bicycle popularity is on the rise

In today's fast-paced world, bicycle popularity has grown long after the training wheels have come off.
You may still see crowds of kids biking around the neighborhood on summer break or after school - along with parents, singles, and even business people that use bicycles for their daily commute.

Why has the bicycle become so popular as an alternate
mode of transportation?

"Pro-cycling" campaigns have been popping up far and wide, urging Americans to ditch their cars in favor of a more economical, eco-friendly, two-wheeled ride. Based on statistics, most Americans use a bicycle for less than a 3 mile trek. 28% of riders cycle a distance less than a mile.

And let's not forget the benefit to the environment: For every mile that is cycled rather than driven, close to 1 pound of CO2 is saved.

As dire economic times have swept the globe, bicycle commuting to work has become the norm in a number of countries. In some areas of Europe, like England and Wales, the healthy and affordable option of bicycling versus driving an expensive vehicle has increased by close to one fifth amongst commuters.

As a result, bicycling has become the second most popular outdoor activity in the US.

In fact, three times as many
brand-spanking-new bicycles are sold per
year compared to new cars: 14.9 million bicycles versus 4.6 million vehicles.

14.9 m

bicycles

4.6 m

vehicles

While many benefits of bicycle transportation are clear,
here are several advantages that may surprise you:

Commuters that cycle to work have lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Women that cycle for only a half hour a day reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Bike paths built in a neighborhood can increase the value of a home.

Cycling a 10 mile round-trip commute can provide savings of $10 each day.

Cycling promotes safety in numbers: The more cyclists in a group, the safer the journey.

Compared to the minimal cost of owning and riding a bicycle, owning and driving a vehicle is a major household expense

The average american household spends

$8,758

per year on owning and driving their cars.

That’s more than they spend on food.

The many health benefits of bicycling outweigh the risks by 20 to 1.

If you're looking for one outstanding benefit to make the switch to a bike, consider this one to be a home run hit: Based on Portland's investment in support of citywide cycling transportation, biking has the potential to save millions of dollars in healthcare -
$40 million to be exact:

Portland: a model for the US

Portland leads the US in ridership with nearly 6% commuting by bike.

Across 55 major US cities, commuting by bike rose 70% between 2000-2009.

Portland’s huge investment in biking will save it $400M in health care by 2040

Recorded & Projected Health Care Savings (in Millions)

Granted, just like any other mode of transportation, bicycling does come with possible risk. Cycling on a busy road has the potential for danger, but following traffic laws and maintaining awareness as a cyclist can greatly reduce the risk of an accident.

According to the US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA), 677 pedal cyclists were killed in 2011, along with 48,000 injured in traffic accidents. Fortunately, pedal cyclist fatalities made up
only 2% of all vehicle traffic accident fatalities within the year.

Compared to 2010, 2011 pedal cyclist
fatalities rose by 9%.

What areas pose the highest risk to pedal cyclists?

urban areas

The majority of pedal cyclist crash fatalities in 2011 took place in urban areas at 69%

outside of intersections

with 59% of accidents occurring outside of intersections

peak traffic hours

30% of fatalities were recorded in peak traffic hours of 4 PM to 7:59 PM

Although unfortunate, these pedal cyclist risk factors can teach cyclists everywhere a valuable lesson. Once you
identify the prime risk factors that could affect the average cyclist, you can embrace basic bicycle safety to
improve your experience every time you hit the open road.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. It's important to start out on the right foot by understanding the most common types of bicycle collisions that occur and how to prevent them.

5 Most Common Types of Bicycle Collisions

As a cyclist on the road, you have two primary goals:

  • To reach your destination.

  • To not get hit by a car.

For all intents and purposes, you may consider goal number two the most important goal by far as it will protect you from potential injury and even death.

