Author Topic: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?  (Read 12844 times)

Esteban

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How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« on: May 12, 2016, 09:52:50 AM »
I used to bike occasionally to work, because I had a trail to my former job location.  But I also know a former colleague at the same job who was hit and injured badly by another bicyclist. On a local bike trail. I do not offer an opinion, throwing this out there for discussion purposes only.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2016/05/12/how-safe-is-bike-commuting-perhaps-less-than-you-think/

Jeremy E.

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big_slacker

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2016, 10:05:52 AM »
I used to bike occasionally to work, because I had a trail to my former job location.  But I also know a former colleague at the same job who was hit and injured badly by another bicyclist. On a local bike trail. I do not offer an opinion, throwing this out there for discussion purposes only.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2016/05/12/how-safe-is-bike-commuting-perhaps-less-than-you-think/

Well, the article says there are 3 fatalities per million for bike commuting in my area so if that is twice the rate of fatalities vs a car I guess I'm pretty ok with those odds, lol!

I further minimize with flashers front/rear, taking a route that's about 90% bike lanes or bike paths and generally riding safely.

The pollution thing as the article mentions is offset by the cardio health bennies and is location dependent anyway. I like that they mentioned the mood enhancement and cost savings.

To summarize, typical sensationalist nonsense title contradicted by the actual facts. In this case in the article itself, haha!

GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2016, 10:54:22 AM »
How long is a rope?

Cycling safety depends.  It depends on how you ride, when you ride, the routes you ride, and the safety gear you use.

dougules

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2016, 11:32:11 AM »
Lack of exercise is far more likely to kill you than an accident, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc..  I know this has been mentioned a lot before, but it bears repeating since so many people seem to forget it. 

And plus, these stats are based on the current situation in the US of terrible bicycle infrastructure and drivers who are not expecting cyclists at all.  The numbers would get a lot better if more people did it.   You have to be the change that you wish to see in the world.

JJsfr

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2016, 12:11:05 PM »
I knew a guy who was walking his dog and was injured badly on a sidewalk by another person walking a dog. Thus, dog walking is a dangerous activity.

Esteban

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2016, 12:39:34 PM »
I knew a guy who was walking his dog and was injured badly on a sidewalk by another person walking a dog. Thus, dog walking is a dangerous activity.

I asked for discussion, and I guess I should have anticipated it. I think the point of the anecdote is that being hit by another cyclist is a hazard - one of many - I never considered when I was biking to work. I did begin biking to work in good weather in response to the MMM article I read years ago.

To clarify then: the discussion I envisioned is not about pollution or which which is healthier for the a human body, the exercise of cycling or sitting on your ass in your clown car, but the odds of a collision with a car (or another cyclist) and whether the impact of such low-stat events are considerably greater than sitting in your clown car. If so, how much? Or how to lower the odds?

Esteban

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2016, 12:47:59 PM »
Quote
Well, the article says there are 3 fatalities per million for bike commuting in my area so if that is twice the rate of fatalities vs a car

Does anyone know the rate of maiming or severe disability vs cars? The impact of an event must be considered in conjunction with the odds.  BTW I am not against biking. I wish I could once again bike to work on my trail, but my commute these days would entail downtown street traffic and I don't feel comfortable with it.

GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2016, 01:03:54 PM »
I knew a guy who was walking his dog and was injured badly on a sidewalk by another person walking a dog. Thus, dog walking is a dangerous activity.

I asked for discussion, and I guess I should have anticipated it. I think the point of the anecdote is that being hit by another cyclist is a hazard - one of many - I never considered when I was biking to work. I did begin biking to work in good weather in response to the MMM article I read years ago.

To clarify then: the discussion I envisioned is not about pollution or which which is healthier for the a human body, the exercise of cycling or sitting on your ass in your clown car, but the odds of a collision with a car (or another cyclist) and whether the impact of such low-stat events are considerably greater than sitting in your clown car. If so, how much? Or how to lower the odds?

If you look at stats regarding bike commuting fatalities, more than half of them happen to people who are riding bikes while drunk.  The number that involve people cycling at night without lights takes another large chunk of them.

You're on a bike.  That means that there is no metal shell around you.  You lower the odds of getting into an accident by cycling safely.  That means:
- paying attention to your surroundings
- taking the lane where necessary
- not trying to pass large vehicles on the right at intersections
- signalling your actions
- following the rules of the road
- cycling on the road, walking your bike on the sidewalk
- using bright lights and reflectors at night
- using high visibility clothing in low light conditions
- keeping your bike in good working order
- choosing cycling routes that you feel safe on
- not listening to music while cycling
- not getting on a bike while drunk
- wearing a helmet

I think that following the above advice you can usually reduce the risks associated with cycling to relatively negligible.  Cycling with traffic is a learned skill, and one that is unfortunately not really taught anywhere.  The more that you cycle in traffic, the better you get at reading situations and figuring out the safest way to approach them.

Simply having more cyclists around has been proven to make your bike trips safer because cars begin to understand how to share the roads and figure out common cyclist behaviour.  It's frustrating to see a regular stream of articles questioning the safety of cycling, thereby enticing people to stop or scaring people away from starting . . . thereby making my life a little less safe with each publication.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 01:06:30 PM by GuitarStv »

mskyle

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2016, 01:12:02 PM »
Two of my coworkers have been somewhat seriously injured (like, broken bones, missing work) in accidents with other cyclists on the bike path. Actually at least one friend of mine, also. It makes sense - that's who's on the bike path, and I think a lot of cyclists tend to just put their heads down and ride fast on the bike path. In all three of these cases the collision involved a slow cyclist and a fast cyclist (and the fast cyclists were the ones who got hurt, fwiw). Probably all three accidents could have been avoided if they'd slowed down as they approached the other cyclists.

