The cycling death of a Nebraska school teacher is prompting friends and neighbors to push for clearer safety regulations for bikes and cars. According to the Nebraska Department of Roads, 283 cyclists were injured in car and bicycle accidents. Bicycles account for just 1% of all trips taken in the United States, but cyclists are at higher risk for crash-related injury and death than the occupants of motor vehicles. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition found in a study that 75% of at-fault drivers are never cited for hitting and killing pedestrians. Bicyclists have drafted a new safety bill, LB 39, in an attempt to prevent the next death.
In 2012, Nebraska state legislators passed a law that required passing cars to give bicyclists a minimum of three feet of space, but Omaha cyclist Chris Halbkat doesn’t believe drivers are obeying. He told KMTV that drivers give “no space at all.” Halbkat continued, “If anything I feel sometimes they get close to you to tell you to get off the road.”
One of the major changes LB 39 attempts to bring about is to extend the space drivers must give bicyclists. To prevent car and bike accidents, the new law would require cars to pass bicycles the same way they pass other cars: by changing lanes. In areas where a lane change is impossible, cars may revert to giving the three feet of space. Cyclists will also be given right-of-way at crosswalks under the new bill, although most bicycle deaths occur in non-intersection locations in urban areas. A corresponding bill, LB 38, stiffens penalties for drivers who are found to be at fault for hitting and killing bicyclists.
While the bill waits for its hearing in Nebraska, other bicyclists and drivers can work together to reduce the frequency of car and bike accidents. Knowing what to do after car accidents involving bicycles is the responsibility of both bicyclist and driver, and should be reviewed frequently.
To prevent bicycle accident injuries, cyclists should wear proper safety equipment and take steps to make themselves visible. They should also follow the rules of the road, including stopping at all lights and stop signs.
Drivers of cars must also take responsibility to avoid causing bicycling injuries. When encountering a cyclist on the road, drivers should slow down and pass only when it is safe to give the necessary three feet of space. When approaching a red light, cars should move away from the curb so that the cyclist has room to stop beside them, instead of getting stuck in between cars.
Should an accident occur, drivers and cyclists should know what to do after car accidents involving bikes. Staying safe after an accident should be the priority of both parties, and they must remember to remain calm. The best way to stay safe is to prevent an accident, but if they don’t know what to do after car accidents, the responding police officer will be able to tell them.