Think Roads Have Become More Dangerous for Cyclists? I Don’t. Here’s Why.

 

Every time I come to Europe I am struck by how differently cyclists are treated here compared to the US. This week I am in France riding some of the iconic mountain passes of the Tour de France and watching a bit of the race. To escape the crush of race traffic most of our rides are well away from the race course, so we are interacting with drivers on their way to work, the grocery store, etc. But unlike the US, drivers are patient, generally courteous, and far less likely to yell, honk, or worse. Some athletes mentioned feeling safer on the roads in Europe compared to the US, which got me thinking about the risks on American roads.

Culture and Infrastructure

A big difference between the US and Europe is how integrated cycling is within European culture. Kids ride bikes to school and adults ride bikes for short trips in town. Depending on the area, tons of adults commute to work by bicycle. Drivers are not surprised to see bicycles, and compared to the US many more drivers in Europe have personal experience using a bicycle for transportation and/or exercise.

Around the world – including the US – areas with more cyclists on the road have lower rates of cycling-related injuries and fatalities. They may record higher absolute numbers of injuries and car-bicycle collisions because of greater participation, but the lower rate of injury has been interpreted to be a result of increased awareness among drivers that cyclists are likely to be on the road. It’s often referred to as a “safety in numbers” theory.

European infrastructure is also a lot different. In cities there are more bike lanes and bike paths, particularly ones that actually connect to the places you want to go. In smaller towns in the countryside and mountains, there are lots of traffic-calming devices (“road furniture” to racing cyclists) which effectively reduce the differential between cycling speed and car speed. This makes it easier for both cars and bikes to brake effectively to avoid a collision, and makes collisions less deadly. Roads are also narrower in towns and in the countryside. This is important for cyclists because wider roads encourage faster driving speeds, which again increases the speed differential between car and bicycle, making collisions harder to avoid and more deadly.

Changing the culture and infrastructure in the US will take time and lot of advocacy work, particularly because our car-dominated culture seems to perceive cyclists as law-breaking, free-loading elitists who don’t belong on roads at all and want taxpayers to foot the bill for cycling-oriented infrastructure so we can pretend we’re pro athletes or get in their way. The irony is that I’d be happy to stay out of the way but sometimes I can’t because there’s no room or better route. Which brings me back to whether the risks to road cyclists in the US are actually as high as we think.

Statistics and Social Media

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of traffic fatalities in the US is rising across most modes of transportation: auto driver, auto passenger, motorcyclist, pedestrian, and cyclist. From 2014-2016 pedestrians and cyclists experienced the greatest increases. The causes are less clear. Distracted driving and distracted walking almost definitely play roles. Some have tried to correlate gas prices to fatalities, citing that lower gas prices increase the number of younger, less experienced drivers on the road.

 

Looking at the data from 1994-2015, however, you notice there have been large fluctuations in annual cycling-related fatalities throughout the entire period, and the number has stayed within the range of about 600-800 deaths per year nationwide. And those numbers include anyone, any age, on any type of two-wheeled pedal-powered vehicle. Statistics have never been my strong suit, but the fatalities data doesn’t seem to indicate that cycling is substantially more dangerous now than it has been during any time since 1994. Unfortunately, what is hidden within these numbers is that fatalities among people under 20 years old have declined dramatically while fatalities among bicyclists older than 20 have increased.

Source: Data from this NHSTA report (click image to enlarge)

 

One of the biggest changes we’ve seen since 1994, however, is the advent of social media. With on-board video cameras and smart phones we see and hear about many more close calls and collisions than ever before. Keep in mind, too, that based on algorithms, the more cycling-collision social media you view, the more those social media channels will direct those posts into your feeds. Athletes inundated with this information often express feeling more threatened and nervous than they used to on the roads. My question ­– and I don’t know the answer – is whether the threat level has actually increased, or whether it is has increased as substantially as people feel it has? How much of that interpretation is confirmation bias? You think you’re at greater risk so you perceive interactions with vehicles to put you at greater risk. But are we really experiencing more close calls than before, or are we just a lot more aware and vigilant about them?

Here’s another problem. When it comes to adults, statistics don’t differentiate between cycling athletes and “person on bike”. It’s a tragedy to see either hurt or killed; a cycling athlete on an expensive bike is no more or less valuable than a man or woman pedaling a Walmart bike to work. However, if a substantial portion of the recent increases in cycling fatalities (2006-2015) were “person on bike”, what does that means for the risk to cycling athletes training and touring on suburban streets and country roads?

