For Bicylists, There is Safety in Numbers

bike commuter photo
Sacramento Bike Commute

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more bicyclists there are on the road, the lower the rate of accidents. If you double the number of cyclists, the accident rate per cyclist will drop by a third.

"It's a virtuous cycle," says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW who address a cycling safety seminar in Sydney, Australia, on September 5 and quoted in Science Daily. "The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle."

winter commuter photo
Helmet and reflective jacket- is this gear really necessary? image Bike Commuter tips

"It's a positive effect but some people are surprised that injury rates don't go up at the same rate of increases in cycling," says Sydney University's Dr Chris Rissel, co-author of a 2008 research report on cycling.

"It appears that motorists adjust their behaviour in the presence of increasing numbers of people bicycling because they expect or experience more people cycling. Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists."

Dr. Rissel also reinforces a point made by many TreeHugger readers whenever I promote helmets: "We should create a cycling friendly environment and accentuate cycling's positives rather than stress negatives with 'safety campaigns' that focus on cyclists without addressing drivers and road conditions. Reminding people of injury rates and risks, to wear helmets and reflective visible clothes has the unintended effect of reinforcing fears of cycling which discourages people from cycling."

Paul Dorn the Bike Commute Tips Blog concurs. "Amen to this. Stop perpetuating the myth of bicycling as a dangerous activity. Leave your helmet at home." hmmm. ::Bike Commute Tips Blog

Paul also directs us to an earlier study by PL Jacobson saying much the same thing: "Conclusion: A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle. Policies that increase the numbers of people walking and bicycling appear to be an effective route to improving the safety of people walking and bicycling." ::Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling
More on Bike Safety in TreeHugger
'Eye to Eye' Project to Promote Bicycle Safety in Oregon
Physically Separated Bike Lanes: Concrete is Better Than Cops
Bike Safety Tips From MP Olivia Chow
Freakonomics on Bike Safety
Scary Fifties Bloody and Gory Filmstrip on Bike Safety
Surviving The Summer of Splat

Tags: Australia | Biking


treehugger slideshows