I really do think cycling is as dangerous as you let it be.

MilesTeg

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2016, 01:46:58 PM »
Beware anyone, even MMM, who argues from statistics. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

This is not to say that statistics are not a good tool, but the problem is they are very, very easy to get wrong, and very easy to misinterpret. In order to have value, you have to very cleanly isolate one factor that you are measuring and do a lot of work to eliminate all other confounding factors. Most statistics fail this either through laziness or attempts at deception.

Biking is very safe, if you are in a place where you aren't competing for roadway with 2+ ton vehicles driven by people texting and you do it only in the daytime, only in good weather, etc. Biking is pretty dangerous otherwise.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 01:51:02 PM by MilesTeg »

kendallf

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2016, 02:08:29 PM »
Two of my coworkers have been somewhat seriously injured (like, broken bones, missing work) in accidents with other cyclists on the bike path. Actually at least one friend of mine, also. It makes sense - that's who's on the bike path, and I think a lot of cyclists tend to just put their heads down and ride fast on the bike path. In all three of these cases the collision involved a slow cyclist and a fast cyclist (and the fast cyclists were the ones who got hurt, fwiw). Probably all three accidents could have been avoided if they'd slowed down as they approached the other cyclists.

I really do think cycling is as dangerous as you let it be.

I have been riding thousands of miles per year for many years.  Predominantly road cycling, lots of commuting on high traffic roads.  All of my serious crashes have involved other cyclists in group rides or races.  I have had a couple of minor spills riding fast solo (wet RR tracks, sand in a switchback) and zero car incidents.

Bike commuting is the safest riding I do.  I try to minimize my risk by doing a lot of what GuitarStv suggests above. 

MilesTeg

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2016, 02:42:29 PM »
Two of my coworkers have been somewhat seriously injured (like, broken bones, missing work) in accidents with other cyclists on the bike path. Actually at least one friend of mine, also. It makes sense - that's who's on the bike path, and I think a lot of cyclists tend to just put their heads down and ride fast on the bike path. In all three of these cases the collision involved a slow cyclist and a fast cyclist (and the fast cyclists were the ones who got hurt, fwiw). Probably all three accidents could have been avoided if they'd slowed down as they approached the other cyclists.

I really do think cycling is as dangerous as you let it be.

I have been riding thousands of miles per year for many years.  Predominantly road cycling, lots of commuting on high traffic roads.  All of my serious crashes have involved other cyclists in group rides or races.  I have had a couple of minor spills riding fast solo (wet RR tracks, sand in a switchback) and zero car incidents.

Bike commuting is the safest riding I do.  I try to minimize my risk by doing a lot of what GuitarStv suggests above.

My grandpa ate a 1/2lb of bacon and 3 eggs every morning, smoked 2 packs a day and only ran when chased. He Lived into his late 80s. Clearly, consuming those things is the best possible diet.

PhilB

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2016, 02:46:45 PM »
I'd simplify GuitarStv's list right down to the following:
* High visibility clothing
* Decent Lights
* Patience
Lack of any of those is the most likely thing to get you killed on a bile.

dougules

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2016, 03:55:39 PM »
I knew a guy who was walking his dog and was injured badly on a sidewalk by another person walking a dog. Thus, dog walking is a dangerous activity.

Ha.  My dad has biked to work for years.  It's only 1 mile on very quiet neighborhood streets.  His biggest accident was a dog that ran out in front of him and caused him to go flying.  He broke his hip, but oddly enough that turned out to be a good thing.  When the doctor looked at the X-rays, he discovered that the knee pain he had been complaining about for years was actually arthritis in his hips. 


My grandpa ate a 1/2lb of bacon and 3 eggs every morning, smoked 2 packs a day and only ran when chased. He Lived into his late 80s. Clearly, consuming those things is the best possible diet.

I bet he also worked all day in the fields after eating all that, the same way my great grandfather did.  Maybe the best diet is chopping cotton all summer.


If you look at stats regarding bike commuting fatalities, more than half of them happen to people who are riding bikes while drunk.  The number that involve people cycling at night without lights takes another large chunk of them.

That brings me to just general foolishness.  Most of the few cyclists around here bob and weave, make erratic unsignaled turns, ride on the left into oncoming traffic, don't pay attention, ride with no lights, run red lights, and switch between the sidewalk and the road.  Car drivers around here would be dying left and right too if they drove that w... oh wait they already do. 
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 03:59:59 PM by dougules »

sol

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2016, 04:02:48 PM »
The general consensus from previous threads on this topic seems to be that if you only look at the risk of injuries sustained while doing it, biking safer than driving on a per hour basis but driving is safer than biking on a per mile basis.

But the odds change considerably when you consider the ancillary health benefits of regular biking instead of regular ass sitting.  Overall, people who bike live longer than people who don't.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 04:38:07 PM by sol »

tobitonic

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2016, 04:25:57 PM »
It's more dangerous per mile than driving; that's an established fact pretty much everywhere but on these forums. Whether it's worth it to you or not due to the other potential benefits of doing so depends on the individual. There have been times where it's been worth it to me and times where it hasn't. These days it isn't. I'll be more than happy to return to it the day it is. And as a side note, walking is far more strongly correlated with longevity than cycling.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 04:28:05 PM by tobitonic »

jorjor

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2016, 04:44:08 PM »
It was the summer of 2012. I was riding through a small town on the way back home on a ride with a friend. I live in an area where cycling is common, and was on a common cycling route on a residential street. It was mid-afternoon, partly cloudy, perfect visibility. I was going slightly downhill, probably 20 mph, the speed limit in that spot. I was on the street. Not at the intersection. There were parked cars on my right, and an oncoming car. No other cars around.

