Recently in Bike Accidents Category

Former Amazon CFO Killed in Bicycle Accident

November 11, 2013

Using a bike to commute can be a lot more pleasant and quicker than riding Muni, but it also involves a greater risk of injury. When bicyclists are involved in accidents with cars, the injuries are often serious. These injuries can range from broken bones to more serious injuries such as traumatic brain injury, which can result in long-term and costly medical complications. Most bike accidents are caused by driver negligence. Injured riders can often receive significant compensation, including damages for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering. Establishing legal liability in a bicycle accident case can be a complicated legal issue, so it is best for anyone who has been injured in a bicycle accident to retain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident.

According to a report published by KGO-TV San Francisco, former Amazon CFO Joy Covey was killed while riding her bicycle on September 18th. The collision occurred on Skyline Boulevard on Wednesday afternoon, when Covey crashed into a minivan making a left turn onto Elk Tree Road in front of Covey. Covey crashed into the right side of the van and died at the scene, according to the report. Covey rose to prominence in the Silicon Valley scene in the mid-90s when she was recruited by Amazon, eventually acting as the company's first CFO from 1996-2000.

As this tragedy makes clear, accidents can happen to any of us at any time. As a result, it is important for people to take appropriate steps to reduce their risk of injury in an accident. According to the California Bicycle Coalition, there are five basic bicycling skills that can significantly reduce the risk of being injured in a bicycle accident. These five skills are:

· Protection - wear a helmet and gloves to protect your head and your hands. Always make sure that your helmet fits properly and that it does not cause any obstruction in your field of vision.
· Respond to hazards - learn how to identify potential roadway hazards and know how to stop or turn quickly to avoid them.
· Positioning - understand how to position yourself on the road in a way that maximizes your visibility and allows you to avoid hazards.
· Cooperation - know and follow the rules of the road so that you do not cause accidents. Be aware that bicyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as motorists, and are expected to obey all traffic laws.
· Control your bicycle - learn to control and handle your bike in a way that allows you to avoid falling or colliding with another bicyclist, person, object, or vehicle. In addition, make sure that you bike is equipped with proper safety features and equipment.

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Even under the best of conditions, bicycle accidents will still happen. When they are caused by the negligence of another person, victims may be able to recover through a California personal injury lawsuit. The best way to determine whether you have a legal claim is to have the circumstances of your case reviewed by an experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney. Call Callaway & Wolf today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Photo Credit: ewedistrict via Compfight cc

Cyclist Dies in Hospital After Collision with Semi Truck

September 5, 2013

A bicyclist was fatally struck by a Semi truck in San Francisco's South of Market district. The incident occurred just after 7:00 a.m. The woman, reportedly 30-years-old, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The semi-truck operator was attempting to make a right turn at the intersection of Sixth and Folsom streets. He has not been cited by the police. All too frequently, bicycle riders suffer because motor vehicle operators do not give them fair use of the road, which they are entitled to under California law.

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Often bicyclists are injured when motorists make a right turn without checking to see if a cyclist is adjacent to them. If this was the reason that the semi truck driver struck the cyclist, then it may be reasonable to conclude that the truck driver breached his duty to the cyclist.

This type of accident is often referred to as a "right hook." Although vehicle operators will often be at fault in this situation, bike riders of course want to be defensive and avoid any accident. A key way to avoid this type of accident is for the cyclist to get away from the right side of the street, where he or she might be cut off by a vehicle turning right. California Vehicle Code Section 21202 requires bike riders to be as close to the right as reasonably possible, but has several exceptions, one of which is "approaching a place where a right turn in permitted." Many cities, including San Francisco, have "bike boxes"--green boxes painted on the pavement in intersections, designed as safe places for bike riders to wait to make a right turn away from the danger zone.