The data below from 2015 may offer some insight into this question:

  • The average age of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles continues to increase, climbing to 45 years old in 2014, up from 39 in 2004, 32 in 1998, and 24 in 1988. (This reflects the dramatic decline of bicycling fatalities among people younger than 20.)
  • 17% of bicyclists killed were wearing helmets (54% were not, and helmet use was unknown in 29% of crashes).
  • Of bicyclist fatalities involving people over 20 years old, 75 percent of those killed were male.
  • 71 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas.
  • 41 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred between 6pm and midnight
  • 23 percent of bicyclists killed had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher (175/775 in 2015)
  • In 35 percent of the crashes, either the driver or the bicyclist had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.

Sources: http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/factsheet_crash.cfm and http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/pedestrians-and-bicyclists/fatalityfacts/bicycles

The picture that starts to get painted by the data above is that cycling athletes in suburban and rural areas, riding on minor roads during the day represent a relatively low number of cycling fatalities. Think about your behaviors as a cycling athlete and how they correlate with those statistics. Where and when are you riding, with or without a helmet? Part of the reason I included the helmet data point is that helmet use has become so ubiquitous among cycling athletes that a large number of the non-helmeted bicyclists killed may fit into the “person on bike” category.

Again, and I think this has to be reiterated, I am not suggesting “person on bike” is any less valuable as a human being. Nor am I blaming the victim. This is not a case of “They rode bicycles at night on city streets, possibly drunk and without a helmet, so it was their fault.” No. Not at all. All I’m suggesting is that cycling athletes who feel threatened training on suburban or rural roads during the day may be overestimating their actual risk.

I have ridden all over the world and all over the US, in big cities and rural areas, with and without bike lanes or substantial shoulders. I have had close passes, encountered the texting teens, been yelled at, had sodas and spittoons thrown at me, and even had a gun pulled on me by a motorist during my commute home. With the exception of the texting drivers (which has only been a problem in the last 10-15 years) what hasn’t really changed is how often they occur. I may be in the minority here, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, but I’m not convinced the individual risk to cycling athletes in the United States has substantially increased over the past 10 years.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned in my years are to always pay attention, follow the law (stop signs, stop lights, etc.), ride predictably, assume cars don’t see you (ride defensively but assertively), and keep riding! Our presence on the road makes us safer in the long run by conditioning drivers to expect us to be there. And call out riders – both cycling athletes and people on bikes – when their behavior endangers the rest of us. Positive change is coming, and we all play a role in it.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

42 Responses to “Think Roads Have Become More Dangerous for Cyclists? I Don’t. Here’s Why.”

  1. Tina

    Great article-
    As a safety sales rep, I agree –
    Always be covered in safety gear, bright clothes, and lights,
    Front and rear, cycling and running. Please stop assuming that just because it’s daylight out that you don’t need lights.
    Trust me you do.

    Reply
  2. Michael Percy

    We moved to Downeast Maine in 2012, and now in my mid 60’s after decades of cycling in CA, I choose my roads carefully. Fortunately there is little to no traffic over the routes I choose here, and my mileage is now deliberately less to further minimize exposure. But the biggest reduction in risk from the car/bicycle interface has been by taking to the ocean in the warmer months pedaling my prop drive catamaran to islands offshore. Other than lobster boats in the distance, and the sailboats I like to chase on days with little wind, I do not encounter other vehicles. When I travel to old haunts in CA now, I am struck by how much traffic there is, and how crazy the drivers are. I’m glad not to face that now.

    Reply
  3. Nancy S.

    I’ve been commuting since 1987. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in the US within the past 5-7 years that has me second guessing my routes, implementing cameras, technology and advising others of my travel plans beforehand. I find myself riding dirt more often these days for recreation, as a result.
    Riding in Europe, I’ve never felt threatened by distracted or irate drivers.

    Reply
  4. Judd

    Good article. I ride regularly and have used my bike for commuting to work. I try to stay mindful and respectful and so far it has worked. What I think sends a poor message is when cyclist on a non-bike lane roads ride all the way up to the stop light between curbs, parked cars or other objects and the traffic lane cars. The traffic rules say to take your place in line. The respect for others using the road says to take your place in line, many of those cars waited patiently to pass cautiously. The jerk move is to sneak right on by and force those cautious respectful folks to pass you twice. I’m sure they are delighted to try to pass over and over again on the busy narrow streets of my town. Especially when the cyclist acts as if they have saved the planet by their actions. I don’t emit CO like cars but I do emit CO2 and methane. I love cycling. I too have been yelled at, had coke cans thrown at me, etc. However, I said these things not to be angry but more to say “come team, use your head!” Just my 2 cents.