It happened really fast, so I didn't really see it start. That oncoming car decided to turn left into an alley, right into my path. I had nowhere to go other than into the car. Hit the brakes and I go over the handlebars under the car. That's no good. No escape to my right, due to those parked cars.

We hit, head on. I went flying up the car. My body caved in the hood pretty well and shattered the windshield. I ended up on the roof of the car. I got pretty lucky though. I did a barrel roll up the car rather than going face-first into that windshield. Nothing broken (I have broken a bone on a mountain bike). I walked away, in pretty bad pain for a while (still have neck soreness from time to time) but for the most part okay.

The driver was cited for careless driving, and was given 100% fault.

Following the rules of the road, being mindful of your surroundings, and being visible. Those are all great. They reduce your likelihood of an accident. I was doing all of those things. Shit can still happen. Not every driver is a good driver, not every driver is attentive. I'm more worried about the driver texting than I am about the guy who yells at me to get on the sidewalk. Getting hit by a car hurts more than the words of a jackass, from my experience.

Understand that there's a risk. Deal with that risk however you want to deal with it. It isn't risk-free.

I was commuting on my bike through downtown once I was healed up enough, a couple weeks later.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2016, 04:49:16 PM by jorjor »

GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2016, 05:44:56 PM »
I'd simplify GuitarStv's list right down to the following:
* High visibility clothing
* Decent Lights
* Patience
Lack of any of those is the most likely thing to get you killed on a bile.

Don't bike on sidewalks is an important one too.  It gives a very false sense of security.  The two times I've gone up onto hood of a car were when I was cycling on the sidewalk.  Cars are just not looking for something moving at cyclist speeds there.

MilesTeg

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2016, 07:37:33 PM »
It was the summer of 2012. I was riding through a small town on the way back home on a ride with a friend. I live in an area where cycling is common, and was on a common cycling route on a residential street. It was mid-afternoon, partly cloudy, perfect visibility. I was going slightly downhill, probably 20 mph, the speed limit in that spot. I was on the street. Not at the intersection. There were parked cars on my right, and an oncoming car. No other cars around.

It happened really fast, so I didn't really see it start. That oncoming car decided to turn left into an alley, right into my path. I had nowhere to go other than into the car. Hit the brakes and I go over the handlebars under the car. That's no good. No escape to my right, due to those parked cars.

We hit, head on. I went flying up the car. My body caved in the hood pretty well and shattered the windshield. I ended up on the roof of the car. I got pretty lucky though. I did a barrel roll up the car rather than going face-first into that windshield. Nothing broken (I have broken a bone on a mountain bike). I walked away, in pretty bad pain for a while (still have neck soreness from time to time) but for the most part okay.

The driver was cited for careless driving, and was given 100% fault.

Following the rules of the road, being mindful of your surroundings, and being visible. Those are all great. They reduce your likelihood of an accident. I was doing all of those things. Shit can still happen. Not every driver is a good driver, not every driver is attentive. I'm more worried about the driver texting than I am about the guy who yells at me to get on the sidewalk. Getting hit by a car hurts more than the words of a jackass, from my experience.

Understand that there's a risk. Deal with that risk however you want to deal with it. It isn't risk-free.

I was commuting on my bike through downtown once I was healed up enough, a couple weeks later.

Yep, there is next to nothing you can do to prevent others from screwing up, and when it's 2 tons of steel armored car vs you in your foam bike helmet, you are always going to lose.

skeptic

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2016, 09:47:11 PM »
That article is a very bad guide to even framing the idea of bike safety. Example: they rank the safest cities based on the number of bike fatalities per million people of the total population. Obviously if one city has more cyclists or the cyclists ride farther, it completely throws off the numbers and makes them less than useless.

My key point: you can ride safely in most urban situations and in many (but fewer) suburban/rural ones. As others have said, "it depends" and that's true.

My general recollection of safety articles is that biking is about 3x more dangerous than driving per vehicle mile traveled, but that biking is approximately the same danger level per person because the trips are shorter and they go fewer miles.

This article sums up the safety/health issues and responds to the original article directly: http://www.thewashcycle.com/2016/05/how-healthy-is-bike-commuting-more-than-you-might-think.html

I also want to add that, as MMM has said, safety is really all in the mind and is partly an illusion. Motor vehicle accidents are the #3 cause of death in the U.S., and the #1 leading cause of death for people under 35. The vast majority of those killed are inside motor vehicles. And yet, we engage in this exceptionally dangerous activity all the time and give it far less thought than we do to pesticides/drugs/gun violence/AIDS. Despite the dangers, we don't give driving much thought because it's what everyone else is doing and it's what our built environment was created for.

And the psychological reality is: if you are injured while driving, no one will say or think "Well that's what you get for choosing to drive." They won't blame driving; they'll call it an accident. But if you get injured while cycling, some people will subtly or overtly blame you for doing something dangerous, because it's not as common; it's something that is "other."

It's unfair but it's real. For me, I believe cycling makes the world a better place, and the more of us who do it, the safer and healthier we'll all be, and the more infrastructure will be created to support cyclists and keep us "safe" -- as much as that is even possible.

EricNYC

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2016, 01:08:49 AM »
Biking is great, but I think knowing and respecting your own confidence on the rode and comfort with risk is important too.

