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Why are bicyclist fatalities increasing?

Bicyclist safety has been a persistent issue in Texas for several years. Unfortunately, the number of fatalities continues to rise despite the state’s efforts to construct dedicated bike lanes and launch awareness campaigns. Safety officials cite a disregard for traffic laws as a major factor contributing to these tragic incidents.

Alarmingly, Houston is right on track to surpass and even double last year’s cyclist deaths. Cycling advocates argue that these figures may not be accurate and that there could be even more fatalities than reported.

Failure to follow traffic laws contributes to cyclist deaths

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) attributes the rise in deaths to people’s complete disregard for traffic laws, whether they are a cyclist or a driver. Crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians often result from pedestrians who fail to yield the right-of-way to vehicles, and vice versa.

Distracted driving and speeding are the next top factors that can potentially lead to casualties.

Everyone has a part to play

To help reduce bicyclist accidents, pedestrians and drivers alike should be more cautious on the road. Given that a bicyclist is more vulnerable to injuries or death after a collision with a car, drivers have a greater responsibility to exercise safety practices.

TxDOT advises drivers to:

  • Pass bicyclists from a safe distance by moving to another lane if possible
  • Watch out for cyclists at intersections
  • Avoid using electric devices such as phones when driving
  • Follow the posted speed limit
  • Stay alert for any cyclists trying to ride around potholes and other obstacles on the road

But drivers can only do so much. Bicyclists must also follow traffic laws when out on the road. Here are a few ways bicyclists can minimize their safety risks:

  • Follow traffic signs and signals
  • Use hand signals when turning or stopping
  • Ride with the flow of traffic
  • Stay on designated bike lanes when available
  • Use a white light or reflector when riding at night

While launching educational and awareness campaigns and improving infrastructure are important steps toward making Houston a more bike-friendly city, they may not be as effective if road users ignore traffic laws. Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike should not forget their role in creating safer roads.