With Spring just around the corner, lots of Americans will be pulling a bicycle out of the garage and climbing on for a ride. Estimates say that 100 million people might do just that, at least once.
There are five layers to safe cycling: Handling skills, rules of the road, and lane positioning make up the first three and can curb 90% of all crashes. The fourth is avoidance skills, and the last is helmet use. Keep this in mind when stirring up a conversation. As the season progresses, many conversations will be had about aspects of cycling that bend people’s interest in riding. Perhaps we can keep the conversations reasonable, making progress for everyone to get more active! Since we spend billions and billions on chronic diseases due to sedentary lifestyles, let’s encourage movement!
- Bicyclists break more traffic laws than do motorists. In a 2013 AAA survey, respondents answering the questions: In the past two weeks have you rolled through a stop sign? Two-thirds responded that they had. When asked if they traveled over the speed limit in the past two weeks, again two-thirds said yes. While the sample group was about 1700 people, it certainly is indicative of motor vehicle behaviors. According to Wesley Marshall, a University of Colorado engineering professor who surveyed more than 17,000 cyclists and drivers, drivers copped to breaking the rules at a slightly higher rate than bikers. It’s the rare driver who never speeds, after all. And sometimes, drivers think cyclists are breaking the law when they’re really not — it’s usually legal to take up a whole lane, for example, rather than staying on the right side of the road. (Lane positioning)
- More bike riders would curb traffic and pollution. While it is true that 1 mile by human power saves 1 pound of CO2, our country still only has less than 1% of its population that commutes by bicycle. The country as a whole takes 1.3 trillion trips by car each year. Over 690 billion of those are two miles or less. We COULD make a dent if we really tackled those two mile trips, but we are not. The other problem is that we do not have the infrastructure to have the significant numbers of bike commuters to make a big enough impact. “As city planners have long realized, the only thing powerful enough to lure drivers out of their cars is a combination of robust bike infrastructure and a comprehensive transit system. Just look at the cities where the most people get to work using biking and transit: High shares of one mode tend to correspond with high shares of the other.” The Washington Post
- Helmet laws make bicycling safer. Most European cities don’t require riders to wear helmets. Yet in those cities, there are fewer cyclist deaths and injuries per capita than in the United States. Experts say that’s because of their infrastructure. And studies show that when drivers see cyclists in helmets, they behave more recklessly, driving closer to pedalers and increasing the possibility of accidents.(Washington Post) Helmet use is the fifth level of safety. Another words, when all else fails! We need to encourage more education and training in the first of the three levels of safety. Besides, demanding helmet use only decreases ridership!
- Bicycle riding is only for the well resourced! Well, People for Bikes has some information to dispute this. “… 40 percent of American adults who ride have incomes of less than $20,000.” The problem lies in the lagging behind of decent infrastructure to help ALL riders out. Quite often the under-resourced tend to be the less vocal or heard group of society. People who make less than $20,000 a year say they’re less satisfied than others with the bike paths, lanes and trails in their neighborhoods. A family of four, earning at or below the poverty level will spend 40% of their household budget on transportation. That can be offset quite well if the combination of transit and bicycle can be used for transportation instead of driving. This number is quite significant in most cities, as this is a growing segment of our population.