Personally, in NYC, I don't commute by bike -- yet. Technically, I work outside the city and use PATH to get to work, which doesn't allow bikes during rush hour. I'm also a fairly new cyclist, so take my advice with a grain of salt. When I get a job in the city itself, I'll probably start with biking up one of the protected bikeways (which are awesome), locking it up tight, and walking the remaining crosstown distance to my office. I'll build up my confidence from there.

And as a random side note: FWIW, I would never bike on Staten Island. Rode out to the South Shore once to go visit my folks, and I had a few too many close calls with aggressive motorists who seemed like they almost wanted to hit me!

dplasters

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2016, 05:14:24 AM »
I knew a guy who was walking his dog and was injured badly on a sidewalk by another person walking a dog. Thus, dog walking is a dangerous activity.

To clarify then: the discussion I envisioned is not about pollution or which which is healthier for the a human body, the exercise of cycling or sitting on your ass in your clown car, but the odds of a collision with a car (or another cyclist) and whether the impact of such low-stat events are considerably greater than sitting in your clown car. If so, how much? Or how to lower the odds?

The plural of anecdote is not data.  The discussion you want cannot happen because the data does not exist.

Lulee

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #23 on: May 13, 2016, 07:46:41 AM »
If you're looking for a statistical analysis, dplasters is probably right about the lack of numbers available to do the work.  Youíre in the right place though to organize an effort to accomplish this, what with all the software engineers and ardent bicyclists on this site.

Stats still are only a general use tool unless they are able to be broken down practically at street level.  Info gathered on the streets of NYC or LA arenít a great help here in my rural part of NH.  And the risks in my area vary wildly depending on the route and weather conditions --- when I did commute by car, there was a stretch of the singular direct route between towns that was often worrisome inside a vehicle and which I would never do on a bike even in good weather unless under extreme duress.

Perhaps itís only relevant to rural areas like mine which also have narrow, twisty roads with little to no breakdown lanes, but I rarely see bikers here mention interactions with animals.  For example, I know of a motorcyclist killed colliding with a turkey and worry myself when in my little Kia and have one fly up at windshield height in front of me.  I would presume this would fall below vehicles, other bicyclists, and pedestrians on the level of threats faced but would be a concern to me if I had a bike commute.  The smaller, zippier ones like cats, oppossums, squirrels, and foxes could make you dodge and crash.  Being struck by or striking larger ones like turkeys and deer would be, if done at speed, debilitating.  The rarer loose horse, bear, or moose strike maim or kill car occupants and so I presume could do the same to a bicyclist.

GuitarStv gave good advice on minimizing the risks.  Stats donít apply much if you're foolish.  Nor give comfort to the careful ones that get blindsided by random bad luck.

dougules

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #24 on: May 13, 2016, 10:22:02 AM »
And as a side note, walking is far more strongly correlated with longevity than cycling.

+1  I love cycling, but DH only does it begrudgingly.  Here lately we've been doing a lot of our errands walking.  It's really not a big deal to walk 2 miles round trip with a little patience, and it's a lot more peaceful than cycling.  People were made to walk, anyway. 

Still, though, cycling is still better for you than sitting on your fat ass to get around for the complainypants that think walking is more time consuming than a hospital stay. 

sol

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #25 on: May 13, 2016, 05:01:21 PM »
And as a side note, walking is far more strongly correlated with longevity than cycling.


What does walking have to do with this conversation?  Flying commercial is also safer than biking or driving, but it's hardly a replacement for either of them.

Biking is a viable replacement for driving on trips under about 20 miles (depending on how badass you are), and walking is only a viable replacement for trips under about two miles.  And if you're the type of person who takes the car on a two mile trip, you're definitely the type of person who would benefit from biking more.


tobitonic

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2016, 09:44:43 PM »
And as a side note, walking is far more strongly correlated with longevity than cycling.


What does walking have to do with this conversation?

Whenever anyone raises the irrelevant interjection (as you did) of cycling having health benefits that outweigh the risks of dying compared to auto travel, it's worth noting that there are a number of more effective ways to add years to your life.

sol

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #27 on: May 14, 2016, 12:23:45 AM »
Whenever anyone raises the irrelevant interjection (as you did)

I don't think it's irrelevant at all.  There are risks associated with biking, and there are risks associated with biking.  The biggest risk (largest reduction in expected lifespan) of driving is that you turn into a fatass because you don't get enough exercise, if you're the type of person who drives everywhere.

It's not fair to focus on only one type of risk.  I could equally argue that riding a bike is WAY safer because your risk of getting two black eyes from an airbag deployment is virtually zero on a bike.  What good does it do to focus in on only one risk while ignoring all of the others?

Quote
compared to auto travel, it's worth noting that there are a number of more effective ways to add years to your life.

And which of those ways, exactly, are your pursuing by being a car clown?  This discussion was about the risks of driving vs the risks of biking, and suddenly your'e arguing that the best thing to do is to eat your vegetables and go for a walk every day?  That's not about the driving vs biking risk at all, is it?

mwulff

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #28 on: May 14, 2016, 12:29:48 AM »
I would say that bike-commuting is pretty safe as such.

Things that could make it unsafe:

1. Inexperienced cyclist - It takes time to build bike-riding experience and plan ahead.
2. Bad roads filled with 2,5 ton monster clown cars
3. Inattentive drivers with more cellphone than common sense.

So depending on where you are and how your local roads are safety will vary. Statistics only gives a picture for a country (state, whatever) not for your local situation.