    Reply
  5. Tim from Livermore

    I’ve had two crashes at. The last 40 years. Both in the last 4 years. First was a passenger opening their door at a stop light just as I was passing between them and parked cars. Went over their door. Totally unexpected from a car in the traffic lane. Second was on a bike path when a large dog ran out from between some bushes and hit
    My front wheel. I went over instanstly and suffered a broken wrist bone and a separated shoulder. I’ve never had a crash on the open road. And I ride every type of road from nontraffics rural roads to high traffic highways.

    Reply
  6. Tim from Livermore

    I’ve been cycling since ncen1974. On rural roads in the San Francisco Bay are there is not a lot of change except for occasional motorcycle and car clubs of 10 to 50 vehicles using the roads. Most drivers watch out. Some crazies. Most towns are ok with wide roads and bike lanes but it’s getting worse on connector roads that were designed for 1/-0th the traffic. Some times they are the only routes. Of more concern are the nuts with huge pickups and their inability to judge their space on the road. Texters are a constant pain now and I encounter them daily on my commute. Absolutely no awareness of what they are doing. I’ve developed a good sense of what drivers are likely to do and just pay attention all the time. So far that has worked. BTW, I have more trouble with other cycling sets than with car drivers – almost universally ignore stop signs and stop lights. Little concern for others using the road. I rarely ride in groups larger than 6 because of the brain dead riding that large groups demonstrate. In many ways cyclists are their own worst enemies.

    Reply
  7. Alex Mendez

    Excellent article. I think we all ride a bit more fearful and carefully these days as most of us know other riders hurt or killed by cars. And nearly all of us have encountered road rage directed as us – mostly yelling, some objects thrown, etc. A few points here. I live in MN. Here, state maintained paths and sidewalks have a speed limit of 10 MPH. So, is you are a usual rider, we cannot use them without breaking this law. Typically not enforced, but in case of bike vs pedestrian accident, it will be used against us. So, I stay on the road.
    Second, I am a physician in a Level 1 trauma and get injured bikers with some frequency. And I get the sense that the local police is not very interested in pursuing these cases aggressively. There’s the attitude that we got on the road at our own risk. So, hits and runs by cars… nothing to do. Possible distracted driving… unprovable, no charges, etc. Until the Police Departments across the country start getting tough in cases were the drivers are at fault, drivers will not take this seriously. Some drivers should be charged as “attack with a deadly weapon”. I’ve been hit on my left shoulder by rear view mirrors of cars that were trying to give me a scare, violating the 3 foot law. Only twice, but that’s 2 times too many. Even if you give the police the license number, it’s your word only and they will not do anything.
    Finally, some manufacturers have rear lights with radars, detecting cars approaching from 150 ft behind. That sends an alert to your GPS unit and changes the frequency of blinking. They should incorporate a tiny video cam that records the upcoming vehicle to a micro SD card. And this should be considered as potential evidence. People tend to behave better if they know they are being filmed.
    For the time being, ride very carefully and assume the driver of that car coming towards you is distracted or enraged.

    Reply
  8. Greg Conderacci

    Chris — I don’t have hard data, but I do have a long, longitudinal experience. I’ve been riding for almost a half century, with more than 35 years of it on urban, suburban and rural roads within 100 miles of Washington, DC. Three key changes: more traffic, bigger cars, and more distracted drivers. What this amounts to is a dramatic decrease in the number of roads that can be ridden safely. I can ride just as safely as 25 years ago — on about 30% of the roads I used to ride.

    Reply
  9. J Dubois

    Like you, I’m just back from a week cycling the climbs of stages 12 and 13 of this year’s Tour. What I found was, except for vastly better road surfaces, consideration by drivers is not unlike what I experience where I live now, about an hour north of Montréal. Drivers that slow down and wait for a safe opportunity to pass before overtaking cyclists. This stands in contrast to the years I spent cycling in and around Phoenix – this goes to your point that riding on secondary roads in a rural setting is overall vastly safer than riding in cities. On this subject, this PhD Thesis “Exploring Drivers’ Attitudes and Behaviors toward Bicyclists” is worth a read. A more empirical view of the point your are making: http://trec.pdx.edu/research/project/989

    Reply
  10. Mark Lemmon

    Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful article. Most people commenting here have been riding on the roads for a long time. I don’t see young adults joining our ranks in large enough numbers to make cyclists a much larger presence on the roads in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. I think it is time to spend more of our time and money on promoting the building of protected bike lanes and multiuse paths. Sure, sharing a path with a pedestrian has its own set of dangers and limitations, but I’m willing to accept those limitations rather than potentially becoming a martyr for a probable lost cause of thinking U.S. drivers will ever behave like European drivers in our lifetimes.

