Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cyclists at risk in a broken system

Practically everyone I talk to about bicycling brings up the danger. The non-cyclists mention it right away and the cyclists get to it eventually. Danger and fear are keeping countless thousands of men, women and young people from riding a bicycle. And on a national basis, according to a major piece now out in Bicycling magazine, the relative danger is increasing.

Part of the problem is that riding has declined as Americans fell into more sedentary habits. With fewer riders, motorists are less likely to expect to see us -- and they forget the "share the road" advice that good driver-education programs include.

One reason for the decline of riding is urban sprawl, with communities built for cars rather than walking or biking. Another contributing factor is the over-protective parents who chauffeur their kids to school rather than let them grow up with the strength and self-reliance appropriate to their age. Perhaps the worst reason, certainly the one that makes a biker angry and frustrated most often, is that the whole system of laws, law enforcement, traffic rules and social expectation can seem so toothless when something outrageously bad happens to a rider.
"Barely a week goes by when you don't hear of a cyclist being killed, the behavior of the driver being outrageous, and the response of law enforcement or the penalty passed on to the driver being woefully inadequate," says Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. "The kinds of crashes we're talking about almost always involve a motorist who was hopelessly distracted or out of control - speeding, taking corners as they shouldn't, talking on a cell phone, or reaching for a CD. Most are avoidable and preventable, but the response is so feeble. It's an intensely frustrating feeling of powerlessness."
Such an outrage is told in gripping detail in Bicycle magazine. This article alone is worth the newsstand price, and it's one you'll want to clip and show to your friends. But while I've got your attention, here's the link to it. Be sure and read the sidebars, especially the one about how a Kansas rider got a change in his state laws. We'll come back to that kind of thing often, right here at Spokes 'n' Folks.


Hank Resnik said...

Thanks for calling attention to this really important article and accompanying sidebars. Everyone who rides a bicycle should know about it.

vey said...

I'm not going to tell my wife about this deeply disturbing story since she worries about me constantly.

Buttar Dot Com said...

As comfortable as I am on my bike, I am still scared to ride on the roads.
If you're ever in the Orlando area, check out some of the races put on by They're on very safe, open roads.

Emily A.