Is fear of a bicycle accident keeping people in their cars?

bike injury bicycle injury biking accident

Most of us are well aware of the health and economic benefits of bicycle commuting, but in most cities the car is still king. Even in cities such as Victoria, which have ample bike lanes and paths, the majority of people still drive almost everywhere. Is fear of a serious bike injury the motivating factor?

Fatalities from bicycle injuries account for about 2% of all road-related deaths in Canada, nearly all due to vehicle collisions. 2007 data from Transport Canada reveals that while there were 65 fatalities, nearly 7,500 bicycle injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization, and it’s estimated that as many as  70,000 more required visits to the emergency room for non-life threatening injuries. In the United States, 698 people died from bicycle injuries in 2007, and more than half a million others required treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

However, death and injury rates in several European countries are substantially lower. Cyclists in North America are twice as likely to be killed and eight times more likely to be seriously injured than cyclists in Germany and three times as likely to be killed and 30 times as likely to suffer serious injuries than cyclists in the Netherlands.

Experts offer several reasons as to why there’s such a large difference in bike injury rates, including the availability of more bicycle-dedicated routes, and greater awareness of cyclists on roadways. More people riding bikes creates greater awareness by cyclists and car drivers which translates into lower bike accident rates.

In cases of a vehicle bicycle collision, it’s no surprise that the cyclist usually fares the worst. Certain safety precautions can be taken to reduce the chances of suffering a bicycle injury:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Always obey the rules of the road.
  • Use a light (front and back) at night.
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing when riding, especially at night.
  • Be vigilant at both intersection and non-intersection locations, especially in urban areas.
  • Never assume that motorists will yield, even if you have the right-of-way.
  • Maintain your bicycle in good working order.
  • Be as visible as possible to others.
  • Learn the skills needed to control your bike.
  • Cycle in traffic safely and predictably.
  • Know and obey the rules of the road.
If it’s possible to take a dedicated bike path or side street, that’s almost always safer than taking a major road. It may take a bit longer to arrive at your destination, but the reduced risk of a serious biking accident is worth it.
Many people are still wary of bicycle commuting, despite tremendously successful campaigns such as Bike to Work Week and the increasing number of bike storage and shower facilities being offered in office buildings. Is fear of a bicycle accident keeping you from becoming an active cyclist?
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Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.


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