Thursday, July 15, 2010

But Is Bicycling Too Dangerous?

This blog has been heavy on the crash reporting recently. July is always a tough month, however I don't think I have reported on more hit from behind crashes than I have in the past few weeks. We know that in at least 3 cases the drivers were where they shouldn't be, in the shoulder.

We bring these weakly reported incidents into the sunshine because the we want change and the victim's of these tragedies deserve to be recognized.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania lack vulnerable user law and safe passing laws. New Jersey has one of the toughest distracted driving laws in the country while the Pennsylvania legislature continues to grapple with a weaker young driver bill.

But it's also important to remember that the benefits of bicycling outweigh the risks which was confirmed in a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Data synthesis: We quantified the impact on all-cause mortality when 500,000 people would make a transition from car to bicycle for short trips on a daily basis in the Netherlands. We have expressed mortality impacts in life years gained or lost making use of life table calculations.

For the individuals who shift from car to bicycle, we estimated that beneficial effects of increased physical activity are substantially larger (3 – 14 months gained) than the potential mortality effect of increased inhaled air pollution doses (0.8 – 40 days lost) and the increase in traffic accidents (5 – 9 days lost). Societal benefits are even larger due to a modest reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and traffic accidents.

Sure its Holland which has about a quarter of the deaths per mile, but margins in the study are so great that there is little doubt that the same holds true for the US. Which brings us to the point of safety in numbers, per Peter Jacobson's 2003 article in Injury Prevention. When bicycle use doubles, the risk of a motorist hitting a cyclist goes down by about a third.

So go out and ride your bike, for your health and for the safety of us all.