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Safety of bicycling

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

While locking up my bicycle at Atlantic Base yesterday, another driver arrived on his bike in a very bad mood. He had just been hit by a car but thankfully he was uninjured. As we talked about the incident, I realized that he has been hit *multiple times* during his regular commuting. When I gingerly mentioned that I have NEVER been hit and wonder how I’ve been so lucky, he pointed to my neon yellow jacket and then pointed to his dark clothes and said that was probably a factor. (Well, duh…)

I’ve been riding my bike on the street for most of my life, since first grade at least, and have had close calls but I’ve NEVER been hit. (That sound you hear right now is me doing some serious knocking on my wood desk) Given the dominance of the car in our society and the fact that people simply aren’t expecting bicycles on the road, I go to extremes to be visible. My goal has always been for me, or Lord forbid – my wife, to be able to ask, “You didn’t see THIS!?”. The list includes bright neon yellow top with reflective patches, Planet bike SuperFlash rear blinkies on my helmet and bike, and a DiNotte Lighting 600L headlight. I’ve encountered many cars that start to roll out into my path but then FREEZE when they see that headlight. Those lights are on night AND day.

None of this will guarantee that some cell-phone wielding teenager distracted by a car full of their friends won’t mow me down. However, these tools, along with my riding style of legal and predictable riding dramatically improve the odds. Many people talk about the “danger” of cycling on the street. No doubt about it, biking around cars can be dangerous but depending on how you slice the statistics, cycling can actually be *safer* than driving. Curious? read on… But even if cycling is more dangerous than driving, that’s hardly a reason to not bike. After all, riding public transportation is FAR safer than driving in a car and yet most people still drive their car, even if there is a viable public transportation option.

The picture for cyclists, at least in the greater Seattle area, has been getting better my entire life. I’m looking forward to more improvements, more company, and even the possibility that the drivers will simply expect to encounter cyclists on the road and look for them. It’s already happening in Portland and Vancouver, BC where cycling trips are climbing but accident rates are steady or dropping.

Care to join me?

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  1. carfreepvd
    April 14, 2010 at 2:05 am

    I’m with you.

    I used to bike in a more aggressive manner. I didn’t ride with *total* disregard for the law, but I certainly cut corners. One day I realized that the only time I got into accidents was when I was doing something stupid (the last incident was biking the wrong way down a one-way). I stopped biking stupidly, and stopped getting in accidents. (At this point I will also start knocking on all wood at hand.)

    I have an extremely bright florescent yellow jacket that I can wear 3 seasons a year. I’ve had the same thought – I hope I’m never in a situation where I can say, “You didn’t see me when I was wearing this!?”

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