If you are subject to a lockdown and might be going stir crazy, you will want to make the most of your exercise time outside. You may be thinking about the joys of bicycling in California during the coronavirus pandemic, but you’ll certainly want to make sure that you are prepared and, crucially, keep your wits about you during this time. After all, some statistics show that bicycle accidents are on the rise during these troubled times, even as car accidents appear to fall. What is causing this trend, and how can you avoid becoming a statistic?

Keeping Fit

Across the country, people are mounting up and taking to the road in an attempt to keep themselves as fit as possible. Many of these individuals have decided to get on a bike for the first time or may have dusted off a machine that they hadn’t used for ages. Either way, there are more cyclists on the road at the moment than during “normal” times and, even though the roads are much quieter, accidents appear to be on the rise.

Bike Accidents Up

According to data released by the New York City Police Department, the number of cyclists that were injured in an accident was up 43 percent during the second week of March. This came hard on the heels of the city mayor’s suggestion that people ride their bike to work rather than making use of public transportation. As people duly listened and mounted up, the number of injuries increased, even as the number of car or motorized vehicle accidents fell.

When compared to the same week last year, injuries sustained by cyclists rose by a whopping 42.9 percent, according to the data released by the NYPD. Activists were quick to hit back and to criticize the mayor, citing the low number of protected bike lanes around the city. Indeed, some people started to call for drastic action and the creation of “pop-up” bike lanes. They also wanted a zero-tolerance policy towards any vehicle that might block a bike lane as part of a raft of other Draconian measures.

This trend is certainly bad news for Californians, where injuries involving cyclists were already a cause for alarm. After all, due to a surge in the number of people sharing a bike and those who were keen to avoid car congestion, the number of fatal bike accidents is already at its highest since the mid-2000s. Statistics show that for the three-year period from 2016 to 2018, 455 cyclists were killed in California due to traffic accidents despite the presence of (in some cases) extensive bike networks within inner-city areas.

It’s difficult to put the finger on the exact cause, but some experts believe that it can be linked to a shift in consumer behavior. More people than ever are choosing to buy larger vehicles (such as an SUV), and car manufacturers are, indeed, moving away from the smaller family car. Population growth in California continues unabated, and the number of annual vehicle miles driven in the United States continues to rise.

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Vehicle Accidents Down

Meanwhile, traffic accidents involving motorized vehicles are clearly on the decline. This was underlined when data was released by the San Francisco government to show that the number of traffic collision calls during the third week of March was down by 60 percent over an average week. In fact, the number of collisions involving an emergency call to 911 was the lowest weekly tally for the last 17 years. It seems clear that this downward trend is due to the stringent conditions introduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the call for people to work from home if they can, or to shelter in place.

You might think that a significant decline in the number of cars, trucks and buses on the road should make the streets of California much safer for the average cyclist. After all, there should be fewer distractions, and each driver should, theoretically, be able to concentrate on cyclists and other road users more effectively. Still, there was always the chance that drivers in this situation could be less attentive and may “switch off” to a certain extent instead. They may compare the new reality to those overcrowded and highly congested roadways and may pay less attention, rather than more, as a consequence.

Either way, cyclists face an increased risk as they try to get that much-needed exercise or make their way to work on two wheels. Now, more than ever, they need to pay attention to the rules of the road, stay as safe as possible and, crucially, expect the unexpected. In this scenario, drivers may suffer from even more inattentional blindness than they did before and may certainly not see a cyclist when they attempt to cross a traffic lane or turn into a side street. It seems that they are more likely than ever to cause an accident involving injury even though the roads are clearly less busy.

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How to Stay Safe When Bicycling in California During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Even though many states are under a stay-at-home mandate at the time of writing, this does not, typically, include exercise. As it can be so difficult to be cooped up inside a property for a long period of time, little wonder that many people think about bicycling in California during the coronavirus pandemic. It is nevertheless important to do this properly, stay safe at all times and help prevent the spread of this nasty virus.

