The Dangers of the Biking Craze

bike fatalityBy Peter Galuszka

There is no question that bicycling is a hot trend, favored by fitness advocates and Smart Growthers alike.

What’s not to like? Bikes don’t pollute, don’t require expensive parking lots and provide riders with lots of flexibility not to mention muscle and cardiovascular workouts.

You hear a lot about it on  this blog, which is just fine and dandy, because it fits a world view that enhances better planning and better living.

One little point that the biking ho0pla tends to overlook. Safety.

Virginia only started to get serious in 2004 when the Department of Transportation directed that bike land and paths be incorporated into new road designs or major rehabs. Sometimes they do and sometimes not.

And sometimes people die or are badly injured. Here’s a recent story I did about the problem in my home county in The Chesterfield Observer.

6 Responses to The Dangers of the Biking Craze

  1. Not every road is safe for biking. There are many narrow roads that carry high volumes of traffic that are not marked for bike routes, but are used anyway. We’d all be safer if bikers used just the marked routes, which have greatly increased in number, especially in Fairfax County.

  2. There are not enough marked routes, TMT to enable bikers to go where they need to go. But this is a very important issue. How do we encourage bicycles when they mix with auto traffic? Segregated lanes really do help, but there are very few of them. Moreover, even on bike trails, the speed differential between bikes and pedestrians is creating risk for both. In Falls Church City a bicyclist and a pedestrian collided on 29 September and both were gravely injured, according to news reports.

    • Fairfax County has done a lot to stripe and sign bike routes. And there are good routes through neighborhoods in many areas. For example, Lewinsville Road is narrow, winding and overloaded with auto traffic in many areas. But it’s also surrounded with close-by neighborhood streets, where some, but not enough, bike riders travel.

      But some are still crazy. Last night I attended a meeting on Tysons. A couple of bike club people complained Fairfax County and VDOT were going to put bike routes on the new grid streets that will be coming. The bikers wanted to ride on Routes 7 and 123. Simple insanity.

  3. Sadly, motorists are accustomed to being kings of the road, and they haven’t been acclimated to look out for cyclists. But the experience of other cities in the U.S. and around the world shows that accident rates (per mile ridden) fall dramatically as the number of cyclists increase. More cyclists = more and better bicycle infrastructure. More cyclists = more motorist awareness. Hopefully, more cyclists also = better behaved cyclists.

  4. In a tangential way, we are victims of our own success when it comes to – cars.

    modern cars handle so much better and have superior steering and breaking compared to cars of the past.

    unfortunately, our older roads are 60-80 years old in design standards – actually designed for cars that went slower because they had to.

    One of the things you get taught in driving is to not “overrun your lights or vision at night or bad weather ” which is excellent advice.

    but what happens on older roads is that people are simply going to fast for conditions – i.e. the hills and curves that they cannot see around or over and that in the old days a car might come around or over at 20-30 mph but now people are flying at 50-60 mph and they simply do not have enough sight distance to be able to avoid things in the roadway – even with better brakes.

    And I believe that more motorcyclists are killed in Va than bicyclists – so what does that mean?

    so in the good old days, topping at hill at 30 mph with a bike ahead going 15 was not the death-defying feat it is sometimes now – at 50 mph with that same 15 mph bike.

    I see this all the time these days with the USPS mail delivery vehicle that is effectively hidden from view on the curves and hills and people going 50 mph and more, simply cannot see that vehicle in time for a safe avoidance – even though the mail vehicle has flashing strobes on it. We have skid marks and we have dinged up USPS vehicles these days on our rural roads.

    but people nowdays are simply driving far too fast for “sight conditions” on many rural roads.. modern cars are capable of much higher speeds that easily can overrun your sight distance. At 50 mph, you are going at 70 feet per second.

    so, on a rural curvy, hilly road – (say like 123), you may have 2-3 seconds to react to an obstruction in the road … that’s not a safe margin –

    I wonder if 10 ft antennas with LED flashers on them might help but I also wonder if bicyclists might be educated better about the sight distance issue.

    would someone really put themselves in harms way if they took a hard look at the numbers?

    I’m always amazed at people’s antics now days on the roads.

    Most of them work – and presumedly their job requires good judgment in carrying out their duties…. fundamental to the work product in most jobs – AND it IS when that work product is driving from a professional driver also!

    Some of those drivers have “How’s my driving – 1-800-xxx” stickers on their cars.

    but “civilians” – My god.. the things people do these days on the roads – boggles the mind.. not the least of is driving like a bat out of H_LL on a rural road that they cannot see 50 feet ahead of sometimes. “how’s my driving stickers” would tear up the phone lines…

  5. A little perspective on safety
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf21Ugbstms

    So, cycling grows a little as people discover its benefits to one’s health and wallet and it’s a “craze”? If you ask me, what’s crazed is public policy’s mindless and destructive devotion to the automobile. Cars are great, but our policies for the last 50 years or more have been so prejudiced in favor of single occupancy vehicles that we are now seeing the damages to our health, our economy, and our quality of life in general. Biking is not a craze, it’s a healthy and rational response to our need for transportation and recreation.

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