Biking season often comes with an increase in safety concerns. Cycling is sometimes regarded as unsafe, as accidents are widely reported. Did you know that research shows that cycling is safer than driving?
Some number crunching of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics determines that the risk per hour of cycling versus driving is roughly equal. Cycling trips tend to be shorter, with less mileage covered per year, making cycling safer due to less exposure to potential risks. As a bonus, not only is biking safer than driving, in the long term cycling extends your life by keeping you healthier!
Cycling gets safer as more cyclists get on the road. Bicycle commuting in the US has increased by 43% since 1990, and cycling fatalities have decreased or remained constant during that same time, from 677 cyclist deaths in 2011, down from 718 in 2008 and 853 in 1990. When bicycle commuting becomes a regular part of city life, cities build more reliable infrastructure, and driver awareness increases, helping cities get safer for cyclists. Realizing the power of the growing number of cyclists, the city of Toronto just developed an app that tracks cyclists movements in order to inform city planners on cycling habits and to help create more a more reliable and safe network for cyclists.
Cycling is perceived as one of the most dangerous forms of transportation. A cycling safety study out of UCL has determined that the perceived danger regarding the safety of cycling has been largely due to the spreading of errors in published papers and police reports, which overstate cycling injuries. In 2011, bike accidents in the US accounted for only 2% of motor vehicle fatalities, yet when a cyclist is involved in an accident, those stories get a disproportionate amount of coverage, making cycling seem like it is much more unsafe than driving a car or walking.
It is important to dispel the notion that cycling is more dangerous than driving and encourage more potential cyclists. Research shows that cycling is safer than driving and that the risks of cycling are vastly overstated versus the risk of drivers and pedestrians.
Regardless, a cyclist is still vulnerable and accidents can happen. Obey traffic laws, bike safely, light up your bike at night, explore your city’s bike paths, and wear a helmet (if you choose to!). It is our responsibility as cyclists to take our safety into our own hands.