    Reply
  11. CT

    See and be seen….this was taught to me oh so many moons ago riding my stingray on the boardwalk in So CA …today riding all over this great state of ours…the focus must be to see. Distracted driving is the real deal. We can not depend on being seen!

    Reply
  12. Robert Potts

    Great Article!

    I continued road cycling about seven years ago after a long break. Riding more really has tamed down my driving on curvy rural roads. I no longer drive curves near the limit for the fear there maybe a cyclist like myself around the bend of a blind curve. It is very concerning that many of the younger generations are not riding. I think enjoying and experiencing also helps raise the awareness and respect for drivers and riders to share the road. I try to plan safe route accordingly. There are some shoulder-less commuter clogged rural roads I avoid like the plague. I try to avoid tying traffic on narrow lanes whenever I can. I agree that there are week-ends when the paved bike path can be as dangerous with pedestrians hogging the entire path. Add cyclist with differing abilities from a leisure stroll to large groups of Cat 5 riders zooming by that results in close calls and drama… Bicycle head on collision can easily carry the impact of 30-40 MPH. Everyone stay alert where ever you and assume they don’t see you and wear you helmet.

    Reply
  13. Brian Gallamore

    I have been biking most of my life, starting out as an adolescent using bikes for freedom the being a competitive MTB racer and also road biking. One of the problems I see regularly can be witnessed at my local state recreation area here in Michigan. The park has miles of roads used by road bikers, as well as, a couple MTB trails. I regularly road bike, MTB and trail run at this location. I have witnessed multiple angry encounters between road bikers and cars in the park. The speed limit in the park is mostly 25 mph so a pace line of road bikers can easily maintain this pace and cars can wait behind them. Where I see problems is when you get bikers riding 2 or 3 abreast at 15 mph carrying on a conversation while cars back up behind them. There is a sense of arrogance or entitlement that they don’t need to move over and allow cars to pass. Add to that they blow through stop signs and disobey other rules of the road and the car drivers develop a serious attitude toward the bikers.

    When I trail run I have the right of way against he MTB riders, however I always move over as far as possible to allow passing. Same thing when I am on my MTB and encounter runners/hikers , I slow down and move over and start a polite conversation.

    Road bikers need to understand that they should be respectful to drivers if they expect respect back. Don’t ride 2 & 3 abreast, obey the rules of the road and even if you have the right of way make sure you respect the 3,000 lb car. As my mom use to say, right of way doesn’t mean anything if you are dead.

    Reply
    • chris

      your point is incorrect – in all parts of the country familiar to me, traffic laws allow for riding two abreast in a lane at any legal speed, on any road which is accessible to nonmotorized vehicles. If you don’t like cyclists riding two abreast at a legal (but slower than you like) pace….you unfortunately have to “just deal with it” Their pace is actually irrelevant if legal; indeed, someone driving a car that slow would also elicit impatience, but likely would not get the same vitriol because they are not so exposed

      Reply
  14. Clint

    Thanks Chris for once again writing another BLOG on these very important topics of safety on the road! Good to see all the responses!

    As mentioned in my replies to previous BLOGS, these topics are so dear to my heart as a retired bike cop, still active bike patrol instructor, NICA coach and bicycle safety advocate!

    I agree there have been some positive changes to bicycle infrastructure and cyclists/motorists’ behaviors, BUT a lot more needs to be done! Unfortunately, here in the US we are a “car-centric” society where speed on the roads rules and others GET out of the way. Many motorists, some cyclists and even some government officials (being nice) view bicyclists as second class users of the roads. The FTR (far to the right) mentality and most traffic laws requiring such behavior (in all states there are exceptions) cause conflicts between motorists and bicyclists. They include “side swipes,” “right hooks,” “left crosses,” and “mid-block/intersection pull-outs.” Poorly designed infrastructure, including some “bike lanes” cause conflicts as well.

    I want to emphasize we as cyclists DON’T want to do is get a false sense of security/safety by the wearing of High Vis apparel and use of active lighting. How we as legitimate and equal users of the roads ride (really DRIVE) does make a BIG difference in our safety and interaction with motorist and fellow cyclists! I do personally wear and use the above. I appreciate Trek’s campaign on this called the “ABCs of Awareness.” See link: https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/abcs_of_awareness/.

