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How Safe Is Cycling?

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the endoskeleon-vs-exoskeleton dept.

Transportation 947

theodp writes "With new bike sharing programs all the rage, spending tens of millions of dollars to make city streets more bike friendly with hundreds of miles of bike lanes has become a priority for bike-loving mayors like NYC's Michael Bloomberg and Chicago's Rahm Emanuel. 'You cannot be for a startup, high-tech economy and not be pro-bike,' claimed Emanuel, who credited bike-sharing and bike lanes for attracting Google and Motorola Mobility to downtown Chicago. Now, with huge bike-sharing contracts awarded and programs underway, the NY Times asks the big question, How Safe Is Cycling? Because bike accidents rarely make front page news and are likely to be dramatically underreported, it's hard to say, concludes the NYT's Gina Kolata. UCSF trauma surgeon Dr. Rochelle Dicker, who studied hospital and police records for 2,504 bicyclists treated at San Francisco General Hospital, told Kolata,'Lots of my colleagues do not want to ride after seeing these [city biking] injuries.' On the other hand, Andy Pruitt, the founder of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and an avid lifelong cyclist, said the dangers were overstated, noting he's only broken his collarbone twice and hip once in four decades of long-distance cycling. So, is cycling safe, especially in the city? And is it OK to follow Mayor Emanuel's lead and lose the helmet?"

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947 comments

How safe? (5, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#45224545)

Google is your friend, it can show you every last killed and injured biker.

http://www.nhtsa.gov/Bicycles [nhtsa.gov]
http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811743.pdf [dot.gov]

OTOH there are 89 car related deaths each and every day in the US, those too do not make the front page.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year [wikipedia.org]

Re:How safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224577)

This needs to be put into context. Raw statistics don't do anyone any good, and can actually be misleading sometimes.

An important distinction (4, Informative)

gweilo8888 (921799) | about 6 months ago | (#45224579)

It will show you every last *reported* injured biker. That's a very big and important distinction. Equally important is how many of those injuries were on public roads. Whether or not some kid on an off-road course injured himself is of little importance.

Re:An important distinction (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 6 months ago | (#45224641)

It will show you every last *reported* injured biker. That's a very big and important distinction. Equally important is how many of those injuries were on public roads. Whether or not some kid on an off-road course injured himself is of little importance.

Depends on how "off-road" is defined; I agree a cyclist crashing into a tree on a backwoods trail shouldn't be included in the figures, but what about one that runs over a pedestrian because he was riding on the sidewalk? Technically 'off-road,' but still occurred in an urban setting next to the road, so it should be counted, just like if a car were to do the same thing.

Also, I don't see any reference to a percentage by volume - of course more people will be injured by cars, because there are significantly more cars on the road than bikes.

Re:An important distinction (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#45224647)

"It will show you every last *reported* injured biker. That's a very big and important distinction. Equally important is how many of those injuries were on public roads. Whether or not some kid on an off-road course injured himself is of little importance."

It's all there, the time of day, if it's an intersection or not and so on.

Re:An important distinction (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 6 months ago | (#45224873)

It also doesn't compare apples to apples: how many miles are the riders riding, versus the car drivers, and what is the accident rate per-mile?

The simple fact is that bicycling (as much as I love it) is horrendously dangerous in urban areas, and the reason is cars (and even worse, SUVs). All these moves to build bike lanes are idiotic and wasteful, because they do absolutely nothing to physically separate bikes from cars, and cars will drive in the bike lanes whenever they want (which is, every time they need to take a right turn, or simply stop paying attention, or get drunk).

If these idiot mayors want to encourage bicycling, they need to build real bike roads, like they have in Copenhagen, where the bikes are the only thing on the road, not cars, and not pedestrians either. That's the only way to do it.

Re:An important distinction (5, Insightful)

pmontra (738736) | about 6 months ago | (#45225065)

Given the speed and travelled distance difference between cars and bicycles maybe per-hour accidents would be a better metric.

Thumbs up for separating bikes from everything else, cars and pedestrians. Bike lanes on sidewalks in city centers are slow and dangerous because of pedestrians. I always prefer to share the road with cars: they're more predictable and I get home sooner.

Re:How safe? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224637)

When the government "pays" for your medical bills, only outlaws will have bikes.

Re:How safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224789)

Absolutely useless statistics. The important statistic would be how many injuries per mile travelled. Obviously, the more miles you travel in any vehicle, the more risk you are exposed to. I have a feeling that mile per injury, cars are safer. Unfortunately, I've never seen such a statistic for bicycles, and since they don't have an odometer, nor do cyclists typically report their yearly distance driven, there's no way to derive the statistic. :(

Flying is incredibly safe for the average passenger, however, pilots experience a lot more safety issues with aircraft than the passengers do, simply because of the time spent in one.

Re:How safe? (1)

lxs (131946) | about 6 months ago | (#45225089)

If you average more than one injury per mile travelled, I suggest you stick to walking.

Injuries are seldom reported (4, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 6 months ago | (#45224911)

Google is your friend, it can show you every last killed and injured biker.

No it cannot possibly show you every last injured cyclist. Killed I could believe but definitely not injured because most cycling injuries never get reported including those that involve cars. I've been in numerous cycling accidents myself of which *maybe* one may have been documented somewhere because it required sutures. I've been in and around competitive cycling my entire life (father races) and I assure you that very few bicycle accidents are ever reported to the police much less the NHTSA.

only? (5, Insightful)

themushroom (197365) | about 6 months ago | (#45224581)

he's only broken his collarbone twice and hip once

Only? That sounds like proof of concept rather than a proof of overstatement.

Re:only? (2)

gweilo8888 (921799) | about 6 months ago | (#45224619)

Indeed. In two decades of driving, I have had precisely zero driving-related injuries of any kind. (And in four decades of being driven or driving myself, I have been in precisely two accidents, neither involving injury to myself, and only one involving injuries to anybody -- all of which were extremely minor compared to those this single biker has received.)