In this case, the damages were the most severe that anyone can experience. Under California law, though, there is no recovery for pain and suffering in a death case. California's wrongful death statute provides that the culpable party may be ordered to pay the financial support that the cyclist would have contributed to the family for the rest of her life, the loss of gifts and benefits she would have given to her loved ones, funeral and burial expenses, the reasonable value of the household services she would have provided, as well as damages for the loss of the cyclist's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, loss of the enjoyment of marital relations, and loss of the cyclist's training and guidance.

The statute of limitations begins to run from the day of the accident. Ordinarily, the family members of the deceased have two years in which to either settle the case, or file an action in court, but if the City of San Francisco, State of California, or another governmental entity is responsible for the injuries, then there is a six month time limit to file a claim. Contact our offices immediately for a free consultation if you need help holding a careless driver accountable for the death of your loved one.

Photo Credit: ewedistrict via Compfight cc

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Bay Area Businessman Dies Due to Bicycle Accident

SF Cyclist Dies in Garbage Truck Collision

Bay Area Businessman Dies Due to Bicycle Accident

August 8, 2013

Recently the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, based in San Francisco, California, lost its former board member, Duane Roth, to a bicycle accident. The accident, which occurred on July 21, caused injuries which led to Mr. Roth's death on August 3. Mr. Roth was an important player in the San Francisco organization's development of a loan program to help companies in the research and, potentially, commercialization of stem cell therapies. Mr. Roth's professional associate Jonathan Thomas called Roth "one of the true stewards of the mission, offering countless insights on the role of industry in the world of regenerative medicine and how best and efficiently to drive therapies to patients. He was unfailingly a voice of reason and optimism and always sought to find ways to make things happen, refusing to take 'no' for an answer." Mr. Roth died after colliding with an outcropping, falling and breaking his helmet, which resulted in a 2-week hospitalization, during which he was in a coma, and underwent skull surgery to relieve pressure in a region of his brain.

It is tragic when a member of our San Francisco community loses his life due to unsafe or dangerous conditions on our roads. One of the responsibilities of our government is to insure that our roads do not present an unreasonable risk of injury to cyclists, and to insure that when dangerous conditions on our roads are detected, that these conditions are corrected. When the government receives actual notice of a dangerous or unsafe condition on the road and fails to correct it, our courts can hold the government responsible for the injuries or wrongful deaths that occur as a result of its failure to promptly take action to maintain safe roadways.

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Recently a cyclist was injured on Polk Street here in San Francisco, where cyclists are forced to mix in with traffic due to the absence of a bike lane. Sometimes, even when the driver of a vehicle is at fault for colliding with a cyclist, the situation that gave rise to the collision can be attributed to a design flaw that the city is aware of, and has not corrected. If the city knows that there is a condition on the road that create a substantial--as opposed to an insignificant--risk of injury to a cyclist who is exercising care, then a bicycle accident lawyer can potentially hold the city responsible for the resulting injuries and damages. Bicycle accident lawsuits are an important way to remind our government that it is accountable to take corrective action to cure dangerous conditions on our roads. If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a bicycle accident, please contact our offices for a free consultation.

Photo Credit: Seth W. via Compfight cc

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SF Cyclist Dies in Garbage Truck Collision

Safety First for Bay Area Bicycle Riders

SF Cyclist Dies in Garbage Truck Collision

June 8, 2013

A 21-year old cyclist named Dylan Mitchell was killed in San Francisco in a crash on Thursday, May 23rd around 6:45 a.m. when a Recology garbage truck travelling in the same direction turned right on South Van Ness Avenue and struck him. Dylan was riding his bicycle to work at the time. It is a tragic accident that serves as a reminder of the dangers that all bike riders face on Bay Area roadways.

Under California law, there can be no recovery for pre-death pain and suffering in a death case. Dylan's mother, Julie, may have standing to sue for the loss of Dylan's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support, along with the lost wages that he would have earned during the rest of his lifetime. Juries are instructed that they must separate these damages from the grief caused by the loss, for which there is no compensation.