In my country kids start biking to school at the age of 6 with their parents, at 8 they ride alone. When they reach 15 everybody is an experienced rider, it's just they way it works.

But judge local conditions and consider using safe trails to build experience before throwing yourself into heavy traffic. And no, as a beginner you don't get to ride while listening to music.  And no, as an experienced rider you don't get to listen to loud music that drowns out traffic.

tobitonic

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #29 on: May 14, 2016, 08:32:49 AM »
Whenever anyone raises the irrelevant interjection (as you did)

I don't think it's irrelevant at all.

You don't have to; no one's going to die if we disagree on the Internet. But if you're bringing potential health benefits of cycling into a discussion of risk, it's equally relevant to point out that you can significantly increase your odds of a long life without cycling, and (gasp!) more effectively than through cycling. You can even do it while continuing to drive a car to work!

nereo

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #30 on: May 14, 2016, 09:08:53 AM »
Why, whenever this subject comes up, do people post anecdotes of bike accidents but rarely or never car accidents?  Both are equally (in)valid to the discussion at hand...

ender

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #31 on: May 14, 2016, 09:18:21 AM »
Don't bike on sidewalks is an important one too.  It gives a very false sense of security.  The two times I've gone up onto hood of a car were when I was cycling on the sidewalk.  Cars are just not looking for something moving at cyclist speeds there.

This depends a lot on what sidewalks/paths look like. I bike on paths/sidewalks at all times, unless I am crossing a street.

I will continue doing this as I am confident that it is safer for me to do so than to bike on the street.

The Happy Philosopher

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #32 on: May 14, 2016, 10:13:37 AM »
The problem with these discussions is people have preconceived notions of what they want to be true, then they present data to support their claim. I will say that from all the data I have read and the anecdotal data I have collected from being in the health care industry for 15+ years that biking is statistically more dangerous that driving per mile. Per hour calculations are pretty useless when discussing commuting because it is a fixed distance, not a fixed time.

I see bicycle injuries and fatalities out of proportion to automobile injuries and fatalities (there are more auto, but also way more auto drivers). Many bike and auto accidents are a result of bad decisions (Drinking, no helmet, riding the wrong way in the bike lane - yes this happens all the time and it makes me scratch my head in bewilderment), but there are also many I see and people I personally know that are experienced cyclists doing everything right.

Remember though that average statistics are only a guideline. Each person is going to have their own risk profile and there is going to be some guesswork involved. Some communities are more bike friendly than others. Some automobile commutes are going to be safer than others. Speed kills people in cars, so a commute involving a two lane highway with no median and a speed limit of 55 is way more dangerous than 35 or 40 mph city streets. I've been to some communities I would simply not commute on my bike if I lived there. You have to judge this for yourself. Don't listen to me or any of the "biking is always better" evangelists. Ride the route and judge it's safety.

As far as the "if you don't bike you will become fat and die of a heart attack" argument, this is just silly. There are so many things you can substitute for bike riding to get the moderate amount of exercise to reduce cardiovascular risk. If you love to ride a bike then be all means use it as your form of exercise and commute. If yo get absolutely no exercise in your life and a bike commute is your gateway drug then it's probably a very healthy choice for you.

As for the studies that state people that ride bikes live longer, these are self-selecting populations. Studies like this are weak data. Whenever you have groups that self-select there are likely many other differences they select for that are correlated with the activity you are trying to test for. A great example of this is the alcohol consumption/mortality study. According to this study people that consume small amounts of alcohol live longer than people who abstain. This seems to be true, but it does not mean that drinking alcohol will cause you to live longer. These things are correlated, but there is no proof of causation. Biking and drinking (please not at the same time) may cause you to live longer but my guess is there are many other factors that are involved.

If you are really concerned about safety I will say this: Transportation is relatively dangerous compared to other activities. Minimizing your total transportation miles is worthwhile, whether these be on bike or car. Be visible. Wear a helmet. Follow rules of the road. Biking is awesome and commuting to work on a bike is awesome, but its not safer than driving.

GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #33 on: May 14, 2016, 11:20:17 AM »
Don't bike on sidewalks is an important one too.  It gives a very false sense of security.  The two times I've gone up onto hood of a car were when I was cycling on the sidewalk.  Cars are just not looking for something moving at cyclist speeds there.

This depends a lot on what sidewalks/paths look like. I bike on paths/sidewalks at all times, unless I am crossing a street.

I will continue doing this as I am confident that it is safer for me to do so than to bike on the street.

Yeah, so was I.  As I mentioned before though, it's a false sense of security (unless you dismount and walk across any section of sidewalk that is intersected by a road or driveway).

http://www.bike.cornell.edu/pdfs/Sidewalk_biking_FAQ.pdf

There have been many studies showing that you're statistically more at risk on the sidewalk.

ender

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #34 on: May 14, 2016, 11:37:20 AM »

Yeah, so was I.  As I mentioned before though, it's a false sense of security (unless you dismount and walk across any section of sidewalk that is intersected by a road or driveway).

http://www.bike.cornell.edu/pdfs/Sidewalk_biking_FAQ.pdf

There have been many studies showing that you're statistically more at risk on the sidewalk.

I generally do, unless I make eye contact with drivers nearby. I also have the luxury of hybrid bike-path-sidewalks for 95% of my route, with only a few driveways (which I worry about the most).

Regarding risk? The increase in risk in this situation is because I am dumb, not when drivers are dumb. If I speed through a crossing or ignore driveways and bike through them too fast? That's 100% on me. It's nearly 100% a risk I can control.