Re:only? (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 6 months ago | (#45224767)

Yes! I've had a number of minor fender-benders, with zero injuries, but if a car hit a bike with equal force, there would be injuries, and maybe deaths.

Re:only? (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 6 months ago | (#45224907)

In your 20 years of driving, you've almost certainly logged more miles than that guy has in 40 years of cycling.

All of these injury and fatality statistics have to be divided by miles driven/ridden.

Re:only? (2)

war4peace (1628283) | about 6 months ago | (#45225015)

On the other hand, the pollution from the car you drove for 20 years amounts to how much exactly?
The conceptual problem with this approach is that we're thinking egocentrically while completely disregarding the indirect effects of our behavior.

I've been biking for 15 years regularly (and irregularly for 10 years before that) and had zero incidents but quite a few close calls, all due to motorists not paying attention to what's around them. But I admit I had zero incidents because I bike very, very carefully. I almost never go above 20 miles/hour (peak speeds, not averages). My average is around 8-10 miles/hour, depending on traffic (below 8 during rush hours, a bit above 10 if it's late in the night or crack of dawn).

I'm careful because there's always this risk of getting into a duel you can't win against a 5000 pounds metal, fast moving, hard object driven by some dude who texts, and that's a duel I can't win.

Yes, you risk more as a biker if you're not paying attention. So pay attention. Don't feel entitled to the same rights as a motorist, because although you do have them in theory, in practice they're not worth shit in case of a collision.

Re:only? (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 6 months ago | (#45224685)

Well in 4 decades of long distance cycling.

I think it comes down to what you mean by "safe". Yes you are likely to take some injuries if you cycle a not insignificant amount, however, most people will not do nearly as much cycling as a distance cycler who has been at it for so long.

He is still alive and still biking, a couple of broken bones....meh.

You could easily get those injuries or worst slipping in the tub or down some stairs.

Re:only? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 6 months ago | (#45224771)

If you manage to break your collarbone by slipping in the tub, you might want to check your calcium uptake...

Re:only? (1)

slacklinejoe (1784298) | about 6 months ago | (#45224691)

And Boulder is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world where drivers are used to cyclists and he's still had several major and potentially life threatening injuries (if it was enough force to break a collar bone, he could have broken his neck if he'd landed differently). Image what it's like elsewhere.

Re:only? (2, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 6 months ago | (#45225021)

Exactly. One of the cities cited in the article is NYC; I live right next to Manhattan and visit frequently, and it's one of the least bike-friendly cities I've ever seen. Even in the few places where there's bike lanes, it's in no way safe, because of the crazy car drivers (esp. taxis). I even saw a biker hit by a taxi as soon as I got out of the bus station one day; the taxi didn't even stop. You have to be extremely reckless or insane to ride a bike in this crazy city.

NYC really strikes me as a "me too!!" city; it's weird how people here think this is "the greatest city on Earth" (why, I have no idea), but it always trying to play catch-up with some trend that another city started and does far better. First, it was IT tech; they tried pitching themselves as an alternative to Silicon Valley with the idiotic-sounding "Silicon Alley", but unlike Silicon Valley where things are clean and nice and there's lots of high-tech companies paying enormous salaries, here it's old and dirty, but the cost of living is higher (if you go by $/square foot tempered by commuting time; the public transit totally sucks if you live outside Manhattan), and the companies don't pay shit here, and think there's something wrong with you if you've ever worked someplace for less than 15 years. Now it's bicycling: Portland is the most bike-friendly city in the US by far, so now NYC wants to do a "me-too" on that too, and somehow try to convince everyone to hop on bicycles and not worry about getting hit by a speeding cab or a city bus while riding on streets that are about as smooth and well-maintained as those in Beirut, while breathing air as clean as that in Beijing. Heck, NYCers even try to convince themselves they're liberals, while they continually re-elect billionaire Republicans for their mayor.

Re:only? (5, Informative)

frinkster (149158) | about 6 months ago | (#45224837)

he's only broken his collarbone twice and hip once

Only? That sounds like proof of concept rather than a proof of overstatement.

If you were to see the actual quote, you may feel differently:

Dr. Pruitt cites his own example. Now 62, he was a bicycle racer and has been riding for the past four decades. He covers 5,000 to 10,000 miles a year.

In all that time, he has had four serious crashes. He broke his collarbone twice while racing and had two crashes on a mountain bike, breaking a hip one time and spraining a wrist the other.

This is a worthless data point.

context (4, Informative)

themushroom (197365) | about 6 months ago | (#45224933)

He broke his collarbone twice while racing and had two crashes on a mountain bike

Okay, you get the win on this one. Slashdot description is deceptive; thanks for the clarification these injuries were not in the street use the article is about.

Re:only? (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | about 6 months ago | (#45224913)

Keep in mind this is over four decades of cycling for sport. Any physical activity you do for sport is going to come with some risk of injury - be it bicycling, football (American or World), rock climbing, etc. It's not accurate to compare injuries obtained cycling for both sport and commute with injuries obtained while driving for the commute.

Re:only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224979)

Any physical activity you do for sport is going to come with some risk of injury - be it bicycling, football (American or World), rock climbing, etc.

As the old joke about the doctor's diagnosis goes... well, don't do that, then.

Re:only? (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 6 months ago | (#45224935)

Depends. Cycling can be very safe: get a big, comfortable city bike, stick to bicycle lanes, ride at about 15 mph or less, wear a helmet, stop at all intersections and generally coast with the hand on the brake. I can pretty much guarantee no accidents - at least, no accidents that you could have avoided. You still run the risk of getting run over by an idiot who isn't paying attention, but the risk at that point is similar to being a pedestrian.