In order to recover, Dylan's mother will have to prove that Dylan's death was the result of a wrongful act, either negligent or reckless. Proving that the driver of the Recology garbage truck acted negligently would involve an inquiry into whether the truck driver experienced a duty to Dylan, whether he breached that duty, and whether his breach of that duty caused Dylan's death. Recklessness usually arises from allegations of intoxication, or erratic driving. Attorneys typically seek to prove recklessness when it is warranted, as it can lead to recovery of punitive damages.

Bike.jpgEvery driver on the road has a duty to exercise reasonable car. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence. A driver must use reasonable care while turning. It appears from the news reports that the Recology driver was turning right when Dylan was hit. If the driver made his turn without checking that the maneuver could be made with reasonable safety or without giving of an appropriate signal, then he may have violated the Vehicle Code.

If the driver of the garbage truck was negligent, then it follows that Recology may be liable for his negligence to the extent that Recology permitted the driver to use its vehicle, and also to the extent that the driver was operating the vehicle within the course and scope of his employment with Recology at the time that he struck Dylan.

In order to be able to recover damages for wrongful death, Dylan's mother would also have to prove that the negligence of the driver was the cause of Dylan's death. The driver might argue that Dylan contributed to his own injuries by riding his bicycle too fast, or by failing to wear a helmet. If the driver were able to prove that Dylan contributed to his own injury, then the jury would be charged to determine what Dylan's proportionate fault was compared to the Driver's fault, and the recovery of Dylan's mother would be diminished by his proportion of fault.

Suing for wrongful death of a loved one due to a bicycling accident helps to send a clear message that drivers need to share the road with cyclists, which is especially important in San Francisco, which has the highest bicycle-to-work mode share of major U.S. cities having more than 500,000 inhabitants. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey of 2006, 2.5 percent of all San Francisco residents cycle to work, five times the national average of 0.5 percent, and about three times the state average of 0.8 percent. Callaway & Wolf are experienced Wrongful Death attorneys who have assisted many cyclists to recover for their injuries; their firm can insure that recovery for the death of your loved one is handled appropriately.

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Safety First for Bay area Bicycle Riders
San Francisco Bicyclists Face Dangers on the Road

Safety First for Bay Area Bicycle Riders

March 15, 2012

Earlier this week, a San Francisco cyclist pled guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for his involvement in the death of a 68-year-old tourist. The SF Gate reported that a young cyclist ran a red light, striking and killing the pedestrian tourist along the waterfront. The pedestrian later died at a local hospital from head injuries sustained during the crash. As our San Francisco bicycle accident attorneys know, many residents are hurt each year when cyclists and cars or pedestrians collide. Unfortunately, many of these accidents likely could be avoided simply by obeying the rules of the road.

The 23-year-old cyclist was sentenced to three years' probation and 500 hours of community service as part of a plea bargain made with the district attorney's office and agreed to by the family of the woman he struck and killed. He must also pay the family $15,375 in restitution. Also as part of his sentence, he must take part in a community service program educating bicyclists and pedestrians about road safety. bicycle.jpg
Our attorneys are well aware of how perilous our busy streets can be for bicycle riders. The paper analyzed accident reports in San Francisco and its surrounding areas and identified the most perilous roads and highways, which include San Francisco's Market Street and Sonoma County's country roads. The 25 most dangerous routes definitely are not limited to urban streets and consist of a wide variety of roads--from thoroughfares in major urban hubs such as San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose to semi-rural routes on the Peninsula and in Marin and the Wine Country.

The report found that in the ten years prior to 2008, 195 cyclists have been killed and 1,812 were severely injured while riding on our city's roadways. That averages out to approximately 15 crashes a month involving a serious injury, and 1 or more fatality per month. This doesn't even account for the injuries caused to motorists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. The numbers are based on information from California Highway Patrol.

Clearly, bicycle accidents can be a serious danger for Bay Area residents. The director of UC Berkeley's Traffic Safety Center theorized that the high number of Bay Area bicycling accidents might be due to "an increase in cyclists on roads with high volume and high speed." Sean Co, bicycling coordinator for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, also stated that 90% of accidents are caused by human behaviors, which can range from drug and alcohol use and failure to yield to aggressive driving. Being careful and vigilant on the road is very important. When cyclists, motorists, or pedestrians become complacent, it can be a recipe for disaster.

