by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
I’ve been biking a lot more this year and I’m pretty happy about it. Daily commutes downtown, to stores and services like the bank and post office. To the coffee shop, to visit friends, to social events and my legs think nothing of those miles these days, which feels good, too. I’ve learned more about the right gear to get around conveniently and feel more confident.
Hmm, Confident? Cocky may be more like it. Ride a lot and you can begin to get a bit too headstrong about traffic – after all, I’m on my bike to rise above this carbon-emmitting mess, right? Well, not really. When you are on a bicycle, you ARE traffic. Although I wouldn’t say I’ve had anyÂ truly close calls, I have caught myself taking chances for no good reason – you know, crossing at a red light because there are no cars in sight, riding through a parking lot to turn a corner, hopping onto the sidewalk and back onto the street when it seemed more convenient. Fortunately, I woke up – before I caused an accident. I now ride with my bike AND my head in the right place.
Of course, there is much that can and should be done on the driving side. Drivers education programs and testing should include important information when it comes to sharing the road – a big part of the safety equation. More and better-designed bicycle lanes, intersections and shoulders will go a long way towards creating harmony in the way we get around.
Still, there is a lot of good news for cyclists in this comprehensive article on Safe Streets, by Alan Durning, where he reminds us that not only is commuting by bicycle safer than you think, but “Not Pedaling Can Kill You”. Whether you ride now, or are considering it, this article is a must-read. Because the truth is, when you look at facts and figures, bicycle commuting is actually safer than any of us think. Statistics show that while bicycling is increasing, crashes are not. Bicycling is also safer that getting around by foot – pedestrians are 3 times more likely to be killed by a motorist per mile than cyclists.
Much of cycling safety seems to depend upon the rider – one survey shows that 80% of bike wrecks involve falling or colliding with something other than a moving vehicle. (Come to think of it, my only significant wreck was with a mailbox.) For more on this, read The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street, by Robert Hurst.
If you’re still a cycle-skeptic, or a risk-taking rider, read the full article where you can wrap your head around the information above and much, much more. It could get you into a more fit world and body and help you keep both wheels on the ground.