If I'm on the road I am a lot of that risk is in the hands of other people, even if it is a lower total risk.

franklin w. dixon

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #35 on: May 14, 2016, 09:45:05 PM »
Like most normal people I wear sunscreen indoors underneath my full suit of medieval armor while posting thousands of words about the best ways to avoid the dreaded Africanized Bee.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #36 on: May 15, 2016, 02:23:08 AM »
I try and be selective about where I ride. I'd really prefer not to ride on a road with a speed limit of 70km/h (~45mph) or higher. Really in a 60 zone I'd feel far safer with a dedicated bike lane.

I used to live on a main road (80km/h speed limit), and I didn't ride on it because I didn't feel safe. However I'm happy riding in the CBD (lots of traffic, but 40km/h speed limits and bike lanes).

Ride where you feel safe, and if you don't feel safe there, don't ride.

Speaking of which, isn't public transport safer than both per passenger mile? :)

franklin w. dixon

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #37 on: May 15, 2016, 10:42:15 AM »
I try and be selective about where I ride. I'd really prefer not to ride on a road with a speed limit of 70km/h (~45mph) or higher. Really in a 60 zone I'd feel far safer with a dedicated bike lane.

I used to live on a main road (80km/h speed limit), and I didn't ride on it because I didn't feel safe. However I'm happy riding in the CBD (lots of traffic, but 40km/h speed limits and bike lanes).

Ride where you feel safe, and if you don't feel safe there, don't ride.

Speaking of which, isn't public transport safer than both per passenger mile? :)
Yes; the numbers differ by country and region of course but on a per-mile basis bus and rail are the safest ways to travel (even safer than passenger airlines). Cars have something like eight times more fatalities per passenger-mile than busses; bicycles four times cars; walking twice as many as bicycles; and motorcycling three times as many as walking. These numbers are from the UK but they're good enough for guesstimation purposes.

There are several important caveats though, all of which point to the fact that transportation fatalities are a public policy problem, not a individual choicy choice problem.

First, in all cases, the easiest way to reduce absolute deaths is to reduce the number of miles traveled. When cities are built to make walking and bicycling feasible in the first place, everyone is safer. Bicyclists are safer than non-bicyclists not because of any endemic attribute to the activity, but because their lifestyles permit bicycling in the first place. It should be a high priority of government to ensure that as many people as possible live close to where they work and have low-speed, human-scale routes between their most frequent destinations. The opposite has been the case for most of the past 70 years in the United States.

Second, it is important to remember that almost all bicycle fatalities involve collisions with cars. The degree to which bicycling is dangerous is, again, not endemic to the activity, but to the society in which it takes place.

I recognize that people still have to decide on an individual basis whether to bike/drive/somersault to work. But my joke about applying sunscreen indoors was in reference to the fact that on an individual basis all modes of travel are quite safe. That's even true for motorcycling, which is by far the most dangerous mode. Even then, 125 deaths per billion passenger-miles (the UK figure) works out to one death per eight million miles. And in all modes of individual transport much of the risk can be controlled by not popping wheelies on the interstate, not driving drunk, not bicycling on the precipice of an erupting volcano, etc. It does not make mathematical sense to choose a mode of transportation based on transportation fatality statistics. I can't control people's feelings or phobias but it would be nice if we didn't have to endure this moronic thread every three god damn days.

Metric Mouse

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2016, 06:50:17 AM »
Whenever anyone raises the irrelevant interjection (as you did)

I don't think it's irrelevant at all.

You don't have to; no one's going to die if we disagree on the Internet. But if you're bringing potential health benefits of cycling into a discussion of risk, it's equally relevant to point out that you can significantly increase your odds of a long life without cycling, and (gasp!) more effectively than through cycling. You can even do it while continuing to drive a car to work!

Well said. Cycling is dangerous; as long as that's accepted, it's a fine activity to do. Presenting it as a cure-all for anything is inaccurate. Misrepresenting the risks of commuting on a bicycle does not benefit anyone. There are honestly more efficient and safer ways to be healthy and to commute than biking; those are the facts. If one chooses to still cycle, that's great. If one chooses to delude themselves into thinking that biking is something its not; that's also great. But misrepresenting the risks to others is unfair, and should be called out. Good work Tobitonic.

GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2016, 07:40:17 AM »
All transportation is inherently dangerous.

Motorcycles - 125 deaths per billion miles
Walking - 41 deaths per billion miles
Bicycles - 35 deaths per billion miles
Cars - 4 deaths per billion miles
Airplanes - 0.5 deaths per billion miles
Buses - 0.5 deaths per billion miles
Trains - 0.2 deaths per billion miles

http://961theeagle.com/what-is-the-safest-way-to-travel-by-plane-car-train-space-shuttle/


When we're talking about 'danger' it's important to remember that per mile it's safer to cycle than walk.  Do you ever take your life in your hands by strolling down the street, you daredevil you?

It's about eight times more dangerous per mile to bike than take a car.  Certainly however, nobody really concerned about safety would own a car.  Taking a car is 20 times more dangerous than a train.  Doing that and then singling out cycling as especially dangerous is pretty hypocritical.

That said, if you go 20 miles a day every single day for your entire life you would be able to live to be over 1000 before you would be likely to die in an accident on a motorcycle.  Which is far and away the most dangerous form of transportation.

sol

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2016, 08:01:46 AM »
misrepresenting the risks to others is unfair, and should be called out. Good work Tobitonic.

Since I'm the one being criticized here, can you help me out by pointing out where I misrepresented the risks?  I think you're fighting a phantom battle.