    There are many great resources out there like the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) and others. I’ve personally been involved for several years with the grass-roots organization called CyclingSavvy. Many of their instructors are former LAB instructors. I’ve been working with them bringing Adult Bicycle Safety education (classroom and hands-on) to parts of SoCal. They also have on-line training. Here are some links for them: http://cyclingsavvy.org/, http://iamtraffic.org/ and http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/.

    Listed below is a small sample of what CyclingSavvy teaches:

    Source: “You can go anywhere! 10 tips for safe & easy bicycling around town”
    1. Ride on the road.
    2. Know and follow the rules.
    3. Integrate in the intersections.
    4. Ride Big.
    5. Communicate.
    6. Be mindful of your surroundings.
    7. Understand how traffic flows.
    8. Want respect? Act respectably.
    9. Let it go: don’t escalate harassment.
    10. Keep it fun!

    THE GOOD NEWS IS DRIVING YOUR BIKE IN TRAFFIC CAN BE SAFE, STRESS-FREE AND FUN!

    Hope this helps!

    Be safe and ride smart and effectively out there everyone!
    CS

    Reply
  15. Rick Everett

    Yikes

    Text, drunks and people who dont know the rules.

    A cyclist wearing a helmet somehow tells the driver to be careful.

    If you are in front you have right of way, unless the driver behind doesnt see you then you are in the right and in an accident, use daytime lights front and rear.

    Learn to snapshot a license plate as a close call comes past, make it a habit.

    Dont ride on a narrow shoulder, use the lane so a driver has to go around you, if a driver cant pass he may get impatient or wait till he has room, i make them wait if I am going fast, and move over if I am slow.

    If a driver can put two wheels over the yellow they will usually pass with lots of room, if we make it possible for them to pass i. the lane, because they are on the shoulder they will try to squeeze through.

    Been shot with a bb, yelled at, told I belong on a sidewalk and worse.

    Black jerseys and helmets are stupid. White, yellow and orange!

    40 Mph on a downhill? Use the whole lane, they can wait if you are going that fast.

    Road ID, or an expired drivers license with next of kin and emergency info on the back.

    Smart, think, look, pay attention!

    NO Headphones or music unless you want to die.

    Reply
  16. Mark Baker

    Very interesting article and many more good comments. I Abe had my share of close calls over the years as well, both with and without intent from the driver. I haven’t noticed a significant increase over time.
    However of particulr interest to me was the drop for people under 20. It appears fewer and fewer are riding bikes at all. With that a cultural change will be extremely difficult to achieve.

    Reply
  17. Shane

    I agree with Andy. Almost a year ago, I was hit by a car on a rural ride popular with cyclists and left to be found later – unconscious with a concussion, punctured lung and 14 broken bones. I was able to get back to riding in less than 60 days but I now choose dirt almost exclusively.

    I love the road bike and I miss it but it’s not worth dying over. At least if I crash on the MTB it’s my own fault.

    I think Chris’ point about many drivers in Europe having experience on the other side of the equation is important. If drivers in US had the chance to feel the sensation of a car passing too close, rolling thru an intersection into their path or having an oncoming car cross the double yellow into their lane to pass another car, I am certain they would yield more space.

    Reply
  18. Paul Mooney

    I ride in RI and MA. Road conditions are a huge problem for cyclists and those texting and driving also cause many crashes and/or near misses. Was surprised at the stat on how many riders don’t wear helmets. Would never think of riding without one.

    Reply
  19. David West

    4 days short of a year ago was struck from behind by a hit and run driver ( broken hip, four broken ribs and a broken collarbone, but was back on the road by October), so I am biased on this issue. Try to ride in groups much more often now. I guess my new practice is “Safety in Numbers”. I have noticed that if a driver has a perceived bad experience with a cyclist, they say, “All bicyclists suck!”. I counter that thinking by asking if they have had a bad experience with another driver. Of course they all say “Yes”. I then ask them if they said, “All drivers suck!” They all say, “No.” Then I ask them to give cyclists the same leeway. Most people seem to get the point.

    Reply
  20. Ned

    I am a traffic officer in the central coast area of California, very close to your training center in Santa Ynez. The past few years, vehicle vs. cyclist collisions are up 300% in the area.

