Throughout Wisconsin, bicycle injuries and fatalities always spike when the weather turns warm. National studies have shown that 60% of bicycle-car crashes are caused by motorist errors, not by the bicyclists, with the most common being a driver turning left in front of an oncoming cyclist. However, cyclists also need to obey the rules of the road. In fact, anyone operating a bicycle on the road has all the same rights—and responsibilities—as the driver of a motor vehicle.
Bike week in Wisconsin off to a tragic start Insurance companies offer larger settlements to law firms who win in court.
Warshafsky Law fights for bicycle safety
It was a little after 6:30 in the morning on Saturday, June 6. Cycling buds Paul and Anthony were on the side of State Highway 36 in Muskego as part of a loop they were riding. At 6:30am on a Saturday, no one could fault the cyclists for believing the road would have little traffic.
Suddenly, an SUV approaching from behind veered to the side of the road and slammed into the two cyclists. Paul died at the scene, while Anthony died after being transported to Froedtert Hospital. The driver, a 20-year-old South Milwaukee man remained on the scene until police arrived and was arrested on homicide charges. At this time, the investigation is still ongoing.
6/19/2015 UPDATE: The driver, Brett Hartley, has been charged with two counts of second-degree reckless homicide. When arrested, he registered a .06 on a breathalyzer test and told police he fell asleep at the wheel after having been up all night at a party with friends.
5 safety tips for cyclists
- First and foremost, cyclists should always wear a helmet when riding. Head injuries from falls are one of the most common cycling injuries, and the most serious. Wearing a helmet is often the difference between a mild concussion and a fatal head injury.
- Cyclists are required by law to travel in the same direction of traffic as cars. In other words, stay on the right side of the road. The only exception is if you are at an intersection and need to turn left. In this case, you need to merge into the left turn lane using your hand to signal your intent.
- Because cyclists have the same responsibilities as motorists, you are required to come to a complete stop at stop signs and stop lights. While it has becoming increasingly common for urban riders to fly through stop signs downtown, doing so not only puts you at risk of a car-bike collision, but also a pedestrian-bike collision. You will also be ticketed just like the driver of a car would be ticketed for running a stop sign—and the fine is no laughing matter.
- It is not only against the law to ride a bicycle on sidewalks, it is also more dangerous than riding on the street due to the increased number of intersections with both streets and driveways. Young children who are not yet able to ride in a straight line and look over their shoulder for oncoming traffic should only ride in areas free of traffic and under the supervision of their parents.
- Cyclists can ride two abreast only if they do not impede the flow of traffic. If you have a wide shoulder, by all means ride side by side if you like. However, why court disaster if the shoulder is narrow? Motorists are required to maintain 3 feet or more between their vehicle and your bike, but this sometimes isn’t possible when cyclists ride two abreast. Play it safe and live to ride another day.
A few words about bicycle helmets
Many cyclists don’t realize this, but if you have been in an accident in which you hit your head and your helmet is still intact, you need to replace it. Although the helmet may look fine, the fact is it was designed to only absorb one serious impact. After this, the impact absorbing capabilities of the helmet are compromised and the helmet will provide little or no benefit in the event of an impact.
Also, if your helmet is 5 or more years old, it should be replaced. The Styrofoam inside helmets becomes brittle over time, causing it to lose its ability to compress on impact. The degradation of the material is further hastened by exposure to UV rays, sweat and moisture in the air.
About bike week in Wisconsin
Bike week is sponsored by Meriter, Schwinn and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. It is a weeklong celebration of cycling with everything from family fun rides to strategically placed commuter stations with treats for those getting to and from work by bike. The week’s events also include a bike ride to a Brewers game, a bike to work day, and the annual Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee. For dates of this year's festivities and more information and details on commuter stations and rides, visit the official Wisconsin Bike Week website.