better, study of - Pete Carapetyan's personal blog

What It Is Like To Be Hit By A Car On A Bike?

06 May 2010
Posted by Pete Carapetyan

What is it like to be hit by a car on a bike?

This blog proposes that there is no solution for this problem other than absolute determination to stay out of the way of cars. I will end this blog by concluding that There is no "safe" way to be on a street with cars.

Many of us don't live to tell about our experience with such matters. I can, fortunately.

Yet, the only thing I can tell you was it was absolutely surprising. I never knew what was coming. It was over before I even knew what happened. There, that's my entire story of what it is like. 

Another time, I did NOT get hit, because the car who didn't see me took the sidewalk instead. He/she swerved at the last millisecond. Scared me so bad I almost cleared my sphincters. I would have been creamed. His/her mirror almost shaved my elbow as it was passing on the right.

Both of the above occassions were on what one would only think of as the safest possible inner neighborhood streets. Both were at stop signs. In each, I was invisible - they came up from behind with several cars ahead of me at the stop sign, and never even saw me. In one, I was wearing bright flourescent colors.


People cannot see bicycles sometimes. Those are the times that cyclists can be killed. Thus, there is only one remedy. Never be in a place where you are counting on the driver to see you. Instead, you need to see him, at all times, and always be ready to maneuver out of his/her way.

How Often Does This Happen?

  • The international Ride of Silence mourns this in an annual May ride. (And, is the reason for this blog).
  • Bicycle Almanac attributes 700 such deaths annually.
  • Example: My brothers lost one friend last year when he was run over by a car that didn't see him due to a dirty windshield and a low sun angle.
  • Example: I'll spare you my photos from a bike car wreck that I happened upon this February - on my regular cycling route. It was a head on. The cyclist was going straight, the car turning left into his lane, didn't see the cyclist. Have you ever see a carbon fiber frame after a tussle with a car? It's like an unwound roll of limp cellophane tape with handlebars and wheels and gears attached.

    To honor my sanity, I never followed up on the guy to learn if he survived. If he did, he had a tough go of it, I can tell you that from what I saw before the paramedics arrived.

What I Do:

Repeating for emphasis: Anyone who rides on the same streets as cars needs to ride as if no car can see him. He is invisible, to the drivers. Dodge each car, accordingly.

My regular route is mostly on a dedicated bike trail (I'm very fortunate). I use city streets only to get to that trail, and I choose a very carefully selected route that has almost no car traffic. Then, I ride on the wrong side of the road so I can ditch instantly when a car comes. I'll pull in the gutter and wait for the car to pass. Or if I see him in plenty of time, I'll move to the correct side of the street until he passes.

This is a contrarian perspective, and many people have told me I'm crazy to do this. I'll admit, it was a desperate change in my approach after being hit and also missed. But I'm still alive after 40,000 miles and over 25 years. Some people who are less crazy are also dead.

I don't recommend this approach to anyone else. But I don't recommend cycling on the streets to anyone else either. It's a stupid thing to do, basically. It is definitely a low percentage affair, according to the numbers, anyway.