    Reply
  21. John Mattos

    Great article, Chris. Loved the closing paragraph. I ride daily (not weekends) and all my rides begin and end at my long driveway. I’m 7 miles east of Ft. Collins and have a plethora of routes (I try to ride between 20 and 40 miles a day). I’m NEVER without a helmet and my rear and helmet red safety blinkers are always ON. I always ride alone and try to hug the right side white line…I just feel more comfortable on the far right. Almost every driver gives me a wide berth when passing me from behind but there are a few who like to use the whole lane. Since I’ve been retired (7 yrs) and I can count fewer than 10 relatively close calls. Maybe it’s the county roads I like to ride or the great trail system in the Fort and around Latimer and Weld counties, but I agree with the conclusion of your article. I truly feel that drivers ARE more aware and cautious with bicyclists who ride safely and have learned how to “share the road”. Love your informative articles, Chris. Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Chris Fehr

    Interesting read. Perception really is important, when I have done some riding in the US I find the drivers friendlier than in Canada. This could be because I’m in vacation mode and everything seems better or it could be localized to Lake Placid and St Augusta areas. Around home I do control what I can, lights, helmet, follow the laws plan as safe a route as possible and often drive my car to a safer starting point.

    Local news just reported as part of a story about a bike / truck road rage incident that 1/3 of Canadians have experienced road rage in the last month. It “feels” like a growing problem for anyone using the road.

    Your stats imply a sad trend, just like my other passion, where the average age of a motorcyclist goes up every year. Are young people more afraid of risk than we were / are?

    Reply
  23. Brian Farrell

    I believe safety on the roads will only substantively improve with the adoption of autonomous braking which should be quickly mandated by the NTSB as the statistics on its efficacy in preventing distracted, inebriated, mentally and visually impaired and intentionally homicidal drivers from causing harm accumulates.

    Reply
  24. Chuck Wehner

    Up until a few weeks ago, all my accidents were my fault and nothing severe and then I was hit by a truck as I was going thru an intersection. I had a bright flashing light, bright clothes, a red bike and I was on a bicycle/pedestrian path that parallels the road. The driver turned right in front of me and kept on going, makes me think it could have been a punishment turn.

    Reply
  25. john thornton

    Chris
    I believe the point you presented are good focal points in reference to the topic. But I think there are two key points that need tob pointed out and those that there needs to be more rider awareness to the public and secondly I believe that the density of traffic has added to the problem of increased injuries. I myself got hit by a vehicle from behind by a driver making a right hand turn while I was going straight and truly believe this was a result the driver not only be aware of bicyclists but. Also not be observant of anything smaller the a car including pedestrians. Whether or not he was tex ting was unknown so the end game here is to increase awareness and inform the public of the rights of bicyclists

    Reply
    • Bob Zimels

      Living about 100 miles North of LA, the Ca. car culture is nearly all-pervasive. I’ve been riding for over 70 years (the last 40 fairly regularly) and have noted a significant increase in ‘close calls between bikers and drivers. It has become frightening to ride on local streets, especially with folks driving and talking on the phone or texting. Most drivers have heard ‘cell phone users are more dangerous than drunk drivers, but of course, that doesn’t apply to them. There have been several fatalities (car/bike kind) around here in the past several weeks, not including the cyclist riding on the RR tracks getting hit by AMTRACK.
      I do sometimes yell at cyclists who flout the law, but am too old to get into a fight:(.
      I even rode with Chris, when he was in Santa Barbara about 15 years ago!!!

      Reply
  26. Marsha Cohen

    We also need to change our culture with education. Teach children and new drivers that cyclists have a right to be on the road. Teach them the basics of riding to get an understanding of what it’s like to be on the road with thousands of pounds of steel next to them. Have state DMVs make it part of the driving test to learn proper cyclist/motorist etiquette. Get local law enforcement on board to enforce rules are followed by both motorists and cyclists. Remind motorists that not only do cyclists support local businesses, we also pay taxes that fix roads for cars. Make sure they know that in cities having people on bikes is good for everyone, as there are less cars on the road, so less congestion and pollution.
    I realize this is a difficult ask, especially in this time of so many distracted drivers. Most of the time I just wish people still used turn signals. But just as there are campaigns to stop texting, and stop drinking and driving, maybe there could be a bigger one to share the road.

    Reply
  27. Ray Scott

    I have been a road cyclist for 46 years and I have never been more uncomfortable riding today than I have ever been. The increase in traffic, distracted drivers, road work have made this a dangerous sport. I have had 4 serious crashes and surprisingly only 1 has involved a vehicle. 1 involved a cyclist who braked in front of me in a pace line and the other 2 were my fault. Collectively they all resulted in a separated shoulder, broken pelvis, left hand, a concussion and bruised ribs. I am 73 and have accomplished some of my goals by winning some races and doing a lot of charity rides. I am done riding on the road, I wear bright colors, have the Varia rear radar detection system and bright lights. I never ride after dark. My last accident occurred 3 weeks ago and I was knocked unconscious. I laid in the middle of the road and didn’t move. Luckily, I was riding with 3 other riders who stopped raffia and called 911. The Cat scan showed no damage even though my helmet with MIPS was cracked all the way through. The ER Doc said the helmet saved my life. It saved my life when I crashed 5 years ago. My family Doc said you survived strike 1 and 2. I am not risking strike 3 and plan to do trail riding. Crashed can occur there as well but I plan to reduce that risk by slowing down and not having to worry about distracted drivers. Make sure you wear a Road ID, I do and the EMT was able to access my medical data and emergency number which I could not do. Please be safe, your life is is very important to you and your loved ones.