On the other hand, do some serious mountain biking, hit 35 mph on twisty one-lane mountain roads, and any small issue (debris on the road, pothole, car overtaking you too closely) can very quickly escalate into an ER trip.

It's all about your own choices. Just like driving.

Re:only? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224989)

Skydiving is even safer, every person who has fallen to their death while skydiving has only ever done so on a single occasion.

Ummmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224585)

I don't think I'd call an activity that resulted in a BROKEN F@#$ING HIP to be safe.

Re:Ummmm.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225053)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromort

Cycling 7 miles is about as dangerous as smoking a cigarette. Our cities really should be cycle free zones.

Please (3, Insightful)

krept (697623) | about 6 months ago | (#45224623)

Wear a helmet.

Re:Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224651)

Yes... that'll prevent collarbone and hip fractures.

Re:Please (1)

wjh31 (1372867) | about 6 months ago | (#45224729)

Judging by the image results on searching his name, Andy Pruitt does wear a helmet. Of course a helmet doesn't prevent injuries to the hip (in fact may increase them by risk normalisation) but what additional injuries may have been prevented by wearing the helmet.

Re:Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224931)

Yes... that'll prevent collarbone and hip fractures.

Nope but (as someone who hit the A-pillar of a pickup that turned off left in front of/across me, at about 50km/h on a scooter, resulting in a broken upper arm and a piece knocked out of the hip joint socket) it sure as hell does good things to protect something that doesn't heal as easily as bones. The full, closed, helmet definitely saved my noggin' that day...

Re:Please (1)

DudeTheMath (522264) | about 6 months ago | (#45224763)

One study has shown that cars overtaking and passing leave more room for cyclists not wearing helmets. However, being struck from behind is about the least likely kind of car-bike interaction (cars turning across a cyclist's path vastly predominates those statistics).

My wife is (likely) alive today due to her helmet (that is, she is alive, but likely wouldn't be but for the helmet). She left a helmet-shaped hole in the windshield of a driver who t-boned her while illegally driving in the shoulder.

I may never need my helmet, but I always wear it (well, almost; when I borrow hotel bikes in Europe, I don't bother).

Re:Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224835)

Bike helmets don't really do as much as people think. Google "Motorcycle helmet impact diagram". You'll find that the most common points of impact tend to lie where a bike helmet doesn't cover, namely from the chin to the eyes. The only real benefit of a bike helmet that I can see is if you're hit from behind and wind up on somebody's hood with the back of your head striking the windshield.

Re:Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224939)

No, our very bicycle oriented city of Vancouver has found that wearing a helmet has no bearing on whether you are safer or not or will suffer more or less head injuries while riding a bicycle. They are changing the bike laws to make it non-mandatory to wear a helmet. You may wear one if you wish but it will no longer be required by law.

Of course, the helmet law is a big blockade to the city's bike share program and that means they wouldn't be able to make any money from bike share memberships and such so the question of helmets and bicycle safety actually takes a back seat to making money through bike sharing.

Re:Please (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 6 months ago | (#45224941)

And is it OK to follow Mayor Emanuel's lead and lose the helmet?

In a city? No. The sort of accidents you're likely to have in urban cycling leave the risk of blunt-force trauma to the head. Serious cyclist who propose helmet-free cycling aren't talking about low speed urban cycling, they're talking about cycling on high-speed out-of-town roads, or high speed cycling on open roads downhill. There is an argument that in a high speed collision, the helmet increases the risk of torsional injury to the neck: if your head is in contact with a rough surface (eg a road) during a high speed skid or bounce, the scalp natural has a tendency to twist and tear, absorbing the force. A helmet doesn't twist the same, and transfers the full torsional force onto the neck. Well, that's the theory, but no-one has yet made a definitive, convincing case that proves either torsional or blunt-force injuries are a bigger problem on open roads. But in the city, it's blunt force all the way, so in the city, wear a helmet.

I personally keep the helmet on outside the city too, and I've wrecked several helmets in falls without injuring my head or neck.

Safe is a Relative Measure (4, Interesting)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 6 months ago | (#45224627)

Unlike Andy Pruitt, I would not consider three broken bones in 40 years to be "safe". I have been cycling for about that long, but no more than a couple thousand miles per year on average, and I have never broken a bone, not cycling, not in any other activity - and my activities include flying (powered and unpowered craft), motorcycles, white water kayaking, and mocking senior management.

Cycling is relatively safe (2, Insightful)

ddd0004 (1984672) | about 6 months ago | (#45224629)

It's all the cars that are dangerous

Re:Cycling is relatively safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225027)

We have a local "expert" that wrote a column in our local paper. His position was that if you were a bicycle rider and didn't pay attention enough to keep from riding into a fence or a tree then that's your problem but that every collision between a bicycle and a car must be the car's fault and so a claim against the car's insurance would always be successful.

But, if you're on a bike and not paying enough attention to miss a tree might you not also be inattentive enough to run into a car as well. Living on a busy bike route, I know I've seen enough cyclists actually texting while riding. So, if one of these texting riders runs into the back of a parked car, then this is the car's fault, right? According to out local experts, "yes, it's the car's fault."

Not in London (2)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | about 6 months ago | (#45224671)

Having seen a number of near-misses in London, no way would I cycle there. The main arteries are simply scary, the minor roads take too long and cross the main ones too frequently. Maybe the Greenway would make sense if both ends of the journey are in its vicinity.

Re:Not in London (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 6 months ago | (#45224965)

I reached London after a 1000 mile trip from the French Med. Everyone thought it was incredibly brave of me to cycle across France, but it was only London that ever had me worried....

Helmets should be required! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224707)

Helmets should be required. for anyone riding in an automobile.
It would save thousands of lives every year.

How Safe Is Cycling? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#45224711)

It isn't. At least, not on roads shared with cars.

