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Bike Accidents in San Francisco: 5 Most Common Types


It can be comforting to think that a bike accident will never happen to you. And maybe you will be lucky… but unfortunately, thousands of people are injured or even killed while riding their bikes around the United States every year.

According to the 2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors, nearly a third of all injuries in America are caused when bicyclists are struck by cars.

When you look even closer at the statistics, you see that California, unfortunately, is particularly dangerous for cyclists. Here are just a few statistics that may surprise you about how dangerous cycling in California truly is:

  • In 2012, 338 cyclists were killed in California
  • In 2012, California had the highest number of cyclists killed in any state
  • Cyclists make up 2% of deaths caused by motor vehicles nationally, but in California, they account for 4% of motor vehicle deaths

Anyone who has ridden their bike in San Francisco knows that these city streets can be a little terrifying. Knowing how vulnerable cyclists are to serious injury (or even death) riding in the city, we wanted to share some of the most common causes of bicycle crashes in San Francisco that we see every year.

1. Falls due to dangerous street conditions

While many of the most common causes of bike accidents in San Francisco have to do with colliding with a motorist, it is possible to crash and get extremely injured all by yourself.

Dangerous road conditions make it treacherous for cyclists, who are riding around at relatively high speeds (compared to pedestrians) with very little protecting them (compared to cars, buses, etc).

San Francisco’s streets are filled with treacherous obstacles that can cause cyclists to fall, chief among them potholes, manhole covers, and Muni tracks. With our city’s wet conditions, these everyday hazards can become even more dangerous as they become more slippery and harder to see.

To avoid crashing, always try to avoid hazards if possible. If you can’t avoid them, always try to hit them head on (not at an angle) and don’t brake while you’re on a slippery surface; the more direct and steady you are, the more likely you are to get across it safely.

2. Getting doored

Very few drivers swing open their car door into a bike lane hoping to hit a cyclist. In fact, a cyclist slamming into a car door is almost always an accident…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious.

Getting doored can cause lifelong injuries for a cyclist who is riding along legally in the bike lane or right-side of the road. Along with head injuries and broken bones, being doored can actually cause a cyclist to fly off their bike, increasing the risk of even more serious damage.

This crash is hard for cyclists to avoid, beyond simply slowing down and giving space when you are driving past a line of parked cars, and trying to make yourself noticeable to drivers by wearing bright colors, using a light, and ringing a bell.

However, the responsibility is fully on car drivers to check their rearview mirror before opening their car door. The law actually reflects this responsibility — although that doesn’t stop most drivers from recklessly opening their doors into bike traffic. If you are doored, though, the law is on your side and you should absolutely pursue a case to get your injuries and damages covered.

3. Getting sideswiped or pushed off the road

Whether intentional or accidental, getting pushed off the road by a car is a common and terrifying kind of crash for cyclists in the city.

This crash commonly happens at red lights, where a cyclist is waiting in the bike lane on the right-hand side of a car that is waiting to turn right. When the light turns green and the cyclist starts riding forward, the car makes their right turn without looking and crashes into the cyclist.

To avoid this, you should either make yourself visible to the driver next to you when you’re at a red light (by waving, making eye contact, etc), so they know that you are there before they start turning. Otherwise, you can stop your bike a little farther back and let the car turn right when the light turns green before you start riding forward.

Getting sideswiped or pushed off the road is a particular concern on San Francisco’s busy streets, where rideshare cars and delivery vehicles frequently use the bike lane as a parking spot. As cyclists ride legally in the bike lane, they have to be on constant watch for vehicles merging into them illegally and without warning.

These unexpected bike accidents are hard to avoid, but if possible, anything you can do to catch the driver’s attention and alert them to your presence will help keep you safe. If a car is merging your way and doesn’t see you, try to quickly slow down and get out of the way without putting yourself in more danger.

4. Driveway and side street intersection crashes

This kind of crash happens all the time in San Francisco, and unfortunately, it often has serious implications for the cyclist involved. One moment you’re riding along in the bike lane, and the next, a car appears out of nowhere from a driveway or side street and is cutting you off — or worse, driving right into you.

Just like getting doored, this kind of crash is not your fault — it is the responsibility of the driver merging into traffic to only do so when it is safe and clear.

To help avoid this kind of crash, you should slow down whenever you approach and side street or a driveway, especially ones on your right-hand side where you are most immediately vulnerable.

5. Failure to yield to the cyclist

We believe that cyclists, pedestrians, cars, buses, and commercial vehicles can all safely share the road. However, it requires that everyone is respectful of the space and safety of everyone else. And unfortunately, many drivers still refuse to acknowledge a cyclist’s right to be on the road.

Many crashes occur when drivers simply fail to give cyclists safe space and right of way. As long as you are following the rules of the road, any driver who causes a crash with you is at fault.

Of course, you should always follow the rules of the road yourself; otherwise, you could end up partially or fully at fault for the crash as well. The more predictable and careful you are on the road, the easier it will be for drivers to safely navigate around you.

Whenever possible, being in good communication with the drivers around you is what will keep you safe on your bike. Make eye contact, ring your bell, wave, and use hand signals to indicate where you’re going.

Bike Accidents in San Francisco? We Can Help!

If you are injured in one of these kinds of bike accidents in San Francisco or anywhere in the Bay Area, call us today for help. Bay Area Bicycle Law is the only law firm in Northern California that specializes in bicycle law, and you can speak confidentially with an experienced attorney right away by calling 415-466-8717 for a free consultation.