    Reply
  28. Michael Bell

    “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

    I’m an avid lifetime cyclist (> 50 yrs old) with thousands of miles training, racing, touring, commuting, and recreational riding. While riding I regard myself as “invisible to all others.” I wear a helmet, reflectors, and bright clothing. My bicycle is equipped with lights front and rear, a bell, and/or a horn (and I use them). The majority of my riding is on my mountain bike on single track and dirt roads (people don’t like to drive their cars on dirt), or I ride a road bike on the trainer. Your safety is your own responsibility. Have fun! I do!!
    Bellman

    Reply
  29. scott stahl

    My roll as a truck driving instructor and driver safety instructor has made one thing very clear. As a endurance road cyclist the rules are the same for any moving vehicle on the road. Here are the keys.
    1. Give yourself a out, plan for the unexpected
    2. Aim high steering , know the road ahead at least to where you can stop effectively
    3. Distractions lead to disasters
    4.the picture always changes, be aware
    5. Safety equipment, check it, wear it, use it.

    Reply
  30. Tomas Gimenez

    In my corner of the world (Southeast USA) the majority of road cyclists try to be “invisible”. The wear dull colors and have no lights front or rear. We should not blame motorists for all bicycle incidents. Many bicycle riders have the attitude that it is the responsibility of the motorist to ensure the safety of the bike rider.

    Reply
  31. Eddie Mas

    Great article. My experience in Western NY is the same as most cyclist, lots of angry drivers. Three years ago I went out in a rainy day close to home and a vehicle went through a stop sign hit my breaks and end up hitting passenger door got up check my clavicle and lucky wasn’t broke. The worse of my accident was I realized the driver didn’t care to even stop to see how I was . We as cyclist need to take all precautions possible.

    Reply
  32. Andy

    Statistics are fun, but it only takes one angry or distracted driver to kill you. Maybe it’s because I live in a small town/rural area, but the level of disrespect/anger cyclists experience here is intense. I’ve had lots of things (beer bottles, Big Gulps full of ice, diapers) thrown at me. I’ve had drivers pull up behind me and lay on the horn, yell obscenities at me, brush me back off the road, and cut me off in intersections. And these are not seldom – it’s at least once a year. I have personally known several cyclists killed on the road here. Now with phones and other driver distractions it seems that the roads are even more dangerous than ever.

    I ride legally and carefully with a helmet and now daytime running lights. But frankly every time I hear a car coming up behind me I stiffen up and my heart rate jumps a bit. There is fear. Many of my friends have abandoned riding on the road for mountain biking because of this fear. I’m still riding on the road because I love it, but with the realization that there’s a good chance I’ll die doing what I love.

    Reply
    • JC

      The causes of accidents span the full range of the experiences described. My experience as a cyclist and runner tells me there is an inherent mindset a subset of automobile drivers have against riders and runners who use the roads. For example, whether or not you are lit-up like a Christmas tree from the backside or have not lights at all, cyclists riding up a mountain climb in bright daylight are as visible as ever; however, there is a subset of the population who have a psychological imbalance causing them to “buzz” the cyclists (and runners for that matter) within inches of physical contact. The surprise and wind factor alone are often sufficient to wipeout a cyclist. I haven’t recognized much difference in the reaction to cyclists of this subculture whether I’m riding within the car lane, a bike lane or shoulder. My observation is that the perpetrators are mostly out of shape male drivers in their late 20s, 30s and 40s. My hypothesis is that these individuals have some a bone to pickwith those of us who put forth the effort and dedicate the time to pursue fitness, and are viewed as some sort of entitlement that this subculture is separated from. In reality, everyone has the ability to achieve some level of their fitness entitlement but it’s a function of the decisions we make. This subculture has made bad decisions and are happy searching for others to take out their frustrations. In other words, there are a variety of pricks who intend to take out the frustration of their lives on anyone within reach and cyclist/runners are an easy target…watch out for yourself.

