Can Technology Keep Cyclists Safe?

Image credit: Crap Waltham Forest

I talked before about the one tip for staying safe on a bike. But it seems that advice isn't being universally heeded. In fact, a spate of women cyclists killed on the streets of London has got a lot of people asking questions. Like could technology save us if behavior can't?Anna Leach writes over at The Guardian that technology could have helped avoid the recent spate of cycling casualties, in which 8 women cyclists were killed on the streets of London in recent months. (As opposed to just 5 men.)

Now quite what the gender of the cyclists in question has to do with their safety is a somewhat confusing matter. I am not entirely clear what The Guardian has to say about it either—because the rest of the article doesn't really discuss gender, but rather some ideas for helping cyclists and trucks to co-exist more safely. (For more thoughts on gender and cycling, see April's posts on why women cycle, and why they don't, or Sustrans' campaign for female cycle safety.)

But quibbles about the focus of the article aside, the content is important. Because Leach goes on to describe the efforts of Cynthia Barlow, whose daughter Alex was crushed by a cement truck on her way to work. Cynthia has since bought shares in the company that owns those trucks, and lobbied successfully for the retrofitting state-of-the-art safety equipment including extra mirrors, sensors to alert the driver to a cyclist pulling up alongside, as well as exterior voice warnings to keep your distance.

The equipment cost about GBP545 (approximately US$800) to install, but has been credited for a dramatic drop in fatalities, as Barlow told The Guardian: "At the time my daughter was killed, cement mixers were involved in several fatalities. Since Cemex have fitted the safety equipment there's only been one, where the cyclist was wearing earphones."

Impressive stuff—whatever your gender or preferred mode of transport.

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