How dangerous is it to ride a bicycle?

July 13, 2008 | By | 8 Replies More

Here’s a thoughtful and well-researched article on the safety of bicycling by Alan Durning of Grist.  Here’s his bottom line:

Biking is safer than it used to be. It’s safer than you might think. It does incur the risk of collision, but its other health benefits massively outweigh these risks. And it can be made much safer. What’s more, making streets truly safe for cyclists may be the best way to reverse Bicycle Neglect: it may be among communities’ best options for countering obesity, climate disruption, rising economic inequality, and oil addiction.

He also concludes, based on ample research, that

if you’re a cautious, law-abiding, risk-averse cyclist, biking is far safer than you’d think from the aggregate statistics, which are inflated by the proliferation of two-wheeling daredevils.

Durning thinks we can do a lot better to protect cyclists.  He advocates better cycling facilities, such as bikeways, bike boulevards, traffic calming, blue lanes, and cycle signals (the use of bike lanes is disputed, however, as you can see in the comments).  He also advocates for better educating drivers and cyclists.  For instance, in Germany, fourth graders are required to demonstrate cycling proficiency.

At this site, we’ve often advocated cycling as a mode of transportation (see here, for example).  I’m linking to Durning’s article because it is a good resource.  The comments continue the good discussion well.

As I read the statistics in Durning’s article, I had to agree with the need for cyclist education, as well need to educate motor vehicle drivers of the existence of bicycles. But back to those cyclists.   I cringe at the way half of them ride.  They violate virtually every traffic law.  They weave all over.  They don’t wear helmets.  Many of them ride much fast than is safe in the traffic.   I would think that U.S. bicycle/car collisions could be cut in half were the cyclists made to feel that the traffic laws pertain to them too.   My concern is a source of optimism, too, because it might be possible to dramatically cut the bicycle collisions without any substantial costs.


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Category: Education, Energy, Environment, Health, transportation

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Also from Cagle, and I'm surprised Erich didn't pick this one:

    <img src="; alt="SUV Sales Stall">

    Such is the public image of bicyclists.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsif says:

    Back in my college days, I rode my bicycle everywhere. (Mine was the pimped out Ross road bike with the headlight, fm radio and CB). I respected the rules of the road, had actually been certified in bicycle safety, and still had my share of bumps, scraps and road rash. usually these were the result of my own stupidity, but on two occasions, it was someone else's stupidity that caused by crash.

    On one occasion, I had to lay the bike down to avoid being hit by a distracted driver. As I slid several feet up a gravel driveway, I was very upset to notice the driver that nearly hit me had run the stop sign because he was shaving! I don't think he even saw me.

    The other time was potentially worse. Some idiot yahoos in a pickup truck intentionally forced me off a bridge. I was extremely lucky as I landed in a pile of leaves and tree limbs that had accumulated in the dry stream-bed below, because the brush broke my fall without impaling me. I lay there for a moment, swearing and assessing the damage, when I heard a voice, asking me if I was alright. After determining that nothing was broken I said no to the young lady who said she saw what happened. Unfortunately, she did not get the license number of the truck. She did however find someone with a ladder to help me out of the 10 foot deep hole that I was in.

    I agree that bicyclists show take a safety course and obey the rules of the road. I also believe that drivers should be more careful too.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    There are lots more bikes out there, and there are reports that bicycle-related accidents are increasing:

    Since the average price of gasoline hit about $3.25 a gallon early this year, bike sales have skyrocketed, the National Bicycle Dealers Association reported. Store owners across the country say two-wheelers are flying out the door faster than they can stock them.

    But authorities across the country say they are seeing a sharp rise in the number of accidents involving bicyclists.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Here's a fun take on bike safety, subtitled We didn’t need no stinking helmets

    (Link fixed 8:40pm)

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan – that seems to be a broken link – could you recheck that please?

  6. Dan Klarmann says:

    Fixed link to helmet safety rant (above)

  7. I actually remember this bicycle training we had when I was a kid. I especially remember having one point or so deducted from my score or something similar because supposedly I hadn't turned my head to look behind when I made a left turn. I was quite pissed off with the police dude. Obviously pissed off enough to recognize him when I saw him like 15 years later in a judo club. 😀 Ok, I wasn't really that pissed off and I don't know why I had been able to recognize him again and he was actually nice. That was quite the coincidence anyway, because the judo club was not in our home town.

    Munich is a pretty bicycle friendly town as far as I can tell. There are many cycle tracks in the city and I've also noticed that in many one-way streets cyclists are still allowed to go in both directions. There is a lot of traffic here, but I think car drivers are more used to cyclists and a bit more considerate. Although I'm still cursing a lot at all the stupid drivers who are not paying attention at whose right of way it is. Actually, who I might hate as much are the pedestrians who walk on my cycle track or the cyclist who comes from the wrong direction (not that it would ever occur to me to do that… :D)! They can be glad I only have a bell and not a horn…

  8. Arthur says:

    I agree that good bike lights can improve bike visibility and make biking safer. Personally I always run my HID 35 W front light and 65 LEDs back light, even during day commute.



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