Based on the infographic statistics below, two thirds of bicycle accident fatalities are caused by traumatic brain injuries, which can be greatly reduced by wearing a helmet:

cycling injuries revealed

Reasons people Ride Bikes

  • 26%

    Recreation

  • 23.6%

    Health Reason

  • 14.2%

    To Go Home

  • 13.9%

    Personal Errands

  • 2.3%

    Bicycle Ride

  • 10%

    Visit A Friend

  • 4.9%

    Other

  • 5%

    Commuting

Most Common Places to Ride

  • 48.1%

    Paved Roads

  • 13.6%

    Sidewalks

  • 13.1%

    Bicycle Paths

  • 12.8%

    Shoulder of Paved Roads

  • 2.1%

    Unpaved Roads

  • 5.2%

    Bike Lanes

  • 5.1%

    Other

Most Common Injuries
Due To Overuse

  • 48.8%

    Neck

  • 41.7%

    Knee

  • 36.1%

    Groin/Buttock

  • 31.1%

    Hands

  • 30.3%

    Lower Back

Injuries on bicycles result in 580,000 emergency
department visits each year

1 in 8 bicyclist with reported injuries has a traumatic injury

Two-thirds of accident deaths are from traumatic brain injuries

Bike Helmet Facts

  • 91% of bicyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing helmets.

  • Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 85%, brain injury 88%, and severe brain injury by more than 75%.

  • 19 States require drivers to keep 3 feet away from bicyclists at all times.

Yes, getting hit by a car as a cyclist is a distinct possibility if you don't keep your eyes open and obey the rules of the road. Wearing a helmet is important, but it only provides minimal head protection if you do get hit by a car. The ultimate focus of bicycle safety is to help you avoid a traffic collision at all costs.

Yet bicycle safety extends far beyond wearing a bicycle helmet.

What's more, following the letter of the law in bicycle traffic safety may still leave you vulnerable on the road. As an example, bicycle traffic laws indicate that you should ride on the far right of the road. However, this could leave you smack-dab in the middle of the blind spot of a car exiting a driveway or parking lot.

Understanding where most bicycle accidents take place will heighten your awareness and keep you out of the blind spots of even the most well-meaning drivers.

Here are several real-life cycling scenarios that could result in potentially deadly collisions:

scenario #1: right turn

What Happens:

In what is considered the most common bicycle-car collision setup, a car turning right may hit a cyclist or pull in front of a cyclist.

How to Avoid It:

  • This accident can be avoided by using a headlight at night, waving at a turning car, slowing down before driveways and intersections, and riding slightly farther left in the right bicycle lane.
  • Riding too close to the curb may make you invisible to turning drivers, so ease left in the bicycle lane just a few feet.

In all 50 states, it is your right to move into the traffic lane as a cyclist if you so choose; this can improve your visibility in front of other drivers if you are trying to make a right turn with traffic.

scenario #2: Left turn

What Happens:

50% of bicycle-car crashes occur when a driver doesn't see a cyclist
when making a left turn.

How to Avoid It:

If a left-turning car comes at you, turn your bicycle into the lane with the car
to avoid a collision.

scenario #3: passing

What Happens:

A driver changing lanes may cut too close to the bicycle lane or may not see a cyclist altogether.

How to Avoid It:

Pay careful attention to cars using turn signals; slow down or stop near passing traffic on the road.

scenario #4: open door

What Happens:

A suddenly opened car door can catch a roadside cyclist in an urban area
with multiple parked cars on the street.

How to Avoid It:

  • Always keep your eyes open when driving near parked cars.
  • Stay a minimum of 3 feet away from a parked vehicle to avoid a door collision and use the traffic lane instead; slow down to prepare for a sudden stop, if needed.
scenario #5: rear collision

What Happens:

In what is considered the most common bicycle-car collision setup, a car turning right may hit a cyclist or pull in front of a cyclist.

How to Avoid It:

  • Use reflectors and lights at twilight/after dark, always use arm
    signals when turning left, and continually check traffic over your shoulder.
  • A swerving or suddenly moving cyclist may be difficult for a
    driver to avoid.

In many other commonplace scenarios, you may use poor judgment as a cyclist
to cause a traffic collision. For example:

  • Riding on the sidewalk

    Riding on the sidewalk may seem like a good choice if a bike lane isn't available, but keep in mind that drivers may not check sidewalks for cyclists. Take caution when crossing the street or a busy driveway from a sidewalk. On top of that, cycling on a sidewalk may be illegal in some areas; cycling visibly in a traffic lane is preferable.

  • Riding against traffic

    This is known as riding the "wrong way" on a street. If you're riding against traffic on the left instead of the right, a car making a right turn may crash directly into you. A driver may not be looking for a cyclist on the left, greatly increasing your chance of an accident. Ride in the same direction as traffic every time you cycle.

  • Red light blind spot

    If you pull up next to a car at a red light or stop sign, they may not see you. If the car turns right and you go straight, they could crash directly into you. Make sure to always park behind a car at a full stop instead of directly to the right to ensure visibility. In addition, ease slowly into traffic once the light turns green, even if you have the right-of-way.

