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Home » Cycling » Relax Folks, Cycling Accidents Are Not Worse than Ever and Hate Towards Cyclists is not “at a Fever’s Pitch”…  There is a Simple Explanation.

Relax Folks, Cycling Accidents Are Not Worse than Ever and Hate Towards Cyclists is not “at a Fever’s Pitch”…  There is a Simple Explanation.


Every summer hundreds of thousands of people hit the road with a new bike.  Bike accidents spike for a minute, news reports increase and always highlight the tragic details.  It happens every June:

A four and eight year-old girl will never know what it’s like to grow up with their mother.  They will no longer have their mother’s shoulder to cry on or have her to help plan their wedding.  They’ll never see her cheer when they graduate from high school or college…  Those girls will get along.  They will struggle greatly to replace their mom, for a long time.

Because a young woman wanted to read a text on her phone rather than wait a few minutes till she’d stopped her car.

It’s senseless, tragic and it sucks and I’m not writing this post to diminish the fact that it is tragic and does suck.

You’ll have the idiots:  People who complain that cyclists aren’t using a litter, gravel and broken glass strewn shoulder to cycle on, or worse, the 3″ shoulder…  All the way down to the simply stupid, “why don’t they use the dirt shoulder?” And yes, if you think a person on a road bike should use a dirt shoulder, you are either ignorant or stupid.  Sorry.  They don’t work on gravel or dirt.

And the cycling idiots:  Photos surface of solo cyclists riding on the road rather than a dedicated, marked cycling path, empty and wide enough to take  a revolving double pace line.  I’d give my left nut for a cycle path like that.  Hell, my wife would give my left nut for a path like that.  Sorry Lance.  Don’t poke an angry tiger that happens to be driving a 4,000 pound missile that can render you mush.

And more idiots:  Cyclists completely disregarding traffic lights and some stop signs at exactly the wrong time, almost daring a motorist to run them down.  Some, to be fair, are mistakes.  Others, not so much.  However, it’s also not best for a cyclist to stop at every stop sign either, especially a large group of cyclists.  You think motorists are pissed now, could you imagine a 20 deep double pace line going through a stop sign two at a time…  Stop, unclip, push off, go.  Stop, unclip, push off, go.  It would literally take a group of cyclists five minutes to clear an intersection, then we’d have to wait up for each other, clogging the road further.  Irate is not a strong enough word to describe a motorist stuck behind that.

Then there’s the mistaken cyclist and motorist…  The noob cyclist who thinks you have to be on the gas every minute, head down hammering out every ride or you’re wasting time, that you should be using every minute to get fitter, instead of strolling through a small town sitting up with your head on a swivel, paying attention before rolling out again once you get out of town (guilty as charged, though reformed).  Or the motorist who thinks a cyclist will stop riding on the roads because they gun their engine, yell something, or they try to “buzz” a cyclist when passing (a felony in most States in the U.S.).

Hot season is upon us.  And this same thing happens every year.  Cyclist’s knees start knocking at club meetings.  Much is made of social media comments coming from the dimmest bulbs in the box…  Folks, this is as easy to predict as California’s public knee-knocking about drought while they’re all still watering their lawns (my sister lives in California, just last week she said everyone in the south waters, farther north it’s a little more strict).  Fear not Californians, the rain is on the way, lest we already forgot that come August or September they’re going to be complaining about mudslides and all of the rain.

Every year.  Like clockwork.

Cycling accidents and reports of outrage are the June thing.  Then July hits, the fervor dies down and everyone is okay again.

With the onslaught of new Social Media users, including blogs like this one, normal folks have an outlet for everything from their angst to their outrage.  News, a lot of it well intentioned but woefully misinformed, travels faster than a California brush fire (which should be popping up around July, if I’m not mistaken – guaranteed, it’ll be global warming’s fault which is surprising because I was alive when they blamed those on global cooling too, rather than the truth:  Dude, it’s what happens in California).  The point is, folks, as people try to outdo brash statements or try to prove just how stupid they are by attempting to convince anyone who will take a minute to read their rant that a bicycle belongs on the sidewalk (again, if you think bikes belong on sidewalks you are simply wrong).  Again, sorry for pointing it out.  The sidewalk is the worst place for a cyclist, which is why it is illegal in most places to ride a bike on the sidewalk – it’s dangerous for the cyclist, pedestrians and in many cases, impossible for motorists to see coming when they cross driveways or alleyways.  You have to have a death wish to ride a bike on a sidewalk).  This is the trick to being heard, to be loud, obnoxious or say something stupid, loudly and obnoxiously.  The same happens in Academia.  How many professors are publishing papers every year?  Well, the only way to be published is to come up with something new.  This is specifically how they come up with a new report on coffee that shows it’s good for you one week and bad two weeks later.  The truth is, it’s just coffee.  It’s got its pluses and minuses.

