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Bicycle Use and Associated Accidents are on the Rise in New Orleans

New Orleans now ranks among the cities with the most bicyclists. Sadly, the number of bicycle accidents that occur in the area has increased significantly.

Over the last decade, the number of people who commute via bicycle in New Orleans has increased markedly. With an estimated 6,100 bicyclists, New Orleans now ranks among the five cities with the most bicyclists, according to The Times-Picayune. Unfortunately, with this increase in bicycle riding has come an uptick in motor vehicle accidents involving bicyclists.

Increasing accident rates

According to The New Orleans Advocate, research from Louisiana State University’s Highway Research Group shows that bicycle accidents in Orleans Parish increased sharply from 2010 to 2014. In 2014, there were 318 reported accidents, compared to 129 in 2010. This represents a more than twofold increase.

The number of fatalities reported in association with these accidents has remained relatively low so far. In 2014, three bicyclists lost their lives in fatal accidents. Still, many more of these accidents may cause serious injuries with severe long-term consequences.

Underlying causes

In part, this growing rate of accidents may simply reflect the fact that more road users are now traveling via bicycle. However, many of these accidents may happen when motorists fail to follow relevant laws or respect other road users.

According to The Times-Picayune, several common driver errors can contribute to bicycle accidents. Some drivers may not realize that bicyclists are legally permitted to ride on roads that lack official bike lanes. Accidents can also occur when drivers move into bike lanes, pass bicyclists without adequate clearance or fail to look for bicyclists before opening their doors.

The same source reports the following statistics on bicycle accidents that involve motor vehicles:

  • According to national research, about 48 percent of these accidents can be attributed to drivers.
  • A leading cause of these accidents is drivers failing to yield and turning in front of bicyclists.
  • A board member of one advocacy group reports that, here in New Orleans, 40 percent of bicycle accidents happen when drivers open their doors in front of bicyclists.

These findings are troubling, since bicyclists often suffer the most severe outcomes in these accidents.

Safety initiatives

Various measures have been proposed to improve roadway safety for bicyclists in New Orleans. Greater emphasis on sharing the road with bicyclists during driver’s education could help more motorists understand their responsibilities. New street designs could also reduce the risk of accidents. For instance, New Orleans could eventually build protected bike lanes that are physically separated from the rest of traffic.

Unfortunately, until these initiatives are complete, the danger of accident involvement may remain high for bicyclists in the city. The Times-Picayune recommends that bicyclists reduce this risk by riding with traffic, making predictable maneuvers and following traffic laws at all times. Still, if statistics are any indication, these measures may not always keep bicyclists safe from accidents.

The victims of these accidents may be entitled to compensation if they can show that the other driver was at fault. Consequently, injury victims may benefit from discussing the situation and their options with a bicycle accident attorney.

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