Saturday, February 19, 2011

Slowing Down Cars to Speed up Cycling Growth

Another one of my friends was hit while riding her bike this week. She has significant injuries, but is going to be ok. After the shock wore off I started thinking about my new favorite hobby. Most cities, like Los Angeles, are designed for cars, not people or bikes. This is despite the fact that I think biking can save the world, as I mentioned on a previous blog.

New research out describes how separate bike transit ways can reduce bike deaths. (Read the full news coverage here.) Some striking statistics from this story:
  • about 51,000 American cyclists suffered injuries as a result of encounters with motor vehicles in 2009, with such accidents accounting for two percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States (according to 2008 figures).
  • In the U.S, bike lanes typically consist of merely a painted stripe on the pavement delineating cyclists' portion of the road. In contrast, the Netherlands -- a country half the size of South Carolina, with just under 17 million residents -- is home to about 18,000 miles of separate cycle tracks.

  • While more than a quarter of all Dutch commuters get around by bike and 55 percent of Dutch cyclists are women, in the U.S. less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans ride a bike to work and fewer than one-quarter of those riders are women.
  • Cycle injury rates are at least 26 times higher in the U.S. than in the Netherlands, the researchers noted.
  • The research team pegged the overall relative risk of injury as 28 percent lower on the separated tracks versus biking on a street in traffic.
While I think we need to reconstruct our cities around biking, public transportation, and walking (again see my previous post), I don't think this will happen tomorrow. In the meantime, everyone PLEASE SLOW DOWN WHILE DRIVING. I mentioned the city of Davis, CA as a great biking city, where speed limits are 25mph to make it safer for bikers. Here are some great tips for driving safe around cyclists: please read them. Just slowing down and being extra careful may make you 5 minutes late for a meeting, but could prevent another one of my friends (or me) from having a serious, life-changing injury.

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