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catastrophic bike injuries

The Life-Changing Impact of Bicycle Accidents


The story of Shawn Bradley's paralyzing bike injury

Riding a bicycle is one of the best forms of exercise that you can do to improve your health. Not only does it help to strengthen your heart and lungs, but it also helps you to build muscles and stave off common health conditions that limit your ability to move freely.

Unfortunately, riding a bike doesn’t come without risks, and bicycle accidents happen every single day. Cyclists face dozens of hazards on the road that range from potholes to negligent drivers who don’t give them space.

Bicycle accident statistics

Despite campaigns that are designed to educate motorists and cyclists on how to coexist on the roads safely, there’s been an uptick in deaths and injuries recently that occur while people are riding their bikes.

In fact, according to the National Safety Council, the number of preventable bicycle-related deaths in 2020 rose by 16 percent, and there’s been a 44 percent increase in bicycle deaths over the last decade. While the number of preventable nonfatal injuries declined by 39 percent between 2011 and 2020, it went back up by 5 percent over the past 2 years.

As one might expect, the number of injuries and deaths tends to increase during the warmer months of the year when people are likely to take advantage of the good weather to head out on their bikes. People who ride in areas with heavy traffic or poorly maintained roads are also more likely to be involved in a serious accident.

The majority of serious bicycle-related injuries occur due to a collision with a vehicle. However, you could also sustain serious injuries from falling or trying to avoid an unexpected hazard on the road.

Shawn Bradley’s bicycle accident

The story of Shawn Bradley highlights how even an experienced athlete and cyclist could be involved in an accident that alters the course of their life.

At 7’6” tall, one could say that Shawn Bradley was born to play basketball. In the early days of his career, he played for BYU before transitioning into the NBA in 1993, where he played for the Philadelphia 76ers. Over 12 pro seasons, he also played for the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks before finally choosing to retire on May 20, 2005.

While his professional basketball career was impressive, his accomplishments didn’t end there. After his retirement, Bradley went on to become an active educator at a private school for at-risk youth in Utah. There, he served in a variety of roles, including as a vice principal, counselor and coach.

How an athlete received paralyzing injuries

On January 20, 2021, Bradley was riding his bike when he was involved in a collision that led to a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed. The events of that fateful day still remain murky since Bradley doesn’t fully remember everything that happened.

However, Bradley does know that he was out for an afternoon ride when he attempted to pass a vehicle that was parked on the side of the road. During the moment he was attempting what has since been determined to be a safe pass, a minivan on the other side of him made contact with his bike.

The collision caused him to be hurled off his bicycle and into the air before hitting the trunk of the parked vehicle, leaving him lying in the roadway. While the woman driving the minivan left the scene briefly, she did return to follow up with the police regarding the incident.

Although Bradley was wearing a safety helmet, it cracked from the force of the impact. Bradley recalls maintaining his consciousness while being aware that he could only seem to move his eyes. Shortly after, doctors discovered that his spinal cord injury had led to quadriplegia, and he now requires a wheelchair for mobility.

Today, Bradley maintains his positive outlook on life, and he's chosen to keep some of the details of his accident private to prevent the people involved from enduring public scrutiny.

Top ways to stay safe on a bike

It’s important to note that Bradley did many things right on the day of his accident—he was wearing a helmet and signaled to the other vehicle that he was changing positions. While these precautions didn’t keep Bradley from suffering major injuries, they may have saved his life.

In many cases, safety precautions help prevent accidents that lead to injuries and death, and every cyclist should add these strategies to their riding plan.

    • Wear a DOT-approved helmet


    • Follow all traffic signs and signals


    • Outfit your bike with lights, a horn and side mirrors


    • Learn hand signals, and use them every time you change lanes or stop


    • Inspect your bike before each ride


    • Limit distractions


  • Be predictable and stay alert for hazards

When to contact a California bike accident attorney

The consequences of a bicycle accident can have a serious impact on your future. Some injuries result in the need for life-long physical therapy and medical treatments, and you may not be able to return to work.

If you’ve been hurt on the road in California, you need an experienced attorney who can negotiate with the insurance company and advocate on your behalf to get you maximum compensation for your injuries.

At MVP Accident Attorneys, our experienced attorneys have extensive personal injury experience, including bicycle accident cases. We’ve recovered millions of dollars for our thousands of satisfied clients, and we’d love to help you too. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation of your case.


brett sachs2
Brett Sachs

Brett S. Sachs graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with Cum Laude Honors. While attending Michigan State, Brett was awarded for his service in the Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented prisoners of the Michigan Department of Corrections from injustices brought upon them. Learn more.

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