Comment 31570

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 08, 2009 at 08:28:25

rideyerbike wrote:

I recently had an argument with a friend who insisted that the safest way to cycle was with complete aberrance of traffic laws.

According to all the cycling safety data I have seen - and I've read a fair bit over the course of my research for RTH artciles - all the evidence I've read is that the safest way to ride a bike is to obey the rules of the road - specifically, to ride consistently and predictably so motorists can clearly see you and can easily anticipate what you're going to do next.

That means making sure you have proper lights, reflectors and noise-makers (a horn, bell or gong); riding in a straight line in the lane; signaling properly (especially turns but also deceleration); and so on.

Now having written that, some infractions are more dangerous than others.

Rolling stops through stop signs (by cars and bicycles alike) seem to carry a negligible risk, particularly for cyclists since they have such excellent panoramic visibility in three directions and since it's possible to stop a bike on a dime.

On the other hand, the most dangerous infraction is to ride on the sidewalk. Cyclists riding on the sidewalk are grossly overrepresented in collision statistics. Two major contributing factors are a) riding straight through an intersection on the sidewalk while a car is trying to turn right; and b) jumping off the sidewalk onto the road to avoid a pedestrian.

In both cases, the cyclist behaves unpredictably, which is deadly because motorists just aren't expecting it.

I would far rather see better cycling infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes that make it safer and more attractive for cyclists to get our and share the road with cars

Yes, absolutely. I used to be skeptical about bike lanes, but again, the evidence strongly supports the idea that to increase ridership dramatically, you need to provide safe, comfortable, and continuous facilities for cyclists.

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