To read more about California's laws that govern cycling accidents, read our recent post here. The San Francisco personal injury lawyers at Callaway & Wolf have successfully handled many bike accident cases around the Bay Area, including ones in Marin, San Francisco, and Alameda counties. We have the knowledge and experience to handle your case and pride ourselves on acting as dedicated advocates for our clients.

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San Francisco Bicyclists Face Dangers on the Road

Avoiding San Francisco Bike Accidents: Bikes and Stop Signs

San Francisco Bicyclists Face Dangers on the Road

February 22, 2012

bike.jpgBicycle accidents can cause serious injury. Working in a city like ours, which has more bicycle riders per capita than any other American city, the San Francisco injury attorneys at Callaway & Wolf have seen their fair share of bicycle injury cases. Our attorneys are avid cyclists and ride regularly through San Francisco's busy streets--they understand the hazards bicycle riders face on a daily basis. For example, car and truck drivers often fail to look for cyclists or simply do not want to give them fair use of the road to which they are entitled. California law permits bike riders full use of a lane whenever there is not enough room to ride safely next to a car. Some automobile drivers may believe that bike riders should not be sharing the road with cars, but the law is clear in stating otherwise.

The Bay Area is known for its enthusiastic cyclists, and many other cities in our area also have a large number of bicycle riders. However, since many streets in California do not have bike lanes, bike riders are forced to share the road with cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Last week, a 20-year-old bicyclist died after he was struck by one car and run over by another, reports the San Diego Union-Times. The accident occurred at approximately 3:00 p.m. last Wednesday. A woman reported to police that she had run over a man who had been struck by another motorist and knocked off his bicycle. Both motorists reportedly stayed on the scene and cooperated with the police. The bicyclist became trapped under the second vehicle and subsequently died.

Another California cyclist was recently struck by a car and killed while driving home from her job at Disneyland, according to the Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately, the woman was struck from behind by a vehicle, and it was not clear at the time whether she was wearing a helmet.

Those of us working in Bay Area bike injury law realize that bike riders can be injured in a number of ways. Aside from being struck by a vehicle, bicyclists are also frequently injured by "dooring," which happens when a person opens his or her car door without looking to see if a bike is coming. The law requires drivers to look carefully before opening their doors and holds them responsible for injuries to bike riders when they break this law.

The San Francisco bicycle accident attorneys at Callaway & Wolf know that cyclists and other bike riders have the same rights under California law as car or motor vehicle drivers, except for the fact that bikes are not allowed on California freeways. If you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident, please consider contacting the qualified legal professionals at Callaway & Wolf at 415-541-0300 for a free consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in handling bicycle injury claims, and can explain how the law applies in your specific case.

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Bike accident lawyer: Will speed limits on the Golden Gate Bridge reduce bike accidents?

May 16, 2011

Recently the Golden Gate Bridge District considered, and tabled, a proposal to set a 10 MPH speed limit for bicycles on the bridge. This became the subject of an episode of the Forum radio show on KQED, which posted listener comments online. In the Bay Area, bikes are normally subject to the same speed limits as cars. Would a lower limit on the crowded sidewalks of the Golden Gate bridge help prevent bike accidents and injuries? Probably so. Setting the limit at 10 MPH would be very unpopular, though, which may be why the measure was tabled, rather than brought to a vote.

As a cyclist, I would not want to be limited to 10 MPH for a span of nearly a mile. I think that there is an inherent unfairness in having a tight speed limit on bikes, most of which do not even have speedometers.

In my experience handling bicycle injury cases, people seem to perceive that bicycles are going faster than they really are, and most riders don't have a clear sense of how fast they are going. Of course, slowing people down, in cars, on bikes, or any other form of transport, is likely to reduce injury accidents. I think that this additional safety, though, should be weighed against the feasability problems, and the individual freedom in letting people choose, within reasonable limits, how fast they want to go.