Most drivers treat cyclists like pests (and in fairness, I see a lot of cyclists who completely ignore all traffic rules and deserve the reputation).

Where I live, we've had the buses kill cyclists because the bike lane and the bus lane co-exist and the bus drivers don't look.

I gave up on any notion of cycling on the same road as cars 15+ years ago. Unless you have an entire network of bike lanes which are physically separated from the cars (and even those tend to be spotty), I wouldn't consider cycling on city streets to be even remotely safe.

I don't trust most drivers while I'm in a car, being exposed on a bicycle? No way in hell I'd be willing to do that anymore.

Re:How Safe Is Cycling? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 6 months ago | (#45224829)

Admittedly, many car drivers are idiots... DANGEROUS idiots.

But on the other side of that spectrum, SOME cyclists are idiots as well. I'm NOT talking about the ones that know what they're doing, signal, ride in the bike lane, etc.

I'm talking about people that fly through red lights and stop signs because they think the lights/signs don't concern the cyclists. I'm talking about the idiots that ride on the highway without helmets and don't stay in the shoulder.

The annoying stuff such as riding side-by-side and blocking off a lane of a 40mph road instead of using the shoulder is just annoying.

By me we have a lot of the idiots, and it's annoying. And a synic can say "Well then they'll get hurt or die, Darwin in action." The problem with that is, then some driver who WAS paying attention and WAS following the rules has to live with the guilt at hurting or killing someone. And of course deal with the inevitable law-suits that follow.

Re:How Safe Is Cycling? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#45224991)

I'm talking about people that fly through red lights and stop signs because they think the lights/signs don't concern the cyclists.

Those are exactly what I was referring to.

I've seen people run lights, cut through sidewalks and cut back into the road, or generally do a lot of really stupid things which amount to "I don't care what the rules of the road are". You can treat yourself like a pedestrian off the roads, or you can treat yourself like a cyclist entitled to use the road and follow the rules. But you can't just make it up as you go.

I'm talking about the idiots that ride on the highway without helmets and don't stay in the shoulder.

Don't know about where you live, but here, on roads where cyclists are allowed they are entitled to use the road and drivers are legally required to respect that. Cyclists have as much right to use the lane as the cars as long as they follow the traffic rules. Basically they get the few feet of lane before the shoulder, because on an awful lot of roads you can't ride a bike on the shoulder safely and you need some room to avoid potholes and sewer grates.

I've definitely seen cyclists riding 2 or 3 abreast, and here that's illegal. But they're definitely not relegated to the shoulder.

Me, I sure as hell wouldn't ride a bike in city traffic in lanes shared with cars. Because from what I've seen, it's dangerous as all hell.

Re:How Safe Is Cycling? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224877)

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Re:How Safe Is Cycling? (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 6 months ago | (#45225029)

Where I live, we've had the buses kill cyclists because the bike lane and the bus lane co-exist and the bus drivers don't look.

I compare cycling with buses to boating with giant whales. If a whale knows you're there, it won't hit you (nursing mothers excepted), but if it can't see you, it could obliterate your vessel unwittingly with a flick of its tail. Always be mindful of the huge blindspots on a bus, and if you're overtaking a stopped bus, pull out beyond its blindspot with several bike-lengths to spare in case he pulls out before he sees you.

Cycling not the Answer (0, Troll)

sycodon (149926) | about 6 months ago | (#45224741)

No one is going to bike to work in 3 feet of snow and/or 12 degrees.
No one is going to bike to work in driving rain.
No one is going to bike to work in 100+ degree temps. If they do, you won't want to be around them

This fantasy that some people have of everyone biking around the city like in China or some small Italian town is ridiculous. Very few places have a climate and the layout that is conducive to this. Austin has already wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on this garbage already. Forget it.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (2)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about 6 months ago | (#45224783)

The 100+ temps can be dealt with using some amazing first world tech called a shower.. my office building has them on every floor.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224959)

Good for you. Most don't, you obtuse, ignorant, little faggot.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225023)

What are the carbon emissions for the extra one or two daily hot showers?

Re:Cycling not the Answer (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 6 months ago | (#45225075)

No, the 100+ temps can be dealt with by not living in the fucking desert, and moving north. Of course, then you might have snow and cold-temperature problems, but in most temperate cities in the US these aren't problems except for a few days a year. They aren't a problem at all in the west-coast cities.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 6 months ago | (#45224865)

Perhaps not, but not many people are going to drive to work in 3 feet of snow either. Does that make cars useless?

When the weather is conducive, people getting on bikes and reducing motor vehicle exhaust will make the city a more pleasant place to be. There are many places where people can walk or cycle enough that it is worthwhile. Take a look at Cambridge in the UK - the bicycle park at the train station has approximately two orders of magnitude more parked bikes during the day than the car park has parked cars, and there's plenty of wet weather in Cambridge. During the evening, the majority of traffic is bicycles not cars, which means residents get quieter streets since a bike makes a lot less noise (while waiting for the bus after pub kicking out time, I think I counted ten bicycles for every car).

Re:Cycling not the Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224957)

I live in the midwest and have ridden in those conditions so there's that.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224973)

No one is going to bike to work in 3 feet of snow and/or 12 degrees.
No one is going to bike to work in driving rain.
No one is going to bike to work in 100+ degree temps. If they do, you won't want to be around them

You live in a very tiny bubble.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225005)

No one is going to bike to work in 3 feet of snow and/or 12 degrees.

Been there, done that. w/e.

No one is going to bike to work in driving rain.

It's not really that bad. Skinny tires keep great traction.

No one is going to bike to work in 100+ degree temps. If they do, you won't want to be around them

It's called a shower, good office buildings have them.

This fantasy that some people have of everyone biking around the city like in China or some small Italian town is ridiculous. Very few places have a climate and the layout that is conducive to this. Austin has already wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on this garbage already. Forget it.

