Bike Safety

"taking a header"

Let's "take a header" into the nerdy topic of bike safety.

Early bikes were crazy until the "safety bicycle" was invented.

The safety model prevented headers and featured improvements such as chain driven gears and the first pneumatic tires.

With this even wheeled and even keeled advancement, bicycles became widely popular and apparently they're pretty safe.  The places that bike the most have the safest streets in the world!

Netherlands and Denmark prove that choosing livable streets, public transportation, and private automobiles can coexist well.
One third of traffic is bicycles, the world's safest streets

For regular people an upright posture safety bike is still the best.  It has improved stability, improved line of sight (easier to look around) and a relaxed upper body position favorable to most people.

upright safety bikes (city bikesutility bikes)

Bike Share proves that the general public is best served with safety bikes.

Unfortunately this appears to be the least common bike design in the US!

It should be easy to reach the handlebar!

Some prominent factors that create safe cycling for the Dutch include-
  • safety in numbers
  • less and slower car traffic
  • building streets that promote cycling and calm vehicular traffic
  • schools teaching and practicing bike skills from a young age
  • laws and law enforcement to protect cyclists
  • a shared sense of compassion (most drivers also bike)
Even in the United States, riding a bike is safer than most people believe.  In the US there is 1 bike death per 5 million bike trips, or 85 lifetimes of riding twice a day.

If biking is so safe, why are we terrified of it?
  • Many people do not ride regularly, making it unfamiliar and scary.
  • Road design often does little to accommodate and protect bicyclists.
  • Unlike inside a car, our bodies and senses are exposed.
Our fear of cycling leads to many false representations of the danger.  For example, those who advocate for bike helmets would completely disregarding the idea of helmets for driving, a top cause of brain injuries.  

What about riding with cars?

The Dutch and Danes have proved that even with vehicular traffic, cycling can be extremely safe.  These nations lead the world in traffic safety and have been refining the craft for over 40 years.

Roudabouts save lives and are more efficient. Stop STOP signs!

Roads in the United States are five times more dangerous by comparison.

US road design needs to be improved for the safety of all road users.

We have over 250 million cars and drive over 3 trillion miles annually.
More drivers means more accidents.

Is biking more dangerous than driving?  It's not!

Biking is nearly as safe as driving in the US for injuries per hour of activity.

For many who lack of exercise, building walking and biking into their daily routine has an overwhelming positive outcome on overall health.

Anyone near a moving car is at risk for severe injury or death.  Moving thousands of pounds in public is never "safe", especially at speeds over 20 mph.

But the car is much safer when used in northern Europe.  High levels of traffic safety are obtained by building safe streets, enforcing laws to protect the vulnerable, minimizing the need for cars, and educating the youth.  

Get people riding, get safer streets.

Accident rate declines as more people ride, Minneapolis.

Accident rate declines as more people ride, Portland.

Marin County saw 34% decrease in accidents with 66% biking growth.

To get more people riding, bicyclists must feel safe when they are riding.

Generally the best way to make people feel safe it to physically separate them from fast vehicular traffic.  More about that in the next section "Our Streets".

Bike Safety
1. Ride a safety bike.
2. Get your friends riding.