      Reply
  33. Neil Ducoff

    Wow Chris … this post really hit home.

    On June 7th, I was hit by a vehicle during a training ride on a road I’ve been riding hundreds of times for over 10 years. I had the right of way and the intersection was clear as I approached. Out of nowhere … a vehicle entered my path from the left. Next thing I know, I’m being loaded into an ambulance.

    I had a 700 lumens LED blinking light on front and a Garmin Varia in back. Never saw the vehicle crossing the road in front of me until it was in my path. According to my Garmin, I was doing 20 mph when my speed went to zero at collision. I’m lucky my injuries weren’t worse … and that I wasn’t killed.

    The physical damage: Multiple fractures in my left hip socket that required surgery to install a plate and ten screws. Three cracked ribs in my upper back, upper sternum crushed plus other injuries.

    Spent three weeks in the hospital … I’ll be on crutches for a few more weeks. Hope get back on my bike for some easy (regain my confidence) rides by November.

    MY BIKE: I took delivery of my new S-Works Roubaix eTap Disc five days before the accident. Bike didn’t survive.

    I was signed up for the Fig Fondo in November … Maybe next year.

    Being the victim of a careless driver has been nothing short of a nightmare. My recovery has a long way to go.

    I’m 67.
    2018 is going to be comeback year. CTS Coach Tracey Drews is just waiting for the OK to start my coaching me back to where I was before the accident.

    Neil

    Reply
  34. Gary Van Horn

    Thanks Chris; your articles are great. My personal perception of increased risk stems from the dramatic increase in car crashes that have been attributed to distracted driving. Fatalities in car/bicycle encounters tell one story but injuries to cyclists being struck by a vehicle can tell another. Far too frequently, especailly in congested suburban areas, cyclists get sideswiped, cut off and forced to take emergency maneuvers resulting in injury. Drivers using cell phones is a huge threat to road cyclists. Education and enforcement needs to improve.

    Reply
  35. David Aggett

    I know that I’m just an experiment of one, however since adding very bright flashing lights to my bike, front and back, (I only ride during bright daylight hours), I have noticed a significant change in how drivers interact with me. I get far fewer cars pulling out of driveways and sidestreets in front of me, many fewer passing me then cutting me off as they either pull back into my lane or into driveways or sidestreets, and far fewer yahoos passing me on blind curves (pickup trucks and hot hatches excepted). I’ve even had several drivers comment positively on my visibility. Unfortunately, I’ve also had several cyclists and pedestrians complain about the brightness of the flashing lights. I just smile and thank them. Small price to pay for even a minor improvement in safety and courtesy from drivers.

    Reply
    • Bill Arnerich

      Well said, David. I agree 100%. Over the years (I’m 73 and retired), I’ve had three very close calls and one near-death experience on the rural roads of California’s Santa Ynez Valley. As a result, my riding habits have changed dramatically. I used to ride at least three days per week, but now I’m down to one mid-morning (less traffic) ride each week on one of three carefully-chosen rural loops with just enough mild hills and rollers to satisfy my race preparation needs. The rest of the time I’m spinning at my local YMCA or on my own spinner in my garage. Not ideal, I know, and certainly not as much fun as riding on the roads with friends, but it’s what I’ve chosen to do as an alternative to dealing with my anxieties when vehicles fly past me at 60-65 MPH on our “rural roads.”

      Reply
  36. Paul Chamberlin

    The first bulleted statistic probably reflects the aging of the baby boomer generation.

    I’ve had drivers not pass me because there is a solid yellow line which normally means no passing. I’m not sure but I think a car driver is allowed to cross the yellow line in order to pass a bicyclist as long as there is no oncoming traffic.

    I am more worried when passing a pedestrian on a bike path than having a car pass me when riding on a road. I feel safer on the road shoulder than on a bike path when you consider how many cars are on the road and how little they deviate from their lane of travel. Pedestrians on a bike path are less predictable.

    Reply
    • Bill

      I wonder if the absolute numbers of younger riders killed is reflective of lower participation in that age range. In Charlotte, NC the vast majority of riders I see on city streets are NOT “person on bike” category and are certainly in the 25+ age bracket. Youth on bike seems confined to these planned neighborhoods (house farms) we now build. Would be a shame to learn that younger riders are becoming rarer.

      Reply
  37. Gary Perior

    I absolutely agree with your comments Chris. Also, I am going to write an article for the local newspaper. I am an avid cyclist and am 79 years of age. I see the problems we face and unfortunately there are many drivers who dislike us being on the road. However, most drivers are courteous.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)