Chicago seems to work pretty well.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225007)

3 feet of snow you won't be driving to work either. 12F on the other hand is actually quite a reasonable temperature to bike in. I really enjoy those balmy 12F days after a week of riding in -12F temperatures.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#45225057)

No one is going to bike to work in 3 feet of snow and/or 12 degrees.
No one is going to bike to work in driving rain.
No one is going to bike to work in 100+ degree temps.

I have actually seen all of these things, and many workplaces have shower facilities.

So, I would say all of your "no one is going to" are pretty much wrong. I've certainly seen cyclists out in snow storms, because you can buy studded tires for bikes these days, and rain gear.

Maybe you wouldn't, but it definitely happens.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (2)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 6 months ago | (#45225073)

Rarely will you find THE answer to anything. Biking is just one of the answers to some (many?) situations. Take college. I biked to pretty much every class. My crowning achievement was waking up at 8:56 before a test at 9 half way across campus and making it on time (thankfully it was downhill...and no I didn't do too well, hence being proud of just making it there on time). Sure, in the driving rain the answer isn't biking, its skipping class.

But seriously who said everyone has to bike? If 1/3 of people bike on nice days it would do wonders to reduce congestion and pollution. Speaking of, how many big cities get 3ft of snow on a regular basis?

I say its good to have the option.

Re:Cycling not the Answer (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about 6 months ago | (#45225091)

Dutch, here. Not to work maybe, but to school, yes. As for the smell issue (45 minutes in a rain protective gear, or 30+C): have a shower. At least one school I attended had those (and probably still has).

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225093)

Driving to work in 1 feet snow and 12 degress? Sure.

Driving to work in rain? Once per week.

Driving to work in 100 degree temps? Rarely but check (there is a shower at work).

So it seems this is no fantasy at all. It will not work if you have to commute for a long distance, it is no fun in the rain but it is certainly possible.

My sample size of one (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 6 months ago | (#45224749)

Based on personal experience I will say that cycling is dangerous, at least in a city. I used to ride a bike to work and eventually came to the conclusion that I was taking my life in my hands every time I did it. Having cars that close to cyclists, with such a speed and weight difference is asking for trouble, even with bike lanes. I remember bike and scooter lanes in Munich, Germany that shared space with pedestrians on the sidewalk. That seems much safer to me than having the bikes share the street with cars.

Re:My sample size of one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225077)

Here in Vancouver there are shared bike and pedestrian lanes. We're starting to have the pedestrians pushed off those lanes into traffic by the cyclists.

Cycling is Good for Cyclists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224761)

Cycling requires buy-in in terms of conditioning and learning to ride alongside the local auto culture in a way that will not lead to serious injury or death.
Cyclists(who don't also drive) pay state and federal income taxes so in almost every locality they subsidize auto and commercial truck road users who only pay part of their use through fuel taxes, depending on the program used to pay for bike lanes they may only break even.
Drivers or local auto culture need to learn to drive around cyclists, their buy in is only to pay for vehicle and license, there is almost no statistical likelihood of a driver being killed by a cyclist.
As a paramedic in Portland Oregon I mostly saw swerve-to-avoid killing/injuring cyclists to avoid a car almost never the other way around.
Public service announcements with good video will help just as it helped educate people how to pull over for ambulances and firetrucks without panicking.
Unfortunately some non-cyclists who may have seen a few people break laws (but never break any traffic or speed laws) or been slowed once or twice for a few moments joke of killing cyclists in a way that society currently only allows murder jokes about the homeless. This attitude and aggressiveness can actually kill when it is used to intimidate cyclists using a weapon as deadly as any automatic firearm.

Oh my... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224773)

Just another article that shows I'm wasting my time on Slashdot. I'm going to invest this time into something useful.
 
Auf wiedersehen.

What about cycling for transportation? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224777)

This article is written with a very specific kind of bicycling in mind. Note that everyone interviewed for this story was engaged in some kind of recreational or fitness cycling, which is notably more dangerous than cycling for transportation, since it generally involves much higher speeds (which also means biking on less dedicated bicycling infrastructure). It's particularly telling that in the part of the article where the various types of cycling are listed, transportation isn't among them, even though it is, by far, the most common reason for bicycling around the world (and notably the main type being addressed by bike sharing programs and all of the bike safety measures discussed in the Slashdot summary).

Danger (3, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | about 6 months ago | (#45224785)

Cycling carries its dangers, but cycling (even in a city) is probably less dangerous than not exercising at all.

Bike lanes... (4, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 6 months ago | (#45224811)

Where I live (Vancouver, Canada) there's been a multi-year program to install bike lanes throughout the city. It's caused a lot of tension between drivers and cyclists because there's a sense amongst drivers (and pedestrians too, for that matter) that we're spending millions of tax dollars catering to a group who a) don't follow the rules of the road and b) feel that the rules don't apply to them. They ride fixie bikes with no brakes and no bells. They blow through crosswalks, shouting and terrifying grannies. They ride at night dressed in black with no lights and then shout at me when I nearly run them over after they blow through a stop sign. They ride on sidewalks right next to bike lanes - And there's zero enforcement for any of this, and none of the bike advocacy groups seem willing to shame the bad apples.

The best way to make cycling safer (5, Insightful)

FreeUser (11483) | about 6 months ago | (#45224817)

The best way to make cycling in major cities safer would be to

1) require a drivers license to cycle on city streets
2) require cyclists to obey all traffic laws (this is already true in many jurisdictions)
3) disallow cyclists (and motorcycles) from weaving between lanes to move ahead in traffic. Require them to use lanes in the same manner as other vehicles (you don't see 2 smart cars trying to share one lane of traffic)
4) enforce #1, #2 and #3 as aggressivley with cyclists as with automobiles, with the same penalties

I have seen more pedestrians run down (or nearly run down) by cyclists running red lights, weaving in and out of slow moving traffic, transitioning from using the streets to using pedestrian crosswalks to thwart lights or make lefts from a right hand lane across traffic. I cannot count the number of times I've seen aggressive cyclists in New York and Chicago weave through cars, use the wrong side of the road (!!!), etc. and then get upset when someone nearly knocks them over because they weren't seen being where they didn't belong.

