Friday, July 31, 2009

Bicycle Safety

When I lived in Madison and was in grad school, I rode my bike to school almost everyday. I rode as fast as I could, because I was always in a hurry. Madison had bike lanes most of the way to school, and most importantly people expected there to be bicyclists all along the road.

One of the students in the next lab got hit by a car and did not recover. She was riding on the side of the road, and got hit by a car pulling out. She flew over the car, and was not wearing a helmet. This was a awful incident, and it did make wear a helmet all the time.

Since we moved to Michigan, I don't ride my bike much since there is so much traffic in Southgate. Back in Pleasant Prairie (Wisconsin), where we used to live, there was a long bike trail nearby. Here, I have never ridden my bike to work because I can't think of a good way to cross the busy roads.

There are many statistics on bicycle accidents. Bicycling is safe compared to many sports including football and basketball. link

Injuries per Million Hours

Football 1,900
Squash 1,300
Basketball 1,100
Soccer 600
Bicycling 50

Bicycling is more dangerous mode of travel than driving -- about twice as risky. This is controversial; some argue that the health benefits of bicycling on your heart or your weight, outweigh the higher accident rate per mile travelled. An excellent site on bike safety is

Fatalities Per Mile

Motor Vehicle Travel Bicycle Travel
42,000 killed 813 killed
2.56 trillion miles 21 billion miles
.016 fatalities per million miles .039 fatalities per million miles
Data from Traffic Safety Facts 1997
The Environmental Benefits of Cycling and Walking

Bicycling seems to be a safe form of exercise, but not as safe a mode of transportation.

I learned three things in preparing this post that I want to close with.

First like auto driving, bike riding at low speed is safer. There are fewer accidents at 5 mph and than at 10 mph --that makes sense.

Second, helmets improve safety like advertised.

Third and surprisingly, it seems that bike lanes are not necessarily safer. Biking on a separate bike trail is better.