Everyday headlines about bike accidents are in my newsreader. That doesn’t make for an upbeat, positive blog to post all of them, but I’m certainly aware of the trends and the deaths. This photo from the AP is a reminder of the somber fact that cyclists and cars collide.


Photo from AP Photo via Daylife.

It’s not always the driver’s fault either. Accidents happen and too often. We forget at times how dangerous what we do is and the challenge for cycling, as a whole, is to make it safer.


I’ve gotten to the point where I can predict dangerous things that many cyclists do and act accordingly to avoid a collision.  I’m not talking about running stop signs when nobody is around or running a red light with no cross traffic to get the jump on stopped cars.  While those actions can annoy drivers, they really aren’t that risky.

I’m talking about riding into a cross walk, with or without a “Walk” sign, at full speed, or riding *between* two buses on already narrow Seattle streets, or riding up the left side of a stopped bus only to cut in front and open the bike rack to load your bike.  In all cases, we will *probably* see you, but if we don’t you’re injured and/or killed and we are at risk of losing our job - *regardless* of whether it’s *your* fault or not.

I’m not a perfect cyclist so I’m not trying to be all high and mighty here.  But when I do something stupid because I’m in a hurry, I try to admit it to myself and remember to *NOT* put my life in danger like that again.

I only wish drivers would do the same - “Oh crap, I passed that cyclist a too closely.  Next time, I need to be more patient”.  Yeah, I know, it’s a pipe dream.  But hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big, right? 

Hmm, allow me a rant on a nit that is kind of a pet peeve of mine.  :)

Very rarely do ‘accidents’ happen.  A tree limb falls in the road and causes a driver to swerve into a cyclist. Ok, that’s an accident, act of god or what have you.

A distracted driver talking on the cell phone or failing to drive to conditions getting in a collision is not an accident. A driver or a cyclist with an improperly maintained vehicle is not accidental, it’s negligent.  A cyclist riding erratically or against the flow of traffic is going to be in a collision, not an accident.

Fact is, if people drove and cycled within the law, collisions (better term) would truly be limited to accidents and the number would be much, much smaller.  Utopian vision, sure, but ‘accident’ places the responsibility outside of those involved.

I used that term because other terms are loaded with fault and I can’t tell from a news article or a photo like this what exactly happened. As I noted in the post, the past two weeks have seen an unusual amount of cyclists colliding with cars (according to the news report).

As cyclists, and urban commuting cyclists in particular, we should be aware of how we talk about cycling as a dangerous activity.  statistically speaking, it’s not all that dangerous.  It’s even less so when you compare it against other common activities that people don’t regard as dangerous, such as driving a car or walking down stairs.
  The common perception of cycling as a unusually dangerous activity, which was embedded in the American mind in part by the helmet law crowd, has driven down the number of cyclists in this country considerably.  We shouldn’t cement that notion in people’s minds.  The way we talk about what we do and how much we talk about the egregious behavior of the minority have significant effects on the common perception.
  Having said all that, I also agree that seeing stuff like this is a sobering reminder of the consequences (regardless of the risk) and I share the dream that drivers and riders alike would re-evaluate their own behavior and choices.  Regardless of mode of travel, we’ve all made stupid decisions that put us or others at risk.  Being self-critical may be one of the best risk reduction methods around.

If you’ve heard me talk of tweet it, the industry rarely if ever puts these two words together: “safety + bike.” Why don’t bikes have running lights or built in locks? Imagine if Shimano had spent millions developing a proximity detector (like Ford/Volvos) instead of Di2 . . . I hear it over and over again that potential cyclists are just straight up frightened to ride in the street.

Maybe part of the reason they are frightened is that, for years, bikes in the US have been designed as recreational toys.  It took all sorts of retrofitting and accessorizing to make them into the utilitarian vehicles that they were originally conceived to be.  So, the perception goes, “these things aren’t supposed to ridden in the street; you must be crazy to do that.”  And then they see a person riding by wearing full-on flouro duds with reflectors, light generators, and side mirrors appended everywhere and a goofy looking styrofoam hat on, and they think, “yep—crazy.”

  Selling well-designed bikes for commuting and city-use that don’t look like some sort of Rube Goldberg machine may dispel some of the fright.  After all, if a company makes a product, it must be good for me, right?

For the record, I wear a helmet; grudgingly, and largely because it’s the law and to avoid familial strife, but I wear it.

Agreed and that goes to sports marketing as well or the common reaction to what our bikes costs of, “whoa, really.” They expect toy prices.

Safety has nothing to do with bike design (apart from a few obvious things like brakes that work properly) or helmets (no-one in Holland or Denmark where one)...

The way to create a feeling of safety (as important as actual safety) is by redesigning streets so they feel safe for people to ride around.

Among other things, this means slowing down motor vehicles when streets are shared with bikes, and building segregated cycle lanes wherever there’s space.

Only in this way can you persuade children, novice cyclists, families to use bicycles regularly.

If you think this is important, redesign your streets. If you don’t, don’t.

Infrastructure aside, what I’m talking about is marketing bikes as safer to ride to those that are concerned they are not safe. The reason that cities like Amsterdam are safer is because they have so many cyclists. If we grow the amount of cyclists, the problem should resolve itself. It’s a good problem for traffic engineers to have, to have to address traffic signals for bikes.

When I ride in Amsterdam, I don’t wear a helmet and most definitely do here in traffic.

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