There are also several high-risk locations that could pose a special danger to a cyclist:

  • Busy
    intersections

  • High-speed roads

  • Rural roads

  • Neighborhood
    driveways

  • Commercial
    driveways

  • School campuses

  • Tunnels

  • Bridges

Following these detailed rules of the road can help you to avoid a serious accident as a cyclist.

The moral of the story? You can never be too safe when riding a bike in traffic. Even though other drivers may act a fool and fail to yield to cyclists, it still remains your number one goal to protect yourself on the road. Helmets can greatly reduce the risk of serious injury, as can maintaining awareness and anticipating the actions of the driver next to you.

The best way to expect the unexpected is to assume that a driver cannot see you.

Even if a motorist seems to look your way or appears to make eye contact as you ride next to them on a bicycle, you still can't guarantee that you were
seen and will be protected. It's your priority as a cyclist to improve your
visibility to reduce the risk of an accident. Always assume that a vehicle
has not seen you until proven otherwise. Use the traffic guidelines above
to best navigate potentially treacherous situations on the road and
protect yourself from a crash.

Last but not least, if at any time you feel uncomfortable, take over the lane.

As mentioned above, it is perfectly legal in all 50 states for a cyclist to ride in a lane of traffic - no matter how much drivers may grumble about it.

  • high-traffic road

    If you are riding on a high-traffic road and feel unsafe in the bicycle lane (or don't have a bike lane to ride in whatsoever), ride safely and visibly in the lane of traffic.

  • tucked away to
    the right of the street

    If you're tucked away to the right of the street next to the curb, a car may not see you as it's zipping down the road. It may also be difficult for a car exiting a driveway to see a cyclist on the far right of the road.

  • vehicles driving too close

    In another circumstance, if vehicles are driving too close to you so that you feel unsafe, overtake the lane once again. Getting sideswiped by a car's side mirror is a dangerous, distinct possibility if a car passes too close to a cyclist. A car that is driving too close to the bike lane could also push a cyclist into a parked car or another roadside object to cause a serious accident.

Your safety as a cyclist is paramount on the road since you are more vulnerable than drivers in vehicles. Whenever you feel threatened, feel free to overtake the lane. It's your right on the road.

It's Time to Embrace Bicycle Safety

With bicycle ownership and riding on the rise, bicycle safety has become a major public health concern.

For this reason, the NHTSA has released the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety to raise awareness in all urban and suburban communities. The top five goals of this campaign are to:

  • Encourage motorists to
    share the road.

  • Teach bicyclists
    to ride safely.

  • Urge bicyclists to wear helmets.

  • Improve paths and roadways to offer safe bicycle paths.

A number of different measures have been taken to support the National Strategies for Advancing Bicycle Safety outreach movement, including introducing public education campaigns at state and local levels, like Ride Safely and Share the Road public service advertisements. Similar national campaigns have been introduced to promote bicycle helmet use with every ride.

One of the most important measures taken has been to evaluate the effectiveness of bicycle paths on public roadways throughout the US. The NHTSA campaign aims to make improvements to over 100,000 miles of roadways traveled by cyclists and to integrate bicycle travel planning into the design of every new and updated citywide transportation system.

Believe it or not, a number of cyclists are completely unaware of the appropriate
safety measures to take when riding a bike.

Riding a bike may be simple to
learn and easy to remember,
but riding with the right safety gear can greatly influence the outcome of an accident.

Recommended bicycle safety gear includes:

Flags

Useful to avoid blind spots in intersections.

Strobe

Can be activated by a remote switch for especially dangerous riding circumstances.

Mirrors

Handlebar mounted; helmet mirrors optional.

Horn/bell

Can provide an audible alert for vehicles turning or exiting driveways.

Headlights

Battery-operated; required by law for night riding.

Reflective gear

Red bicycle reflector required in the rear; reflectors may be added to pedals, wheel spokes, frame, helmet, and clothing.

Taillights

Battery-operated; available in triangular three-light arrangements to alert overtaking traffic.

An appreciation for bicycle safety can be taught at a young age - as soon as kids start riding a bike.

5 Bicycle Safety Tips for Kids

Parents can encourage kids to stick to basic bicycle safety rules every time they take their bike out for a spin with friends:

Always wear a well-fitted bicycle helmet.The right helmet fit is based on size, position, and side and chin straps, according to the NHTSA.