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Avoiding San Francisco Bike Accidents: Bikes and Stop Signs

January 12, 2011

Although California law is the same in for cars and bikes at stop signs, most cyclists I see don't stop, and many don't even slow down if they can see that the way is clear. As an attorney, I'll take the fifth about my own biking practices. Clearly it is the exceptional bike rider who is willing to fully stop at every stop sign here in San Francisco, where we seem to have more of them than just about anyplace else in California. Even very careful riders, who want to do everything the can to avoid an injury bike accident, can find it hard to convince themselves to stop when it is obvious that there is no cross traffic.

Among the states, Idaho seems to stand alone in having a law to deal with this problem. Idaho's "Stop as Yield" law provides that cyclists do not need to come to a complete stop at stop signs. They must yield the right-of-way to vehicles in or already at the intersection, and then proceed with caution through the intersection. This law has been on the books since 1982. In 2006, Idaho added another law for cyclists, allowing them to proceed through an intersection against a red light, after coming to a complete stop, and waiting until the way is clear. Although these rules seem to be working in Idaho, it remains to be seen whether they would work in a congested city such as San Francisco. Proponents argue that changing the law would simply acknowledge what's already happening. Others are against the Idaho approach, arguing that kids aren't able to handle yielding at stop signs, and are better off with a bright-line rule. According to a post on the S.F. Streetsblog, an Idaho-style law has been discussed in Sacramento, but was considered too difficult to pass the legislature.

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San Francisco Bicycle Accident Avoidance: Shine A Light

December 9, 2010

We have encountered several bicycle injury cases where we could have gotten a great result for our client, if only he or she had been using a light on their bicycle. Of course, it is possible that those clients would never have needed to call an attorney if they'd had a light, which would have been even better. But in many of the cases, I think the accident was going to happen with or without a bike light, and the cyclist's lack of a light just gave the driver of the car who caused the accident a free pass for an injury claim.

California Vehicle Code Section 21201 requires that any bicycle being operated during a time of "darkness" shall be equipped with a white light on the front of the bicycle, that is visible for 300 feet. Most bike lights meet this standard, even those that are very small, such as a Knog. This same section of the law requires reflectors on the pedals, and on the rear of the bike. "Darkness" is defined by Vehicle Code Section 280 as that time beginning one half hour after sunset. In my experience, this is long after the great majority of people driving cars have turned on their lights. But Section 280 has a second part, defining the time of "darkness," (when lights must be used), to also include "any other time when visibility is not sufficient to render clearly discernible any person or vehicle on the highway at a distance of 1,000 feet." Thus a cyclist can be deemed in violation of the light requirement even before 30 minutes after sundown, if an officer thinks that other factors-trees overhead, fog, etc.-reduce the available light and impair visibility.

I have not heard of the police in San Francisco, Oakland, or any other major cities in the Bay Area ticketing bike riders for lack of a light, but we are so vulnerable when we bike at night, that as a cyclist in San Francisco, I think we should do everything we can to stay visible. The biking pros take it a step further, with additional flashing lights, reflectorized shoes or coats, etc. As a personal injury attorney, I hate to see a client injured in a bike accident lose a case due to the lack of a light.

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Avoiding Bike Accidents in the San Francisco Bay Area: Should You Use a Mirror?

October 22, 2010

All of us who ride know that defensive bike riding is our key means to avoid an accident. Recently I ran across an interesting column on bike safety discussing use the use of mirrors on bikes, or on cyclists' helmets. The author became a convert after adding a mirror, despite continuing to feel geeky about having one. He found that the helmet mirror was better, because it can move to look around a broader area than one mounted on a handlebar.

From what I see, few cyclists use mirrors now. Looking on the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's website, I saw little about mirrors, but I did find a 2001 letter to the editor they received from another rider who swears by his mirror.

