Sunday, September 14, 2008

More Cyclists on the Road Mean Fewer Accidents

It may seem counterintuitive, but according to a recent report more cyclists on the road mean fewer accidents involving cyclists and motor vehicles. I was convinced of this after spending some time living and cycling in Japan, but it’s always nice to have some real research to back up one’s personal hearsay.

This happens because as more cyclists hit the road, drivers are more aware of their presence. Not only are drivers looking out for cyclists, but as interaction between cars and bikes increase, drivers learn how to drive safely and respectfully around cyclists.

According to the University of New South Wales, who did the research:

“It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW who address the seminar on September 5. “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.”

Also, even more encouragingly, it doesn’t seem that cycling infrastructure is responsible for the change:

Experts say the effect is independent of improvements in cycling-friendly laws such as lower speed limits and better infrastructure, such as bike paths. Research has revealed the safety-in-numbers impact for cyclists in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 European countries and 68 Californian cities.

So, if you’ve ever thought about getting out on a bicycle, consider this: you will be safest in communities with the most cyclists; your contribution will not only keep a car off the road, but will help make everyone safer.

Happy riding!

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