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Is cycling dangerous...?(9 posts)

Is cycling dangerous...?gromit
Apr 11, 2001 3:26 AM
I am currently trying to persuade my wife that cycling the 23 miles to work each day is a good idea. She thinks it's too dangerous. More dangerous than driving at 65-70 mph on a dual-lane highway most of the way. Taking the train or the bus would be the safest route but the timings often don't work out.
So is cycling dangerous?
More dangerous than walking?
There is an interesting discussion in the British Medical Journal http://www.bmj.org/cgi/content/full/321/7276/1582.
What do you guys think?
yes and noDuane Gran
Apr 11, 2001 4:26 AM
I would say that cycling is a dangerous sport, as accidents are most common (proportional with time spent) during a race. However, accidents are very uncommon when commuting. Of course they can happen, but fatal accidents in cars are much more likely in my opinion. I feel safer on a bike than in a car.

Weather it is safe for you or not depends largely on the route you use to commute. If you have to ride on the edge of a busy urban highway then it might not be a good idea on a regular basis. If you can find bike paths and lesser travelled roads then it is probably quite safe. Regardless of how safe it may look, increase your odds by using good lighting, a helmet and reflective tape on your clothing. We all have close calls and these things can help reduce them.

In my opinion your wife shouldn't be any more worried than if you were driving. Have a great cycle-commute!
route matters...junebride
Apr 11, 2001 8:50 AM
the advice above about the necessity of helmet, lights (front and back), and relflective clothing (maybe even consider a highway-worker style vest) reflects my commuting sentiments exactly.

expect to spend some time finding the best route(s), but don't be deterred. and one more bit of advice - don't squish in towards the edge of the road. it's better to cycle 12-24 inches from the road's edge - helps the car traffic see and adjust to you. maintaining a even line IMHO is more important than being far over. take the lane whene you need to (perhaps a bus is coming from behind, construction, road is narrowing and traffic is coming the opposite way). put your safety first.

once you start doing it, it becomes routine and very enjoyable. and if you keep the same route and obey traffic laws you should be able to expect the rush hour cars to work with you.
re: Is cycling dangerous...?Bart
Apr 11, 2001 4:29 AM
Just do the math - 3000 pound car vs. 25 pound bike. Does not take much to have a serious problem. The danger is from having to depend on drivers being alert to your presence and giving you enough space.
re: Is cycling dangerous...?PsyDoc
Apr 11, 2001 4:40 AM
Much of this is plagiarized from reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to the NHTSA, 800 cyclists are killed and 60,000 are injured in traffic accidents each year. About 500,000 cyclists are treated in emergency rooms for various cycling related injuries each year. In 1999, there was a total of 750 cycling related deaths compared to 41,611 traffic fatalities. In other words, cyclists made up 2% of all traffic fatalities and 2% of all the people injured in traffic accidents. Males compared to females were more likely to be injured (80%) or killed (88%). More than one-fourth of the cyclists killed in traffic accidents were between 5 and 15 years old. The average age of those killed was 32.4 years and 23.5 was the average age of those injured. Cycling fatalities occurred more frequently in urban areas (64 percent), at nonintersection locations (70 percent), between the hours of 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM (37 percent), and during the months of July, August, and September (34 percent). Alcohol played a fairly significant role in cycling related deaths in 1999. In 31% of the crashes, either the driver or the cyclist was intoxicated.

Is cycling more dangerous than walking? In 1999, 4,906 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related accidents. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic crash every 107 minutes. In 1999, there were 85,000 pedestrians injured in traffic crashes, and, on average, a pedestrian is injured in a traffic crash every 6 minutes.

Is cycling dangerous? Yes, but so is everything in life. There are no guarantees. For example, a couple of days ago in San Antonio two people were killed at a bus stop when a car containing burglary suspects slammed into them. The police were chasing them, but it was reported that they never got within 1/4 mile of the suspects. My wife and I were involved in a traffic accident a couple of years ago. We were stopped waiting to make a legal left hand turn with the blinker on, and a woman not paying attention slammed into us at 35 mph. There were signs that she even tried to brake.

Will my wife or I ever give up cycling because it's dangerous? Not a chance.
re: Is cycling dangerous...?birdrider
Apr 11, 2001 5:57 AM
Those are some serious statistics. Kind of makes one wonder how many murders need to occur at the hands of motorists before these lethal weapons are removed from society.

I wonder what would happen to toaster-ovens or VCR if they had the kind of murder record that motor-vehilces do?
As dangerous as you make it.shmoo
Apr 11, 2001 6:08 AM
Of course there is an inherent visibility (actually lack of visibility) problem with cycling on the road, especially early morning and late afternoon. Then there is the cycling specific road rage that some experience. Other than that, it's about as dangerous as you make it. Ride in bright, high visibility colors. Ride well lit when commuting in the dark/dusk. Pick your routes with safety in mind (wide shoulder, low traffic, consider potential emergency situations, available temporary refuge in case you have to terminate the ride, etc). Stay to the shoulder, so as not to get in the way of any of those "mean" commuters. Stay safe and smart, and carry a cel phone just in case.
If you're confident in traffic, then go for it.boy nigel
Apr 11, 2001 6:56 AM
I'd do the same. Growing up riding in Manhattan traffic, I'm quite comfortable with cars, taxis, buses, pedestrians, etc. Though my wife (who doesn't yet ride) might feel similarly to your wife, she knows how confident (but not cocky) I am riding with traffic flow. Try to convince her that you'll do everything you can to be safe and predictable. Will wearing one of those dayglo vests make her feel safer about your idea? Lights/reflectors on the bike? She's concerned with your welfare, so you've got to make her as comfortable with the idea of you commuting as possible. Passing some of those stats to her may do some of the convincing.

Careful out there, gromit, and enjoy the ride. Hey: Is your name taken from the "claymation" dog? Nice one, if so.

Nige
re: Is cycling dangerous...?KEN2
Apr 11, 2001 9:25 AM
Gromit,

I have been riding 28 miles round trip to work 3-4 days per week for over a year now. I think a reasonably savvy cyclist can develop the skills to commute safely. Here are some bike commuting-related sites to check out:

http://bicycling.about.com/recreation/bicycling/cs/commuting/index.htm
http://www.bicyclinglife.com/index.html
http://www.bikecommute.com/
http://www.chainguard.org/

Chainguard is the most militant; Their motto is "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles" (I notice that also appears on the link you provide in your query). You have to educate yourself about riding in traffic if you haven't done it much.

I would disagree with the poster Schmoo, who said stay to the shoulder. That's exactly the behavior that makes motorists take chances and try to squeeze past you. This is a large issue and very dependent on the type of road you travel, but in general I think it is best to assert your right to the road by riding where the right-side wheel of cars would be on the roadway, unless there is a bikelane or sufficient lane width (at least 15') for cars to pass you safely without changing lanes.

I also suggest ample time with a good map of your area along with a weekend scouting trip in the car. You have to get out of the motorist mindset and into the idea of best cycling streets. Those are not likely the same ones you would take as a motorist, but rather lighter-travelled routes that still have as few stop signs and other impediments as possible. It may involve streets you didn't even know existed. Your route will likely be more circuitous as a result--on my commute, I ride in to work one route totaling 18 miles, and back home another route of 12 miles. It just works out better traffic-wise. Driving the typical way by car is just 11 miles, but hey, you want to enjoy your commute and more miles are not necessarily a bad thing!

You may find some statistics and other material on those websites to help convince your wife. My wife still isn't totally convinced, and I carry a cell phone and always call as soon as I arrive so she knows I'm at work safe and sound.