City Bicycling: Is it Worth the Hazards Involved?
Is it safe to ride your bicycle in city traffic, or are you setting yourself up for a serious bicycle accident? While many residents of major metropolitan areas like Philadelphia and New York City have grown accustomed to cycling on city streets amidst busy city traffic, a recent article on Philly.com suggests that there are many hazards of cycling which every bicyclist must be aware of before setting off on his her bicycle.
Does city cycling expose riders to an increased risk of personal injury? Are some cities safer for bike riders than others? As the article in Philly.com points out, bicycling as a primary mode of transportation has many perks. For the rider, it is a great form of exercise. For the environment, it helps to reduce pollution from automobiles. However, traffic collisions frequently involve cyclists, and residents on bicycles can sustain serious and often fatal injuries if they are involved in a serious accident. Because health and environmental factors are important for US citizens, how can we better outweigh the hazards?
Making Cycling Safer in Urban American
One of the key questions for city a planner is how bicycling can be safe in urban areas. According to John Pucher, a Professor of Urban Planning at Rutgers University, “it is likely that causation runs in both directions: safer cycling encourages more cycling, and more cycling encourages greater safety.” In cities where bicycling is more common, automobile drivers have become accustomed to yielding to riders, and the notion of “sharing the road” is more common than in metropolitan regions where bicycling is not as popular.
In short, US cities like New York and Philadelphia might want to look to the cycling infrastructure established in certain European cities such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam, where cycling is a way of life. Indeed, the streets in those cities are designed with bicycle riders in mind, and accidents occur much less frequently than in US cities. In addition to infrastructure matters, automobile drivers in the US need to develop a different frame of mind when it comes to cycling as a form of transportation. Unlike in US urban areas, for example, many residents of large cities in the Netherlands find that “cycling is too important as a mode of transport to leave it only to the daring helmeted cycle warriors in conspicuous jackets.”
Bicycle Safety Tips
While certain cities may have reduced the number of bicycle crashes through infrastructure shifts and public awareness, cycling accidents continue to result in severe personal injuries. How can you avoid bicycling hazards if you are a city rider? In general, it is important to recognize that bicyclists are more like motor vehicles when they are on city streets, and it is essential for cyclists and automobile drivers alike to obey the rules of the road.
According to the Department of Transportation, following some of these safety tips can help to prevent dangerous collisions:
- Always obey traffic signals and traffic signs: whether you are on a bicycle or driving a car, obeying traffic signals can prevent dangerous accidents;
- Do not ride against traffic if you are on a bicycle: you are more like a motor vehicle than a pedestrian, and it is important to “drive” your bicycle as if it were a car when it comes to laws of the road;
- Do not pass automobiles on the right if you are on a bicycle: it is often very difficult for motorists to see a bicyclist passing on the right;
- Wear a helmet whenever you are on a bicycle regardless of whether it is required;
- Do not ride a bicycle with headphones, as you may have difficulty hearing car horns or otherwise paying attention to the road;
- Use bicycle hand signals;
- Try to make eye contact with automobile drivers when you are on a bicycle to ensure that you’ve been seen; and,
- If you are riding a bicycle at night, use headlights, rear reflectors, and/or taillights.