This article in the Financial Times asks the question directly: is urban cycling worth the risk?
Sure we know about the extraordinary health benefits, getting to places efficiently, and living in a smart way. But in a 2014 survey “64 per cent of people surveyed by the UK’s Department of Transport said they believed it was too dangerous for them to cycle on the road. These decisions are often based on gut feelings or anecdote: a friend who has had a great experience commuting by bike can inspire us to follow suit, while seeing or hearing about a bad cycling accident may put us off for life.”
In London England nine cyclists died in 2015 as a result of crashes at intersections. In response to this, the new cycle superhighway just opened in London on Blackfriar’s Road phases the traffic lights so that cyclists go through intersections separately from motorized vehicles.
Surprisingly Transport for London’s analysis points the finger at the DESIGN of trucks being responsible for crashes, and is urging for a new truck design with improved visibility for drivers.
And are you safer biking or walking?
Mile by mile, people in the UK are actually more likely to die walking than cycling, according to figures from the Department for Transport. For every billion miles cycled last year, 30.9 cyclists were killed, while 35.8 pedestrians were killed for every billion miles walked. Both activities are significantly safer than riding a motorbike – 122 motorcyclists are killed for every billion miles driven.
While you are statistically more likely to succumb while walking, you are three times more likely to have an injury biking. But back to how to make biking in cities safer- John Pucher and Ralph Buehler’s book City Cycling notes the following: London, with an average of 1.1 deaths per 10,000 commuters, fared better than New York’s 3.8. But both lagged far behind the 0.3 annual average deaths in Copenhagen and 0.4 in Amsterdam.
And we know the reason: Copenhagen and Amsterdam have long standing policy and demonstrated implementation of separated bike lanes, not painted lines or share alls, but actual bike lanes with separate traffic signals. It is possible to do a complete commute on some of the bike lanes without crossing a vehicular interloper.
It’s great to see the Financial Times take an active interest in cycling and commuting, and they include additional information in their article on health benefits, and pollution exposure. Bottom line-infrastructure is key to safe urban cycling, and retrofitting for separated bikeways is the 21st century way to increase ridership and enhance safety.