Common bike accidents & How to avoid them

21 October 2013, by

When cycling in the Netherlands on a daily basis, it’s highly possible that you’ll end up falling sooner or later.

Here are the most common ways cycling can result in an accident. Although we can't promise to stop you from falling, we hope you can at least prevent the worst and turn the rest into a party trick.

1. The sidewalk kiss

During all these years cycling around Amsterdam, my biggest enemy hasn't been the weather or those nasty scooters on the bike lane, it’s been me: I often end up steering too close to the footpath and...

This results in a three-second moment of confusion: I hear that rattling sound of my front wheel scratching the footpath and I’m not sure if I can continue to ride straight in the lane or not.

How to avoid it

This is a no-brainer: try to cycle as much to the left as possible, especially if you are tired or in a hurry (or a bit tipsy).

If it happens

If everything else fails and you hear the sound of your tyre rubbing against the footpath, the smartest thing to do is to move towards it! Yeah, that’s right: towards, not away!

Instead of trying to steer left to get back into the lane (which is quite hard as your wheel will be stuck tram-line style), steer to the right. It's always better to go up on the footpath rather than fall on it face-first.

2. Back wheel slips

Do you have pedal brakes? Sure you do, or at least you have tried them when you rode that omafiets at some point.

Pedal brakes, on the other hand, are nice, but they have nasty habit of locking if you hit them too hard. If you do this in a curve on a slippery road, you might end up spinning around in a spectacular pirouette with a perfect on-the-pavement finish.

How to avoid it

Always try to slow down before a curve. If you have pedal brakes, try to brake gradually and never slam down on the pedals as if your life depends on it.

If it happens

As with the front wheel slip (see below), whenever you’re in a risky situation, keep your foot close to the ground. If your wheel slips, don't try to fight it, just go with the flow.

If done correctly, your back tyre should describe a nice, oval shape on the road. Also, slightly reducing the air in your tyres might be a life-saver on rainy and snowy days.

3. Front wheel slips

This one is a real bummer in winter. Associated with slippery curves, a front wheel slip will send you to the pavement with your bike right on top of you.

How to avoid it

Whenever there's a tight curve with slippery pavement surfaces from snow or ice or water, make sure you slow down and think it through BEFORE you reach the curve so that you don't turn your wheel in one sharp movement.

avoid bike accidents netherlands

Again, taking some air out of your tires will give you better traction and reduce the possibility of falling.

If it happens

Make sure to keep your foot on the side of the curve (i.e. if you veer left, keep your left foot out) close to the ground. This way, if your tire slips, you can quickly put your foot down.

4. Foot slips off the pedal

You're in a hurry to get to that party that everyone is talking about and you’re running late, so you put your heel hard onto the pedal. It's raining cats and dogs (just another day in the Netherlands) and your foot slips and you find yourself in a very awkward position - just as if you were inventing a new dance move...

How to avoid it

Always have the middle part of your foot on the pedal, not the heel. When it rains, try to have as much of your foot on the pedal and under no circumstances raise yourself from the seat.

If it happens

Immediately put the foot that slipped on the ground. This will force the bike to lean on the other side, making you repeat the movement with your other foot.

After a few steps, you should either come to a halt or put your feet back on the pedals and continue cycling.

5. The infamous tram lines

It’s that short moment when nothing happens, but you know that it's only a matter of seconds before you experience a great deal of pain.

How to avoid it

Try to stay away from tram lines (duh!), but if you don’t have a choice, try to cross them in as perpendicular as fashion as possible.

It's always better to zigzag than to ride parallel (and close) to the lines.

If it happens

Well, I’m afraid you can’t do much other than go down smiling :)

So, thanks for bearing with us and if this article manages to keep even one person from falling, we'll be happy campers. Making you smile also works :)

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Comments arranged by date (Total 3 comments)  
October 21 2013, 11:53AM

I got hit by a car last monday. I was following every possible dutch rule for cycling (I have lived here for over 2 years now). The lady who was supposed to stop for me and quite far away when i started crossing the road, suddenly sped up and hit me. I was so shocked that by the time I recovered the lady had already fled. My bike is completely broken. Thanks to my dutch health insurance my medical expenses are covered but since i couldn't write down her license plate number i have to now buy a new bike. The police refused to help, even write down a complaint, claiming they dont complaints about possible accidents when the victim can't tell them the car number. There is even a camera on this road which they say is only a live feed camera so they cant look back.
So basically what I have realized is try not be a victim of hit and run case because then no one will help you.

October 21 2013, 07:36PM

You might want to have this..

October 23 2013, 12:59PM

~ I was following every possible dutch rule for cycling ~
~ The police refused to help, even write down a complaint, claiming they dont complaints about possible accidents when the victim can't tell them the car number.~
~ There is even a camera on this road which they say is only a live feed camera so they cant look back. ~
Why all of these sound (to me) like your color of your skin ?
She speeded up , maybe she saw you are not blond and white.
Refused to help, again maybe you were not looking "native" enough.
Cameras dont roll back, so they are there just to not-justify an accident or not prove an illegal act ? Sounds solid as an argument. :/
I guess if you would hit and go a blond girl comming drunk and stoned from clubbing the same would apply to you and you would get away with it.
But then again i guess not.

About the Author
Horia Van Der Hagelslag

Founder of Damn, a flat tire - Amsterdam's mobile bike service. Also a student once in a while.

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