Forty-nine crashes were reported in the city of Lansing that involved a bicyclist in 2015. The Lansing Police Department submits a UD-10 report for each crash which is then publicly available from the Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. Each report contains information about the location of the crash, the vehicles involved, their behavior prior to the crash, and a brief description and diagram of the crash.
Almost half of all crashes involved a bicyclist on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk. The bicyclist involved where usually travelling straight or crossing through an intersection when they were hit and the motorists where either travelling straight or turning right or left when hit. The most common hazardous action taken by either party was failing to yield and only four citations were issued even though most of the crashes involved one vehicle acting hazardously.
Some more details about the crash data:
- 49% occurred while the bicyclist was travelling on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk
- 37% occurred while the bicyclist was safely travelling straight ahead with the motor vehicle acting hazardously
- 29% were hit-and-runs (three bicyclists leaving, eleven motorists leaving)
- 12% involved minors
- 37% noted bicyclists injuries
- 0 fatalities
The reports indicates the behavior of each vehicle prior to the crash (going straight, turning left or right, leaving driveway, etc.) and also any hazardous actions performed by the driver (none, moving too fast, unable to stop, failure to yield, unknown, etc.). Below is the breakdown of the hazardous actions taken by vehicle type:
The most common hazardous action was 'Failure to Yield', which occurred in half of all crashes. Motor vehicles acted this way more often than bicyclists. The next most common action besides 'Unknown' and 'Other' was 'Speed too fast' which was cited to two bicyclists while on the sidewalk. In many of the crashes that involved a bicyclist on the sidewalk or crosswalk, the driver was not always listed as 'Failure to Yield' even though Michigan Vehicle Code states that motorists should yield to those in crosswalks. Below is the breakdown of the vehicle action before the crash by vehicle type:
The majority of bicycles were travelling straight ahead or crossing through an intersection. The majority of motor vehicles were travelling straight ahead, turning right, or turning left. These trends align with state-wide trends and are consistent with how most bicyclists are struck: at intersections or when a motor vehicle turns in front of them.
In forty-one of the forty-nine crashes hazardous actions where noted which leads to the interpretation that one party was at fault. However, only four citations were issued: three to motorists for failure to yield and one to a bicyclist for failure to cross a street at a crosswalk. Why does everyone else get off the hook?
The crash report includes a section for the officer present to include notes and witness statements that may shed some light on the lack of citations. Many of the motorists 'didn't see' the bicyclist, or the bicycle 'came out of nowhere'. There is even note of how one bicyclist wasn't wearing any reflective clothing (without mention of the motorist's attire).
In my experience, most of the times where I have almost been hit, the driver told me they didn't see me. I always ask them to be more aware of their surroundings, or to get their eyes checked depending on the incident. It appears from the crash reports that this is very common and the police officers identify with this and don't issue citations accordingly. It isn't the bicyclists' responsibility to be seen (except at night when lights are required). I do everything in my power to be seen while biking but am still told by drivers that they didn't see me. All road users need to be aware of all other road users. The roads are a public resource that we are all using.
Want to stay safe on your bike in Lansing? Follow these tips:
- Ride in the road, not the sidewalk
- Ride with traffic, not against
- Always ride with front and back lights
- Assume every motorist does not see you and ride defensively
Interested in learning more, check out these links:
Lansing query from Michigan Traffic Crash Facts
Common bicycle crash scenarios