In late November, tragedy struck in Philadelphia, as 24-year-old Emily Fredricks was struck and killed while riding in a bike lane on 11th Street in Center City Philadelphia. Less than three weeks later, another 24-year-old woman was struck by a garbage truck in downtown Philadelphia. Becca Refford was riding in the bike lane on Pine Street when a box truck made a right turn from 13th Street and struck her. She suffered a broken pelvis, shattered hip, and other injuries, and has undergone surgery to repair the damage suffered in the accident.
Lack of Protected Bike Lanes in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has approximately 200 miles of bike lanes, yet only 2.5 miles of these lanes are protected by some sort of physical barrier, such as physical posts. In 2017, the city received a $250,000 grant to create protected bicycle lanes, for a total of $500,000 to upgrade its bike lanes — which should be enough for 25 miles of protected lanes. Under Philadelphia’s Vision Zero action plan, 30 miles of new protected bike lanes should be installed by 2022. In response to these two accidents, Mayor Jim Kenney has announced that flexible posts will be added to the bike lanes along South Street from 21st to 27th Streets and on 27th Street from South Street to Lombard.
Demonstrators Call for Action
Troubled by two serious accidents involving bicyclists in bike lanes in under one month — including one fatality — Philadelphia bike activists took to the streets on December 19 to protect the lack of protected bike lanes in the city.
Forming a human chain along 13th Street in Center City — the site of Becca Refford’s accident — the demonstrators protected cyclists riding in the lane, held signs and talked about problems with bicycling in the city. Many expressed frustration that bike lanes are often used by cars as free parking spots, which can then force bicyclists into heavy downtown traffic — putting them at even greater risk of an accident.
How Bicyclists Can Stay Safe
While activists continue to demand change, there are steps that bicyclists can take to keep themselves safe until the city takes action to protect cyclists in Philadelphia bike lanes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclists can reduce the risk of getting into accidents in three primary ways:
- Drive your bike defensively. When you drive your bike defensively, you are always aware of the road and the vehicles around you. It also means that you are following the rules of the road. Ride with the flow of traffic, and use hand signals, body language, and eye contact to communicate with drivers on the road near you. Always be aware of safety signs, and stay alert to changes in traffic patterns.
- Always wear a helmet. While wearing a helmet won’t prevent a crash, it can significantly reduce the severity of your injuries if you are in an accident. Even if the law in your state does not require that you wear a helmet after a certain age, such as in Pennsylvania, you should still always wear one — each and every time you get on your bike. Finally, use pant leg clips and other safety gear to prevent your clothes from getting caught in your gears.
- Dress for visibility. Wearing reflective clothing — such as bright clothing during the day and reflective gear at night — can help make you visible to drivers of trucks and other vehicles on the road. Putting lights on your bike or clipping them onto your body or your bag can also increase your visibility.
While protected bike lanes are the ultimate goal to better protect bicyclists in Philadelphia from being struck by trucks and other drivers, taking basic steps to improve your safety can help reduce the risk of an accident or decrease the likelihood of a fatal or serious injury in the event of a collision.
Injured in a Bike Accident? We Can Help
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Philadelphia or the surrounding areas, it is vital that you seek legal representation as soon as possible to preserve your legal rights.
Contact Solnick & Associates today to discuss your case with an experienced legal professional.