Was it when I said biking was more dangerous pet mile than driving?  Was it when I said that the health benefits of exercise you get by biking more than offsets the risk of injury from biking?  Because both of those things are still true, and I fail to see how they are misleading.

Jeremy E.

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #41 on: May 16, 2016, 11:10:05 AM »
And as a side note, walking is far more strongly correlated with longevity than cycling.


What does walking have to do with this conversation?

Whenever anyone raises the irrelevant interjection (as you did) of cycling having health benefits that outweigh the risks of dying compared to auto travel, it's worth noting that there are a number of more effective ways to add years to your life.
There are MANY ways to potentially increase your lifespan, but this is irrelevant. A large majority of people don't get enough exercise, and the benefit from exercise they could receive from riding a bike would greatly outweigh the VERY small chance of dying on a bike.

CanuckExpat

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #42 on: May 17, 2016, 12:58:11 AM »
When we talk about the "dangers of bike commuting" and pedestrian fatalities, remember that we are really talking about the dangers of automobiles, especially at the fatality level. With some exceptions, when there is a bike or pedestrian fatality, it almost always has to do with an interaction between the vulnerable road user and an automobile.

Every person who decides that biking isn't safe enough for them and drives instead ends up making the roads less safe for everyone over all (including other motorists). It's a Tragedy of the commons.

See also: The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life


MustachianAccountant

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2016, 02:16:12 AM »

Simply having more cyclists around has been proven to make your bike trips safer because cars begin to understand how to share the roads and figure out common cyclist behaviour. 

We were in the Netherlands a few weeks ago. I didn't take the picture below, but it's a common sight, especially at commuter train stations. You see more bikes parked than cars parked.

Bike paths are EVERYwhere. Literally. A two lane car road will usually also have another two lanes for bike traffic. When you cross the road, you're just as wary of getting hit by a bike as getting hit by a car. Drivers definitely are aware of bikers, and know how to share the road.
So... what are the stats for the Netherlands? How do they compare?


tobitonic

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2016, 08:50:59 PM »

Simply having more cyclists around has been proven to make your bike trips safer because cars begin to understand how to share the roads and figure out common cyclist behaviour. 

We were in the Netherlands a few weeks ago. I didn't take the picture below, but it's a common sight, especially at commuter train stations. You see more bikes parked than cars parked.

Bike paths are EVERYwhere. Literally. A two lane car road will usually also have another two lanes for bike traffic. When you cross the road, you're just as wary of getting hit by a bike as getting hit by a car. Drivers definitely are aware of bikers, and know how to share the road.
So... what are the stats for the Netherlands? How do they compare?



I don't know the stats on accident rates, but I do know (because I've been an advocate for humanistic and not vehicular cycling for more than a decade now) that the modal share of bicycles (i.e., the percentage of folks who use them to commute) in certain cities in the Netherlands, Denmark, and a few other locations is as high as 40%, which is...40x higher than the overall US modal share, and at least 4x higher than that in our largest bike-"friendly" city here (Portland). But cycling isn't much more common there because random people decided to be badasses; it took a lot of top-down policy shifts to make people feel safe, which led to cyclists everywhere over time. The key word is infrastructure.

There are blogs that go into this extensively, such as copenhagenize.com (from a technical end) and copenhagencyclechic.com (from a people-focused advocacy end). The thing is, though, in pretty much all of these bike-friendly areas, the cyclists don't do absurd things (as a rule) like dress up in lycra, ride at 15 mph, "take the lane", use HID lights, commute 10 miles to work, etc. That's a very American mindset because bicycling here is fundamentally unsafe because the infrastructure is designed to make things as convenient as possible for cars, and by extension, as inconvenient as possible for pedestrian and cycle-based (and public) transportation. Bike-friendly areas are designed the opposite way in mind. Good bike infrastructure isn't top secret technology, but it does require a willingness to implement it. One obvious example of many is the placement of bike lanes to the right of parked cars instead of to the left, which leads to cars naturally protecting bicycles instead of cyclists constantly at risk of being crushed between traffic. There are many other simple implementations common in bike-friendly environments. As a rule, the US is almost completely lacking in all of them (yes, even in Portland).

Any strategy that asks people to share roads with 30 mph+ traffic is going to fail, and will be reflected in the atrociously low cycling population and the absurd gender- and age-bias in the few who do cycle (predominantly male, predominantly under 40). In bike-friendly cities, you see equal numbers of men and women cycling. You see children cycling and the elderly (yes, 70 and 80 year olds can still ride bicycles if they feel safe enough to do so and see others doing so). It's a different world. Telling people to toughen up and brave high speed traffic and engage in several mile commutes is going to keep cycling right where it is in the US--pretty much nowhere. Like every other serious issue facing society, it's not one we're going to solve by individual badassery, which is why the very idea of Mustachianism (save 25x your income and retire at 40!) is always going to fail at the societal level vs larger actions (like pensions, social security, living wages).

I've gone on too long; here are a few pictures from CCC.



Note how wide the bike lane is. Note how it's not part of the street. Note how there's an equivalent lane on the other side of the street. Note how the cyclists aren't dressed like they're Doing Serious Business, but more like...pedestrians, or car drivers. Note how he's on a bike capable of carrying a car seat, or at least two kids not in car seats.



Note the big, bright, blue bike lane. Note how it's separate, yet parallel, from an equivalent crosswalk for pedestrians, underscoring how both are acknowledged parts of the community. Note how the cyclist on the left is female, and wearing high heels (i.e., going to work).