  • In normal times, people love to congregate and especially like to ride together in groups. It’s much better to cycle by yourself in this situation, however, and to be even more careful whenever you come across people who are undertaking a similar form of exercise.  
  • Before you set out, make sure that your bike is in good condition and that you have an emergency kit with you, just in case something should go wrong. You may need a small toolkit to reattach a component that may come loose, or even an inner tube if you need to repair a sudden puncture.
  • You should also curtail your ambition and make sure that you keep relatively close to home as you exercise. You can get a healthy amount of exercise if you choose a route that is nearby, and you will be surprised just how little exercise you actually need in order to get a positive mental health boost. In fact, one study found that you could lower your blood pressure and heart rate with as little as 10 minutes of exercise in a natural setting.
  • Above all else, ensure that you are controlling your environment and that you do not spread any infection should you be unlucky enough to carry the virus and be asymptomatic. Experts advise that you should keep at least 6 feet away from anybody else and especially for any length of time.
  • The governor of California also recommends that you don a cloth face covering. Once again, this may help to stop you from transmitting the virus if you are asymptomatic and simply do not know that you have the infection.
  • Some recent studies suggest that you should stay even further away from any other cyclists that you encounter. One study has used a computer simulation to suggest that the minimum safe distance between cyclists should be at least 30 feet and that during exercise, droplets can be expelled more quickly and can then be caught on the wind for wider distribution. Typically, these droplets will fall to the ground, but they will at first move immediately behind the cyclist at some speed. If another cyclist were following relatively close behind, then they might be at risk in this scenario. This study does go on to suggest that those who ride in a side-by-side formation are not at such risk. So, if you were riding in a staggered formation, then you might simply miss the particles when expelled.
  • Remember, as cycling is a vigorous exercise, people tend to breathe more quickly and expel more air. Evidence suggests that the virus can be contained within droplets whether you cough, sneeze or simply breathe out. And, when cycling, these droplets can find their way quite readily into the slipstream. Those cyclists who like to ride behind another as this will cut down on any wind resistance may, therefore, be at increased risk.
  • It should go without saying, but it is very important to exhibit good hygiene when cycling. Some people may have been in the habit of spitting to clear their throat, but this should be avoided at any cost.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times and the behavior of others, including cyclists, as you are riding. If you are unlucky and your clothing may be soiled by the spit of another, do not touch the area at all. When you get home, remove the clothing carefully, disinfect it and put it into the laundry right away. As always, wash your hands very thoroughly afterwards.
  • Some people may not own a bike but will participate in a bike-sharing scheme instead. They can pick up a bike at a very low cost at a handy location nearby, but they should exercise some additional caution when they do so. Whether the operator of the service has already disinfected the handlebars and other areas or not, you should get into the habit of doing so. Carry some antibacterial wipes with you and use them before and after you ride. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does suggest that it is possible to be infected if you touch a surface that has a virus on it before touching your own mouth, eyes or nose. It is better to be safe than sorry at all costs.
  • Don’t be tempted to join in if somebody posts that they are organizing a group bike ride online. This type of activity is not allowed under the new guidelines as you’re not supposed to be gathering together in groups of any size.

Above all else, be careful when you are riding a bike. As we have seen, the number of people getting injured in this situation is on the increase across California even though the number of car, truck or bus accidents is on the decline.

What to Do if You Are Injured While Riding A Bike In Oakland

If you are unlucky enough to be injured in this situation, you will want to stand up for your rights and, if necessary, seek compensation. To do that, you will want to work with an experienced personal injury attorney such as Quirk Reed LLP, the leading firm for personal injury cases in Oakland.

As you may know, vehicle drivers are required by law to treat bicyclists the same way as they do other motorists. However, they may not pay as much attention or may practice inattentional blindness. Sometimes, a cyclist is in the driver’s blind spot. And, if they don’t pay proper attention as they are changing lanes, an accident could happen before they even know it.

You should be as cautious as possible whenever you see a car in front of you that is getting ready to turn across your path. Also, be aware when riding past parked cars as the driver could suddenly open a door right in front of you.

No matter what, the law in California is there to protect you and give you the same rights as any other vehicle driver may have. To help you fight the case, however, you will need an experienced bike accident attorney at your side, and Quirk Reed will be there for you.

Reaching Out To Quirk Reed LLP For Support

Always remember, we have helped a large number of clients pursue a personal injury claim in the San Francisco Bay area, and we understand how difficult it can be to deal with the aftermath of an incident from a health and wealth point of view. When you need compensation to pay for injuries, repairs, loss of income and other costs, Quirk Reed LLP will get you the compensation you rightly deserve.