If you require a level of competence (driver's license), require all vehicles using the roads to abide by the same laws (and enforce equally, with equal consequences), you'd go a long way toward improving cycling safety.

Re:The best way to make cycling safer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224869)

I've never heard of a single bicyclist being punished in any way by the police for refusing to obey traffic laws. Not once.

Bikeforums.net (1)

kaka.mala.vachva (1164605) | about 6 months ago | (#45224823)

This is really the wrong forum to ask this question. Ask a biker forum - there is a commuting section on Bikeforums.net. Short answer though - it is safe, there are many cyclists who commute every day. You have to take some precautions, and it is good to be aware of the danger points - but that is true of any activity.

Drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224855)

In my opinion, the best way to make biking safer is to make drivers more aware. I've had several accidents (thankfully none were more than a few scratches) where a driver would turn or swerve without checking the cycling lane for a cyclist. Doing things like passing a cyclist and then suddenly pulling over into the cycling lane to let someone accounts for a good number of city cycling accidents. I know not all cyclists obey the rules of the road perfectly, but neither do drivers.

I also think that drivers should be taught about basic driving laws. I was cycling in London a few years back and a driver threatened to run me over because I wasn't paying a tax to use the road (what he called "Road Tax"). After doing some basic research, I figured out that he was referring to an obsolete tax that was abolished in 1937 and replaced with "Vehicle Excise Duty" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23694438). I've encountered similar instances here in the States, but that was the first time I actually returned to my hotel room to research their threats.

TLDR: We should not only work on making the roads safer, but also educate drivers and cyclists on road rules when driving/riding with the other mode.

Wear a helmet! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224863)

First, wearing a helmet is a really smart safety enhancing idea. The reason it's required in many places for motorcycles is the sheer cost of head trauma injuries, much of which is born by public funds in ER rooms.

I think there are different kinds of cyclists and some are more likely to suffer injuries than others.

In 30 years of cycling I've had one incident where I believe the helmet may have prevented serious head injury. I've had 3 incidents that resulted in any significant personal injury but no broken bones. I've had one serious car accident but sustained no physical injuries from it. I think that for how much ground covered by cyclists in urban areas it can be deemed a relatively safe activity. Not saying you will NEVER come to harm but if you are generally careful and take certain precautions it is unlikely. Of course, the down side is that if you are in a collision with a car your body is the fender.

As a Montrealer with a Bixi Subscription (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224881)

Montreal I think is at the forefront of being a bike friendly metropolitain city (http://pedalmag.com/bike-friendly-cities-ranked-worldwide-montreal-1-in-north-america-amsterdam-1-globally/ and others will make this claim for montreal in relation to the rest of North America), and Montreal being the originator of the rent-a-bike service you see in London UK, Melbourne Australia, and now New York City.

So Montreal seems like the Amsterdam of North America when it comes to biking. Must be paradise right?

1) It happened so fast that drivers are still adapting. Road widths have been sacrified to bike paths. Bike paths run along beside parked cars, and cyclists have too much of a holier-than-thou attitude that doesn't jive well with drivers. Accidents will happen. But this comes off more an issue of time. Eventually we will all get used to sharing the road properly.

2) Like the drivers who have to adapt, the rent-a-bike service means there are a lot of inexperienced cyclists crowding city streets. I fully support the bicycle push, but we need to increase education and training as well. Maybe make cycliing lessons mandatory at some point in school? I'm not really sure. But it is an issue that should be resolved.

3) Poorly thought out bike lanes. For example, the bike lane along Maisoneuve St. is one lane in each direction, and it sometimes has more traffic jams than the street itself! The lane that runs down St Urbain st is very fast and downhill, and runs right beside the space where cars park beside the sidewalk. It's very easy to reach speeds matching car traffic on that lane and if your brakes aren't good (and they aren't on the Bixi bikes) and someone from a parked car opens their door without looking... you're going to have a bad time.

4) Bixi bikes are slow and heavy. On purpose since they are also quite durable (more or less). But these bikes can really piss off cyclists on speedy little 10 speeders. My personal bike is an 18 speed street bike. Very light weight, nimble, and damn fast. When I'm stuck behind a bixi bike that I can't pass on the Maisoneuve bike lane, it's like driving behind a truck you can't pass.

All this said though, it all comes off as growing pains to me. This whole "EVERYONE LET'S GO BIKING!!" attitude is relatively recent in the culture of Montreal. It'll take some time to figure out what will work best for the city, and it will take time for cyclists, bixi-ists, pedestrians and drivers to all figure out how to get along with one another.

I personally think we are headed in the right direction. After all, we need some excersize to work off all that poutine we eat.

Ask the Netherlands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224887)

Okay, i live in Germany. But what the fuck!
In Germany we know, that it's mostly about lazyness and travel distance whether cycling is an option or not. Safety is not the issue here...

BTW: http://www.cbs.nl/en-GB/menu/themas/gezondheid-welzijn/publicaties/artikelen/archief/2013/2013-028-pb.htm
Yes, the Netherlands are not that big a country and cities are smaller than New York. But really, public transport, and cyclist-friendly city design should scale well.

Safe? Not really, and Risk is healthy (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 6 months ago | (#45224889)

I have been in Silicon Valley for 3 years now. Since moving here, I started biking. I bike almost every day to/from work. My health is great because of it, lost 60lbs and blood pressure is down from 140/80 to 110/55 on average. It's a bike friendly place to live, and in most cities there are more pedestrians than I ever saw in Michigan.