It's not as simple as telling people to just get on their bikes and stop being wusses. Our inability to grasp this here is part of why they also have things like universal healthcare and affordable college educations; they haven't been brainwashed (yet) into thinking societal failures are just failures of the individual.

CanuckExpat

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #45 on: May 17, 2016, 09:01:59 PM »
It's not as simple as telling people to just get on their bikes and stop being wusses. Our inability to grasp this here is part of why they also have things like universal healthcare and affordable college educations; they haven't been brainwashed (yet) into thinking societal failures are just failures of the individual.

I agree with you, but don't see the need to make it either-or with telling people to just get on bikes.
I've cycled in Berlin and the bike infastructure is indredible and allows a type of wide-scale cycling because it is common place.

That infrastructure isn't in North America, so the safest thing to do often is for example taking the lane, or vehicular cycling precepts. The infastructure isn't going to show up in North America overnight, and it more likely to show up if we have more people cycling now. So the more people who cycle with the existing infastructure, the more likely we are to have better infastructure.

Perhaps a chicken and egg, but I don't think we need to say these are either-or

GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #46 on: May 18, 2016, 06:31:01 AM »
The thing is, though, in pretty much all of these bike-friendly areas, the cyclists don't do absurd things (as a rule) like dress up in lycra, ride at 15 mph, "take the lane", use HID lights, commute 10 miles to work, etc.

I'm generally on board with the thrust of your post.  People don't cycle in North America because it's perceived as not being safe.  I fully support the construction of cycling infrastructure, and am 100% behind people who want to bike to work a mile or two in their office clothes.

I'm not sure what your deal is with cycling in lycra.  Wearing bike shorts makes an awful lot of sense for anyone who is cycling any sort of distance regularly in warm weather.  It's much more comfortable than office clothing, and helps to prevent chafing/sores.  Around here we usually get a month or two of weather where it's about 100% humidity and 35C during the day.  Even if you're only going 2-3 miles you will be soaked in sweat in these conditions on a bike . . . particularly when you remember that in North America there is a lot of hilly terrain.  It's not all pancake flat like the Netherlands.  The temperature is a marked difference from the Netherlands where the hottest it gets in summer doesn't rise much over 20 degrees, with moderate humidity.  Taking this into account, it makes sense that people would wear different clothing.

As has been mentioned by CanuckExpat, taking the lane is done for safety.  I mentioned that I agree with you that infrastructure in North America could certainly be much better.  Currently it isn't though.  Every time that there is discussion about bike infrastructure, the people who don't support it point to the fact that there are few regular cyclists in an area.  To build the infrastructure, we need to show demand by getting more people cycling.  Why rail against a method that keeps those who are working towards this safer?

Going back to the comparison between the Netherlands and North America . . . cities aren't as dense here.  They're often designed with small pockets of dense areas and large amounts of suburban sprawl.  People live further from work because of this.  It's a long and slow process to transform cities around this issue.  If you want to limit bike commuting to a couple miles then you're not going to have as many people using bikes in North America in our lifetime.  Or you'll have to think of commuting 10 miles by bike as 'average' rather than 'absurd'.

HID lights tend to be pretty expensive.  They're usually used by people who mountain bike in pitch black conditions.  I wouldn't recommend them for city cycling.  In four years of regular commuting through the years, I've never seen one on city streets though.  The most popular lights are small LED lights, which don't put out enough light for safety when riding unlit bike paths.  Sadly, the majority of people I see cycling at dusk/night don't use any lights at all.


I do agree with you that riding at 15 mph is absurdly slow though.  :P

ender

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #47 on: May 18, 2016, 06:37:47 AM »
+1 to what GuitarStv said.

You can't take a square peg and jam it into a smaller circular hole.

Like it or not, most non-coastal North American cities have much more sprawl and lower density than European cities.

One additional anecdotal difference I've seen is that North American cities tend to be much more segregated by purpose - you have relatively large residential areas and industrial/business areas. This is especially true with respect to suburbs. Relatively rare to see a fairly homogenous mix, with businesses and cities fairly mixed together. But whenever I traveled in Europe it seemed cities were a much more homogenous mix. Which makes it easier to live closer to where you work and reduce the bike commute requirements. Not sure how universal this is but it also affects general bikeability.


GuitarStv

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #48 on: May 18, 2016, 06:51:57 AM »
it took a lot of top-down policy shifts to make people feel safe

This is another important snippet from your post.  I already showed that cycling in North America is safer than walking.  People walk all the frigging time though.  In North America the problem isn't really lack of safety cycling, it's lack of feeling safe while cycling.  That's why threads like this one keep popping up over and over again.

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Re: How Safe Is Bike Commuting?
« Reply #49 on: May 18, 2016, 11:26:15 AM »
I'm not sure what your deal is with cycling in lycra.  Wearing bike shorts makes an awful lot of sense for anyone who is cycling any sort of distance regularly in warm weather.  It's much more comfortable than office clothing, and helps to prevent chafing/sores.

Heh ya, I also caught the lycra thing and thought it was odd. It's not the first time I've heard a similar sentiment.
I normally bike in "regular" clothes, but I have no problem if someone wants to wear bike specific stuff. To each their own, I don't see any point in attacking or ridiculing someone else's choices.

Sometimes I wear regular clothes, I bike a bit slower to avoid working up a sweat. It's relaxing and I don't have to wear about changing at my destination

Sometimes I wear performance gear, then I can bike to work harder and faster and have a different kind of fun ride. Taking a shower at work and then changing is also a nice routine and lets me ease into the morning.

They are both good and valid choices. There's more than one road to wherever you are going.