Why Bicycle Lane Safety Is a Public Concern
Bicycle lane safety is a growing concern across the nation. As more people forgo automobiles for the pleasures of walking or riding a bike, the importance of protecting these persons from harm becomes ever more apparent. Sadly, bicyclists are often the victims of disabling and even tragic accidents. The following statistics paint a grim picture:
Between 2003 and 2012 more than 600 cyclists were killed each year in traffic crashes.
70% of cyclist fatalities occur in urban areas where cycling is most popular and most likely to reduce traffic congestion.
Cycling at night is particularly hazardous. Studies show that around 25% of cycling fatalities occur during the hours between 8 PM and midnight local time.
While other forms of accidental death are declining, cyclist fatalities are increasing nationwide.
The average age of a person killed is 43. Men are far more likely than women to be the victim of a cycling accident.
Despite the ever-increasing presence of cyclists on the nation’s roads, many drivers are less attentive than they should be to the presence of bike riders.
There is good news, however. A nationwide movement is underway to make America’s roads safer for all who use them. The Department of Transportation has launched a program called the Safer People, Safer Streets Initiative. The agency is conducting road safety testing in each state, working with local governments to improve cycling safety, and partnering with major universities to study the problem and recommend solutions.
This initiative has already produced several important findings about the problem of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes. The information uncovered includes details like these:
The problem of cycling safety disproportionately affects lower income urban areas.
One major complicating factor is the substandard condition of many urban walkways and roadways. Rough or uneven surfaces are particularly difficult for city bike riders to negotiate.
14% of cyclists involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content beyond legal limits for driving. In total, almost ¼ of cycling fatalities involved alcohol use on the part of the bike rider.
Another cause of cycling fatalities is poor riding habits on the part of cyclists. A rider crossing the street outside of approved intersections is perhaps the most common factor in these tragedies.
The single most effective thing a bicyclist can do to lessen his or her chances of injury or death is to wear a helmet.
Promoting walking and bicycle riding is a key factor in the government’s efforts to improve public health. A study in the American Journal of Public Health showed a direct link between increased presence of walking/biking trails and decreased rates of obesity and weight-related illnesses like diabetes. However, along with efforts to encourage Americans to walk or bike must come a renewed emphasis on bicycle lane safety. With that in mind, here’s a checklist of safety tips for every cyclist to keep in mind:
Always signal before changing lanes or turning.
Keep an eye on the road behind you as well as the road ahead. Many bikes have rear-view mirrors for this purpose. Easy to install aftermarket mirrors are also available.
Obey traffic signals at all times.
Ride with, not against, traffic.
Never pass on the right. It’s often difficult for motorists to see a cyclist passing on the right.
When traffic is slow, ride in the middle of the lane.
Make eye contact with drivers. Studies show that this increases their awareness of riders.
Signal when turning to the left. You can also ride your bike to the approved crosswalk, get off, and walk it across the intersection like a pedestrian.
Cycling offers a world of benefits, making it a healthy activity for kids and adults alike. For this reason, promoting bicycle lane safety should remain a major goal of public safety departments everywhere.