded subway to bike from Queens to Manhattan.

There is a common misconception that these types of collisions are caused due to the negligence of the rider. However, recent data shows driver error and distracted driving are the most competent producing cause of a crash.

Knowing the most common causes of bicycle and vehicular accidents could help prevent them and keep you safe on the road.

Inattentive Driving or Speeding

Bicycle crashes with a car are all too common in New York City. Long Island continues to have the highest fatality rates in the State. Vehicle vs. car crashes are the most deadly on-road collisions. Many distractions can tempt drivers to take their eyes off the road. New technology can be tempting to look at while driving, but it’s important to remember that your eyes should always be on the road and that you should always be double checking in your side and rear-view mirrors for pedestrians and cyclists.

In addition, speeding can make it almost impossible to yield to bicyclists and pedestrians that are crossing a street or intersection. There are many people, including riders and pedestrians, walking and riding on the streets of New York. Drivers must be aware of their speed and not go faster than the flow of traffic in order to allow appropriate time to act if they need to make a last-minute maneuver. N.Y.C. has recently reduced its speed limit to help save the lives of cyclists and pedestrians.

Street Defects

There are many safety defects that could cause accidents when bicyclists are navigating the busy streets of New York. Common street and road defects that cause bicycle collisions include:

  • Potholes

  • Road Hardware such as Manhole Covers and Utility Vaults

  • Construction Plates

  • Road Cuts, Trenches, and other Temporary Paving

  • Grates and Sewers

  • Construction Debris

  • Improperly marked or placed speed bumps or speed humps

In order to prove that the city of New York or other municipality was at fault for a bicycle crash that was caused by a street defect, it must be proven that the they had prior written notice to the condition and no action was taken to fix it. Private contractors do not get the benefit of the "prior written notice" defense afforded to municipalities. They have an obligation to safe guard a street during construction. Our firm has experience with this sort of case, so contact us if this was the cause of your bicycle collision.


A “dooring” is when a driver or a passenger opens their vehicle door directly in the path of the bicyclist. It is a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law and New York City Municipal Code.

Many drivers are not aware the danger of opening their car doors in a bicycle lane or in the path in front of a bicyclist coming up from behind. This can cause serious and even fatal injury.

According to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, it is indeed against the law to open the door in the path of a bicyclist:

  • Section 1214 states that “opening and closing vehicle doors – "No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic, and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall a person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”

Avoiding a Bicycle Collision

It’s essential always to remember that bicyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable on the road. When driving, always yield to riders, as they are the most susceptible to disastrous injuries if a crash does occur. A few ways that you can help avoid these types of crashes include:

  • Always use your turn signals so drivers, riders, and pedestrians will be able to know your next move on the road

  • Drive at a speed reasonable for the circumstances around you

  • Look before you open a door and practice the "Dutch Reach"

If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident and sustained injuries, contact our firm at (888) 290-5994, as you may be entitled to compensation.

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