That said, I have been hit once and nearly hit dozens of times. The time I was hit was mild, causing a bent tire and no serious damage to me (we both saw what was happening and slammed on the brakes). I have had cars run me out of the bike lane dozens of times because they wanted a turn lane. It's dangerous and risky to ride even in a bike friendly place.

I realize it's a risk, but I take it to save money and improve my health. I'm not mad at drivers most of the time, because I realize how hard it is to see a bike without distractions let alone with. I'm extremely cautious driving in bike areas because of my experiences, but many people have no experiences riding and don't think the same way.

If I was the mayor, there is something I would change. That would be to have more patrols out in the open ticketing people when they act illegally and endanger a biker. Sometimes the signs requires reinforcement for people to believe the law. That said, the risk is mine to take. I could ride on busy streets here with no bike lane if I wanted, and see people do so. To me, that's too much risk. If I know the risks, whats the problem? I won't wear a bubble to ride a bike, and the nanny state should not attempt to make me. Just give people a reason to adhere to current laws and the rest will just happen. We'll never prevent every accident, so no need to try.

about helmets (1)

genka (148122) | about 6 months ago | (#45224899)

Bike helmet is not terribly effective. Large study of motorcycle accidents showed that the majority of damages were to the areas not covered by bicycle helmets. My personal experience confirms it. Search google images for "hurt report helmet", there is a nice illustration. I never ride my motorcycle without a full face helmet. On a bicycle I don't bother.

Re:about helmets (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about 6 months ago | (#45225037)

After having my frame fail on me - top tube and down tube welds broke away from stem - you won't see me without a helmet. I was knocked unconscious for a little while, helmet was cracked, face turned into goulash. But hey, I'm not eating from a straw and I don't drool more than I used to.

Comparing motorcycle crashes vs bicycle isn't necessarily a good comparison - 60 mph vs. 15 mph. And why would you extrapolate from that image that it's not worth it to wear a bike helmet? I took a good shot to the temple, and the helmet absorbed a lot of the impact. A broken jaw isn't quite the threat as a shot to the head.

I recommend a helmet - skull vs concrete doesn't end well.

Not very (1)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 6 months ago | (#45224905)

I used to commute by bike (only nearly died twice!), so I naturally started paying attention to such things.

Based mostly on fatalty rates, Orlando is typically rated the most unsafe city in the US for cyclists. When I started riding, I happened to be living there. This is actually no coincidence. The city has an ordinance requiring all new road construction to provide bike lanes. Biking to work was just not practical when I lived in the NE. When I moved to Oklahoma, I quit after a couple of years because it was just beyond unsafe (two lane roads with no shoulder and drainage ditches on the side. No bike lanes anywhere. Incensed drivers who honestly believe it is illegal for you to be on the road on a bike, etc.). So everybody who bikes here in Tulsa does it on special dedicated bike paths that cars can't get to, and they do it for recreation/exercise only. Nobody commutes on a bike.

The point is, the city I've been in that does the most to enable bike commuting is Orlando. People take them up on it too. Seeing a bicyclist there is nowhere near as uncommon as in a typical US city. So what does this extra ridership buy them? Why, it gives them a huge fatality rate, and a label as the most unsafe city in the US for cyclists.

So, more cyclists results in higher fatalaty rate. You do the math.

It would be safer if cyclists followed traffic law (0, Flamebait)

runeghost (2509522) | about 6 months ago | (#45224917)

I know it isn't charitable, but I don't give a damn about cyclists. Both as a pedestrian and a driver, I've had it with the reckless fools. Cyclists are a menace. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cyclists I've seen in the last year who haven't run red lights and stop signs or otherwise ignored basic safety and traffic laws.

Boulder vs. SF!? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45224921)

As bike friendly as San Fran might be, it's no Boulder. After Amsterdam, an absolute mecca for cyclists, Boulder is the most bike friendly place I've ever seen, certainly in the U.S. by far. No fair to compare comments from a SF trauma surgeon with those of a Boulder doctor.

With bikes, it's different than with cars. (1)

goruka (1721094) | about 6 months ago | (#45224925)

Bikers are given more protections, such as exclusive lanes and crossing lights. However, a good amount of them decides to ignore them and have a higher chance to smash against a car or a bus.
So, the real question is probably, how safe is biking when you drive them safely?

Give me a break... (2)

whitroth (9367) | about 6 months ago | (#45224937)

I lived in Philly til midway through my thirties. I rode a bike a *lot* - commuting, and, in fact, about 9 months as a bike messenger. No helmet.

I went down three times, and limped away all of them. Scraped hand. Once was due to a very bad seam in the street itself. Back then, *no* *one* wore a helmet.

Of course, back there, adults were supposed to ride in the street, not on the sidewalk, and in the street, you are suppsed to obey traffic laws like any other vehicle. If you ride your bike the way some self-proclaimed CotU (Centers of the Universe) drive their oversized, gas-guzzling SUVs, and think stopping for lights or stop signs is for weenies, well, there's a phrase for that:: think of it as evolution in action.

                      mark

No helmet for Emannuel? Sure. (0)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 6 months ago | (#45224949)

Most of us really ought to wear a helmet. It makes sense for Rahm Emmanuel to ride without one, because there's nothing worth saving in his head anyway.

"ONLY????" (2, Informative)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 6 months ago | (#45224955)

It is hard to take serious someone that says they have "only" broken their collar bone twice and their hip once, even after forty years.

I am over forty, don't bike, and have never borken ANY bone.

Route Planning--and Timing--is important. (2)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 6 months ago | (#45225011)

Pick a safe route at an off-peak time, and you'll be all right. And don't be hard when the roads are slick--take the bus.

I've bike-commuted for about 9 years now and it has worked out beautifully.