Ride the right size bike.Ideally, a child should be able to stand 1-2 inches above the top bar of the frame of a road bike. Seat heights must be adjusted for a slightly bent knee as the leg is fully extended when pedaling; handlebars must be adjusted to seat level.

Wear reflectors day and night.Proper reflectors are even more important for kids that may be riding alone or with friends to and from school in the early hours of the morning.

Use the right equipment.Parents can help kids check tire levels, brakes, and the general condition of the bicycle before each ride.

Watch out for dangerous conditions.Kids need to always look out for other cars on the road, as well as hazardous road conditions like gravel, sand, or potholes that could contribute to a crash.

Helmet position: The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead- one or two
finger-widths above your eyebrow.

5 Bicycle Safety Tips for Commuters

If you've downsized from four wheels to two, here are some important bicycle safety tips to keep in mind on your next commute:

Understand and obey local traffic laws.Just like cars, bicycles are subject to rules of the road.

Don't ride against traffic under any circumstance.A driver won't be looking for a cyclist riding the wrong way, plain and simple.

Never pass on the right.Once again, a driver may not see a cyclist passing on the right and could crash into them.

Always wear a helmet.Bicycle helmets aren't just for kids; an adult cyclist can greatly reduce the risk of head injury by wearing a helmet at all times.

Mind your hand signals.Bicycle hand signals may seem hokey and outdated, but they can help you to communicate with other drivers and pedestrians as to when you plan to turn, slow, and stop.

Left Turn

Right Turn

Stop

5 Bicycle Safety Tips for Drivers

Just as importantly, drivers need to pay attention to the basics of bicycle safety to prevent unnecessary and highly
dangerous bicycle-car crashes:

Always look out for cyclists on the road.Even if it is unintentional, injuring a cyclist is a serious crime that could be considered assault, intoxication assault, attempted murder, or another related charge.

Pay attention when parking in a bike lane.Some cities, including Austin, Texas, are starting to outlaw parking in bike lanes altogether; illegal parking may result in a ticket.

Yield to cyclists when turning across a
bike lane.
This is an all-too-common misunderstanding
between drivers and cyclists that can easily result in
an accident.

Open your door slowly on a busy street.Opening your door into traffic, especially when parked
in a bike lane, could cause injury to an oncoming
cyclist.

Pass with care.Allow a minimum of 3 feet whenever you pass a cyclist on the road.

The 10 Commandments of Bicycle Safety

Many of these bicycle safety rules may seem like no-brainers, but
they are truly a matter of life and death.

For occasional and diehard cyclists alike, we'll leave you with these top 10 Commandments of
Bicycle Safety to ensure a smooth ride whenever you hit the open road:

  • Ride two abreast, as long as you don't obstruct traffic.

  • Ride in the same direction as traffic, near the right curb.

  • Wear a well-fitted helmet with every ride, no matter your age.

  • Check brakes before every ride.

  • Reflective gear is a must, any time of day or night.

  • Take caution whenever you cycle at night.

  • Follow designated bike lanes, paths, and routes whenever possible.

  • Keep your eyes on traffic around you at all times.

  • Carry your ID and cell phone with you on every ride.

  • Never assume you have the right of way in traffic.

As any cyclist will attest, it's always better safe than sorry when you head out for a bike ride. It's far
too easy for a cyclist to assume that a driver has seen them and that they have the right-of-way on
the road. In a split second, a vehicle can accidentally overtake or sideswipe a cyclist, causing serious injury or even death.

Bicycling provides a long list of health, economical, and environmental benefits.

Get the most out of every ride by practicing the basics of bicycle safety!

Sources:

  • "Biking by the Numbers." bike.ospreypacks.com.
  • "Statistics | Stats & Research | Resources | Bikes Belong." Bikes Belong.
  • "Bicycling Facts + Figures." thumbnails.visually.netdna-cdn.com.
  • Marati, Jessica. "10 Infographics on Bikes and Biking: EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion." EcoSalon | Conscious Culture and Fashion - : EcoSalon | Conscious
    Culture and Fashion.
  • "Bicyclists and Other Cyclists." www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov.
  • "5 Bike Commuting Safety Tips | Bicycling Magazine." Road Bike Reviews, Cycling Gear, Maintenance, Fitness, Training, and Racing | Bicycling Magazine.
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