After getting hit by a car while riding his bike, sophomore Paul Casper’s initial reaction wasn’t to check and see if he was OK.
“When I first objectively saw that I was alive, and not worse off than I was, my first reaction was wanting to give somebody a hug,” he said.
A car struck Casper - whose name has been changed because of insurance and liability concerns - as he rode home after taking a test at about 8 p.m. on Oct. 8. He was crossing the entrance to the lot of the 19 and Vine streets parking garage from the sidewalk when the car turned in from the street.
“I got hit, I checked to see if I was OK, and then, I was just at a loss for words. I was hyper-adrenalated, if that’s even a word,” he said.
Aside from some bruising, Casper said he was relatively unharmed.
Casper called University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department, which said that the accident was likely outside of its jurisdiction.
UNLPD hasn’t reported a bike/vehicle accident since 2013, according to Officer Noland Conradt. Accidents in the street, sidewalks or crosswalks are handled by the Lincoln Police Department he said.
As of September 2015, LPD has reported 91 bike/vehicle accidents across the city. No fatalities have occurred in the last five years, but injuries are reported in the majority of crashes.
This high injury rate surprised Chris St. Pierre, author of the webpage Bicycle Crash Analytics. St. Pierre, who works as a software engineer, created the page this year to show trends in bike/vehicle crashes in Lincoln after he was hit by a car while riding his bike.
According to St. Pierre’s data, sidewalk route crashes have the highest rate of injury, with 92 percent of reported cases having visible injury or possible injury - Casper’s crash would fall in this area.
But in this data, the area where cyclists are actually hit the most was crosswalks. According to St. Pierre’s data 55 percent of crashes occur there.
“The amount of people hit in crosswalks was kind of astonishing to me,” St. Pierre said. “I did not expect it to be anywhere near this clear. That is overwhelmingly where people get hit.”
According to the Lincoln Municipal Code, cyclists must walk their bikes across crosswalks to be given the same right of way as pedestrians. This means that cyclists can be ticketed if they’re hit by a car while riding across the crosswalk, as St. Pierre was.
St. Pierre said that his best advice for students would be to ride more in the street until cyclists are given the right of way in crosswalks.
“We’re basically treated as cars until (we get into) turn lanes,” he said. “When you’re in traffic, you’re in a more expected space for cars, and in a lot of cases, I feel it’s safer.”
Officer Katie Flood of the LPD gave the same advice.
“Sidewalk riding is known to be much more likely to result in collision, as the bicyclist is not visible until he or she enters the street – when it can be too late,” she said in an email.
For those who do ride on the sidewalk, UNLPD Noland said he wants cyclists to pay attention
“As you’re passing egresses and ingresses at parking lots, make sure no one’s turning in that doesn’t see you or maybe isn’t paying attention to you,” he said.
But Casper said that when he was hit, he was aware of how to be safe.
“Basically, I was going over it with the attorney people, and they’re just like ‘Was it well lit? What were you wearing? Did you have reflectors?’” he said. “And I had all the right things. In every regard, I should’ve been seen.”
While he continues to struggle with getting insurance to cover his ER visit and the cost of repairing his bike, he said that in a way he was lucky.
“I was content with being alive,” he said.