Route planning is everything. I'll ride 25% further just to get the benefit of a lower traffic route or a wide shoulder. Timing is also key. In some places, half an hour can make the difference between peaceful solitude and rush hour madness.

Safer than watching TV (3, Insightful)

istartedi (132515) | about 6 months ago | (#45225025)

It's probably safer than watching TV. You don't get diabetes, obesity and coronary artery disease from cycling. If cycling gets you off the couch, do it. Hiking gets me off the couch. I don't worry about stumbling over a rock or yep... getting hit by a mountain biker. I worry about my mid-section getting flabby. Statistically, it's far more likely to kill me.

I used to cycle. I didn't mind the 25 mph city streets, as long as they were wide enough to avoid car door openings. I hated faster roads. Braddock and Ox road area of Fairfax County, VA was the worst. I road on Braddock, and a driver yelled at me. I road on the sidewalk next to Ox, and a guy mowing his lawn yelled at me for riding where only pedestrians are supposed to be. Technically he was right, but my life was more important to me than your stupid law. I was not about to take my life into my hands and ride on the side of Ox road there. I see a lot more road riders in California where I live now, but I really don't want to join them. I could see myself cruising the El Camino and the little Main Streets on the Peninsula though. El Camino is 35 mph but the traffic is so bad it goes slower a lot. That's about the fastest road I'd ever want to be on. San Francisco? It's a madhouse. Fuggedaboutit. I'll see you on a mountain side, walking to get fresh air and exercise.

Overall, cyclists live longer (3, Informative)

hydrofix (1253498) | about 6 months ago | (#45225031)

This is of course a complex question. Sure, cyclist are more prone to accidents and air pollution than those who commute by private car or by public transport. Then again, cycling to work is a "free" daily exercise – a benefit too often overlooked. A Danish study [jamanetwork.com] published in 2000 found that in a group of 30,000 randomly selected individuals, those who did not cycle to work experienced a 39% higher mortality rate than those who did – even after adjusting for other risk factors. So considering the overall effect, it seems that cycling is actually safer than not cycling, probably due to its positive effect on your physical fitness.

Bicycling can be safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45225033)

It is safe if bicyclists follow the laws, which is something way too many bicyclists don't do. I repeatedly hear reports of groups of bicyclists blocking traffic and intersections so they can run red lights and stop signs. Can you imagine the outrage if motorcyclists or car drivers did the same? I often see bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road, riding without helmets, running stop signs and red lights, and breaking various other rules of the road they are required to follow.

Loads of prior research has been done (3, Informative)

SlashDread (38969) | about 6 months ago | (#45225035)

In The Netherlands. Nobody wears a helmet, with a few exception for very young kids (Always flanked and shielded by a overly concerned parent.)

I could show a graph that nicely shows that helmets are correlated with higher death rates. (No the helmet doesn't kill, its because helmets are worn in countries with low separation of slow cyclists and fast cars)
There is also a correlation between more helmets (by law) leading to LESS cyclers. Its a burden.

Seperation of slow and fast traffic is BY FAR the biggest factor here. Then also consider the health benefit of the exercise.

Regular exercise will make you more healthy and prolong your life! So, on bike lanes, Cycling is Super Awesome Safe! No helmet needed.

ps, incidents are on the rise due to old folks going faster on their electric assisted bikes.
ps2 mopeds, scooters, especially those that clock 50km/h are more and more forced into the car lane in The Netherlands, the speeds fits better.
ps3 Watch your juveniles, those pesky 12-18 y/o have a high incident rate. They are also likely to be offended by a helmet..

"do not want to ride after seeing ... injuries" (1)

dbc (135354) | about 6 months ago | (#45225051)

'Lots of my colleagues do not want to ride after seeing these [city biking] injuries.'

No shit. A few years ago, one of my coworkers who regularly biked to work had me totally conviced to try it out. After weeks of encouraging me, I had finally made the decision "OK, next Monday." This was on a Thursday. That very Thursday night driving home from work, I went by an intersection that was directly on my planned bicycle route. I had to go around the EMT and police vehicles at an accident scene... as I watched the EMT pull a sheet over a body next to a crumpled bicycle.

That is pretty much when I decided bicycle commuting was not for me.

Aggressive and not smart cyclists (2)

swb (14022) | about 6 months ago | (#45225071)

Cycling seems fairly safe to me if you wear a helmet and you choose your routes to avoid cars.

Here in Minneapolis I notice what I would call a lot of "aggressive" cyclists -- people who run traffic control devices (stop signs, lights, etc) and get dangerously close to traffic that might otherwise change speeds/lanes/turn/etc very quickly. From the cyclists I talk to, it almost seems like cycling is taking on a political component, too, which seems to contribute to aggressive cycling or at least an aggressive attitude.

The other thing that kind of amazes me are the people who INSIST on cycling on a busy through street (like Lyndale through South Minneapolis) instead of moving over just a block on either side and riding on a nearly empty residential street, like Garfield or Aldrich. Or the bike racing gear wearers who insist on riding on the parkway instead of the bike path 25 feet away, in spite of the fact that the parkway is a single lane and the parking cutouts along the parkway are pretty narrow -- if cars are parked in the cutouts there's precious little room to pass a cyclist.

As long as people insist on riding in traffic and people kind of a jerk about it, it doesn't surprise me that there are conflicts a cyclist will lose simply based on mass.

Good for the young, healthy, & coordinated (ma (2)

guanxi (216397) | about 6 months ago | (#45225087)

Cycling excludes many people, especially the elderly, the otherwise frail, and the uncoordinated. In the city, at least, they would be taking their lives in their hands.

It seems like an idea by the young and healthy, for the young and healthy. Which is fine, but devoting significant public resources to it seems questionable. Should cities invest in transportation programs (such as bikeshare) that many residents are physically unable to utilize?

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