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Bicycling Risk Reduction

Data on safety (i.e. taking exposure into account) are not available, but data on accidents are. The group of countries with fewest bicycle accidents -- Netherlands, Great Britain and Sweden, with around 100 fatal accidents in 1985 -- consists of countries with both high and low levels of cycling; thus, bicycle accident rates and bicycle use do not seem to be positively or negatively correlated. Likewise, there is no evident correlation between bicycle accident rates and traffic law enforcement: the Netherlands, where cyclists seem to be subject to the least enforcement of all European countries, are comparatively safe for cycling.

The majority of serious bicycle accidents involves collisions between cyclists and cars; these accidents are caused primarily by high-speed motorized traffic. Furthermore, potential cyclists view high-speed motorized traffic as a significant obstacle to use of the bicycle. Lowering car speeds (eg. traffic calming) is therefore a major issue of campaigning by the organizations within the European Cyclists' Federation, which represents 250,000 everyday cyclists in Europe. Wearing helmets has been promoted for sports events but not for everyday cycling, partly because mandatory helmet use, implemented in some countries for small motorcycles, led to a drop in bicycle use to one quarter of the former level.

Traffic safety is not perceived as a major issue in places where pedestrian precincts have been opened for cyclists. However, cyclists here typically ride rather slowly and yield or stop for oncoming pedestrians.

--Jim Freemont, Proceedings from Pro Bike 88. Bike Federation, 1818 R St. NW, Washington, DC. 20009. 202/332-6986.

a portion of the Uniform Vehicle Code

11-1209 BICYCLES AND HUMAN-POWERED VEHICLES ON SIDEWALKS. (a) A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

(c) A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

--Marda Formann Mayo, Bicycling and Air Quality Information Document, prepared for USEPA by Abt Associates, Sept. 1979.

It is recommended that the following provisions be considered for inclusion in the article of the Traffic Regulations:

Provisions that bicyclists shall yield to pedestrians and that motor vehicles shall yield to bicycles.

Provisions that bicycles shall move at reduced speeds in areas of high pedestrian congestion, including parks and vehicle fee zones, in order to ensure safety of pedestrians.

Provisions for allowing bicycle access (including motor vehicle transport) on those roads and bridges from which they are excluded in Article 13, Section 157 and Article 18, Section 202.

--Bikeway Planning and Policy Guidelines for NYC, Manhattan Commuter Bicycle System Study, July, 1978. Prepared for NYC DOT; Prepared by Edwards and Kelcey, in association with Transportation Alternatives.

[PHOTO: bicyclist] Up to the Bicycle Page or to it's Planning Section or it's Helmet Section.


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Last updated: 7 April 1999