Photo by ThinkingStiff on Flickr.
Bicycle crashes are scary, disorienting events. Nobody wants to think about being involved in a crash, but it’s important to know what to do in case of emergency.
Hopefully you will never have to experience this firsthand, but you may be able to help out your fellow bicyclists with your level-headed understanding of what to do.
At the scene
You’ve been in a crash. Now what?
- Try not to panic.
- Make sure you are safe to move or stay where you are and wait for paramedics. If there is any doubt, err on the side of caution.
- Call the police. Call 911. Make sure the police make a report. If you can’t call, ask someone nearby to call for you. This step is imperative. Without a police report, there is no record of the incident. Even if you don’t think there is any damage, do not skip this step.
- Get contact information for any witnesses. Do not assume the police are doing this for you as they take the report. Make sure you are able to get in touch later with anyone who saw what happened.
- Take photos of everything, including the vehicle involved, license plate, your bicycle, any property damage, the scene of the incident, etc.
- Collect the following information:
- Driver’s name
- Driver’s license number
- Phone number
- Make and model of car
- License plate number
- Insurance company
- Date, time, and location of crash
What if the driver flees the scene or doesn’t stop? A driver who is involved in a crash and flees the scene has committed a serious legal offense. Try to get the vehicle license plate number and state where it was issued.
- Get home safely. Remember that backup plan? Now is the time to use it. Don’t attempt to ride a damaged bicycle or ride if you’re hurt.
After the Crash
You’re off the road. You’re home safe. What are the next steps?
- Seek medical attention.
- Write it down. While the crash is fresh in your memory, write down as many details about the event as possible.
- Pick up a copy of the police report.
- Take your bicycle to a shop for inspection and repair.
- Document all expenses from the crash. Keep a log of any and all expenses incurred due to the crash. Include life changes like taking the bus instead of riding your bike to work, damage to your clothes, personal property, bike, stuff in your backpack, time off work, etc. The WABA Crash Tracker App includes an expense tracker for this purpose. Use it.
- Complete the WABA Crash Tracker. We use this data to work on both infrastructure and law enforcement changes. Fill out the Crash Tracker form here.
Ways you can try to prevent crashes
Avoid crashes and problems by riding safely.
- Take a City Cycling class. Most bicycle crash incidents result from the bicyclist losing control of their bicycle, hitting debris or other hazards, or running into fixed objects, and not with motorists. Learn avoidance maneuvers, practice control drills, and gain skills needed to avoid dangerous situations at one of WABA’s City Cycling Classes.
- Download the WABA Crash App. It’s available for both iPhone and Android users.
- Consider your riding style, confidence level, and route. Are there adjustments or improvements you could make to decrease your risk of a crash?
- Follow the law. Following the law makes you more predictable. It is also important to your ability to recover damages suffered in a crash. Due to contributory negligence, a bicyclist can get stuck with 100% of his or her medical bills and damages from a crash if even only 1% at fault for the crash—and failure to follow the law is evidence of fault.
At the scene: Witness edition
You weren’t involved in the incident, but saw it happen? Here’s what to do:
- Stay at the scene.
- Call 911.
- Give your name and contact information to those involved in the crash and let them know you are a witness.
- Offer to help take down the above information (or do it yourself) for the victim.
We hope this overview helps to prepare you for the unlikely event that you are involved in a crash.
A version of this post appeared on WABA Quick Release.