We hate to say it, but the dangers of biking on busy streets, or even on secluded paths, are pretty intense. Financial Times even published an article bringing cycling safety to question. Do safety risks outweigh the health, financial, and environmental benefits?
Unfortunately, for a lot of people in urban areas, the answer is yes. In 2014, the UK’s Department of Transportation did a survey on the issue. 64% of those surveyed said they believed it was too dangerous for them to cycle on the road.
And that’s terrible. Cycling is a great gift full of health benefits everyone can enjoy. On top of that, it’s good for the environment. Cycling could reduce both the deadliest diseases Americans face. It also has massive benefits for the environment.
So the fact that most people are too scared to bike has enormous consequences. The impacts stretch deep into our country’s health and environmental worries.
So what can we do to make cycling safer for everyone? Here are the safety experts are suggesting to keep cyclists safe.
If you’re riding along a secluded route, there’s always a chance of you could get mugged. Unfortunately, muggings are far from uncommon. One way to keep cyclists safer is to keep call boxes at regular intervals on secluded trails. This would be like the call boxes on college campuses used to help students find their way home safely. These call boxes would summon reinforcements if a cyclist felt unsafe. They would rush officials to the scene if a rider ended up stranded.
To go along with call boxes, secluded routes should be brightly illuminated. These lights can be solar powered. They would work hand in hand with the call boxes, ensuring safer routes.
While this wouldn’t prevent muggings, it’s a step in the right direction to improve safety.
There are few things more terrifying as a cyclist than sharing the road with a massive, 18-wheeled truck. But honestly, any car is bad. Drivers are driving faster, more recklessly, and more distractedly than ever before. Colorado Department of Transportation released a survey about cycling safety. They asked cyclists how frequently the saw distracted drivers. 66% of the over 5,000 responders said they see a distracted driver most or every day.
One major step to separate cyclists from drivers is to build separate bike lanes. Ideally, we would have bike lanes that are color coded like they have in Holland.
But for now, we can build safer biking lanes around areas that are already more or less abandoned by the city. These are areas like rail, utility, and drainage easements. Some cities like Fayetteville, Arkansas, have already built bike lanes along train tracks. Austin, Texas build bike lanes over pipelines and power lines. The list goes on.
These practices keep bikers separated from drivers along a linear path. But they also create value from otherwise underused or abandoned existing infrastructure. It’s a great way to help bikers stay safe and out of traffic.
As a fellow driver, you may have noticed it too (if you’re not too distracted.) Drivers are on their phones. We’ve seen drivers rushing to fasten their seatbelts on the move. We see drivers eating, or sometimes even getting changed behind the wheel. Drivers speed, they swerve in and out of lanes, they don’t use turn signals, and many tend to be generally reckless. Mix that with speeding and alcohol-related incidents. Roads are – literally – lethal for bikers, drivers, and pedestrians alike.
Many drivers don’t consider when they sit behind the wheel they are controlling a lethal machine. Vehicles are dangerous, and many drivers don’t take the responsibility seriously.
Many biking advocates call for stricter laws against reckless and distracted driving. Others want to see technology used to its fullest potential. They go on to suggest equipping cars with lockout technology. A driver must first enter a valid driver’s license number and insurance policy before the car will start. This would ensure reckless, unregistered, and uninsured drivers remain off-road. Other ideas include equipping cars with breathalyzers before the vehicle will start.
We need to make a radical cultural change that reckless, distracted driving is not okay. It puts the lives of everyone on the road at risk. When we get behind the wheel, it is not a right, but a responsibility. And until our society no longer relies on cars, it’s one we have to take very seriously.
How You Can Make A Difference Today
While we would love to see a massive, sweeping overhaul in cycling safety, that likely won’t ever happen. Instead, we have to be patient with small, incremental improvements. We know that they will add up over time.
Yet there are things you can do today that will help improve the safety for all cyclists.
Call Your Representatives
Give your elected officials a call. Let them know how important biking safety is not only to you but to our nation and our world as a whole. Ask that they support bills and try to make changes to improve cycling safety for everyone.
Report reckless and distracted drivers, even if no one got hurt. License plates get recorded in a database. After three reports, many drivers will get a warning, depending on the laws in your area. Most often, the drivers you report are likely repeat offenders, and they need to stay off the road the most.
You’re a biker, so you understand how important it is to drive safely around cyclists. Never speed. Follow all the laws. Give cyclists a wide berth. When you open your car door to get out, use your left hand. This forces you to look behind you in case a cyclist is passing by.
Donate to Biking Advocacy
All the safety implements we’ve suggested will cost money. If biking safety matters to you, donate to cycling advocacy. Even donations as small as $25 dollars add up fast.
Safer Drivers and Separated Lanes Make Safer Cyclists
Cycling can be a dangerous hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s More people every day can enjoy the health benefits that come from cycling. With environmental concerns bubbling, cycling could be the solution there too. If we want to make radical changes to help the world as a whole, we need to see cycling safety improvements.
Curious about how replacing your commute with biking would affect your health? Learn the health benefits here.