It makes sense that if cars motorcycles need mirrors, we cyclists could benefit from them as well. Of course, California law requires motor vehicles to have mirrors, and both cars and motorcycles pose an enormously larger threat of harming others than those of us on bikes. Thus, a bike mirror law would be more akin to a helmet law, Vehicle Code §21201, which requires cyclists to use a light when it's dark: designed to protect the rider, rather than others. Also, there is a sense of freedom and simplicity in biking that I think is impaired by adding lots of required extra equipment.

We have seen helmet use skyrocket in the U.S. in a relatively short time, and I have written previously on bike helmet laws, which some communities have adopted. It will be interesting to see if mirrors can likewise break through from something perceived as geeky or quirky to a typical piece of cycling equipment.

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San Francisco Bike Accident: Cyclist Killed Crossing Street From Sidewalk

October 8, 2010

A very sad story: a young bicylist was killed by in an accident with a San Francisco Muni bus when he crossed a street in the Richmond District, while riding on the sidewalk. Although this cyclist was actually in a crosswalk when he was hit, he had just ridden there from a sidewalk. The Muni bus driver said that this bike accident happened when the cyclist rode directly into his path.

Although I don't think there is enough information in the first news reports to determine fault in this accident yet, it does raise the issue of whether it's OK to ride on the sidewalk. The answer varies by city, as there is no provision in the California Vehicle Code on the subject. In San Francisco, the Transportation Code prohibits riding a bike on the sidewalk by anyone over age 13, and even for kids under 13 in areas where a ban is posted. In Los Angeles, biking on the sidewalk is permitted, but nearby West Hollywood and Santa Monica ban it. Clearly this is not a cut-and-dried issue. At a bicycle safety training I attended, I was told that the San Francisco police have a policy of tolerance of biking on the sidewalks on Market Street; yet just recently I saw a cyclist being stopped by police on a Market Street sidewalk.

I can see both sides of this divide. As a San Francisco cyclist, I am occasionally tempted to retreat to the sidewalk when I find a tight street with heavy traffic. As a pedestrian, I definitely do not want to contend with bikes coming my way. The San Francisco Bicylcle Coalition has a web page discussing bikes on sidewalks.

There is one aspect of this that I think is crystal-clear: it's very unsafe to enter a crosswalk on a bike (or on foot) at any significant speed. With most San Francisco corners occupied by building that are fully built out to the sidewalks, drivers have limited ability to see upcoming sidewalk traffic. Drivers expect that a pedestrian could step out, but they often are not able to deal with a bike shooting out into their path along a crosswalk. This same concept applies to someone running across a street.

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San Francisco Bike Accidents: Should the Helmet Law Apply to Adults?

May 20, 2010

Amsterdam man on bike.jpgIn California, and about half the other states, the law requires minors to wear a helmet when on bikes. Bike accident statistics strongly support the position that helmets save lives for adults as well as kids involved in bike accidents. But no U.S. state requires adult riders to wear helmets, as many do for motorcycle riders. Some cities, though, including El Cerrito, California, require everyone to bike with a helmet. Where you stand on the question of whether adults should also be required to use helmets for biking probably involves not only you views on safety, but also your views on how much the government should tell us what to do when the only person at risk is ourselves. I have found it interesting to see that in Europe, there are lots more adults using bicycles for urban transportation, and the great majority of them are not wearing helmets. Case in point: the man in Amsterdam biking with a tote bag in the photo with this post.

From a safety perspective, there is strong evidence that helmets make a big difference in bike accidents: an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study showed that over 90 percent of the 714 bicyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing helmets. Even a light blow to the head can result in a minor traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Neurologists and neurosurgeons report that those of us over 30 experience some brain shrinkage, which results in more bouncing around in the skull when we strike our heads.

If you are shopping for a helmet, be sure to choose one that is approved by the Federal Products Safety Commission, which does safety testing for bike helmets. Cycling experts agree that helmets should be replaced after an accident, as the foam can lose some of its ability to absorb impact, even when it appears to be undamaged.

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