Getting into the real cycling numbers, not the cooked “statistics”, less than 5% of all bike accidents happen with the cyclist on the road, in the proper lane, riding with traffic.  Something like 67% occur with cyclists on the wrong side of the road and the rest occur on sidewalks.  I’ll take the odds on less than 5%, thank you.  That said, I’ll get back on point.  June is the month that everyone in the northern hemisphere is heading outside.  It’s summertime, and we’re all looking forward to barbecues and noodle salad…  Cycling outrage is simply a part of the news cycle.  It hits every year, between the last week of may and the first week of June and it will taper off in a few weeks and we’ll only hear about the seriously egregious accidents, like the old-timer who “accidently” plowed through an entire peloton of cyclists.  The world is not coming to an end for cyclists.  Motorists will get used to having to take an extra 4.287 seconds (on average) to get around us, new cyclists will realize just how “naked” they are on the road and we seasoned cyclists will calm down.  Balance will be restored and we’ll all get along again.  Kind of.  To wrap this post up, while there is a lot of stupidity out there, ask any seasoned cyclist, virtually anywhere (except Nebraska), and they’ll tell you it’s not as bad today as it was 20 or 30 years ago.

The truly sad thing is that if they simply put a 2′ wide paved shoulder on roads instead of that silly 3″, motorists would never have to worry about that extra 4.287 seconds (on average) again, with the exception of large club rides and left hand turns, of course.  Cycling accidents would slow to a trickle.

2015/01/img_49991.jpg

This is a photo of a cyclist who is okay with the notion that you may not like cyclists.  We can all get along though.  Just look at it this way:  I know we’re a pain in the ass.  I drive a vehicle myself.  Honestly though, if the biggest thing you have to worry about today is passing a cyclist or two, your life is pretty good, no?  Indeed #firstworldproblems.

If you’re wondering why I picked on Nebraska, click here.


15 Comments

  1. exmaschine says:

    Great piece Jim.
    Bottom line is common sense for both parties. Easier said than done!
    But also, a big also- is that a MUCH safer environment could be had if it were NOT for the scumbag corrupted government. (Boroughs, cities, counties, states and the federal level) The no good POS government is nearly at the heart of all that is currently wrong with this once great nation. Truly sad…

    • bgddyjim says:

      Man oh man, you have a healthy disdain for government. I think a government serves its purpose but politicians have been getting greedy lately.

      • exmaschine says:

        Oh I do. I have come to loath all forms of gov! Seeing the corruption, the waste and the arrogance of our supposed leaders on every level has utter sickened me. Imagine like you said, a 2′ lane on nearly every road (as in most of Europe) The jobs it would create…the safety for cyclists and pedestrians. It’s a no brainer, BUT with one of the most corrupted governments in the west, we have the worst infrastructure in the western world. Criminal politicians, criminal unions, no regard for bike riding and/or the safety for lives. They talk about going green…another SHAM to steal money. Build bike lanes, save untold amounts on Co2 emissions. Unclog roads, etc, etc. I could go on and on Jim. It’s simply the corrupted ‘elected’ officials who do not care much about lives- only money and power and their legacy. It’s time to storm the castles imo. Take the heads of the self-appointed kings….

      • bgddyjim says:

        Only one problem with that… They’re not our leaders. They’re our servants. Other than that, I’m with you brother.

  2. bribikes says:

    I agree with you…except for the coffee part of course.

  3. MJ Ray says:

    Are your “real cycling numbers” just made up? They don’t reflect reality in England: of the top five ways that people on bikes end up in crashes, only two are partly-self-inflicted (getting doored and crossing a yield or stop line when you shouldn’t), while there’s little riders can do about the other three (left hooks, sideswipes and motorists crossing yield/stop lines).

    Riding on sidewalks or riding the wrong way are down among the noise as contributory factors: I’ve seen them occasionally in individual reports (and wrong way has mostly been on one-way urban streets that national government say should be two-way for cycling but local government has irrationally overruled, often while allowing it on similar adjacent streets) but they don’t show up near the top of the rankings – possibly because those riders know they’re doing something naughty and will be judged as “in the wrong” so are even more cautious to avoid collisions. It’s like bikes without lights – people always complain about them and I agree it’s anti-social, but surprisingly, it isn’t especially dangerous, even to the person who can’t see where they’re going.

    People on bikes are not a pain – on most of the roads where people on bikes have to take the lane, they’re either quiet enough that I should be able to pass soon, or they’re so busy that I probably shouldn’t rush anyway. I’d prefer people on bikes that more people in cars – they’re much harder to overtake and mostly want to stick to the big roads I’m trying to drive on.

    Anyway, don’t ride close to vehicle doors and obey stop and yield lines and you’ve just reduced your collision risk by a big chunk. Other than that, we really do need to talk about motorists and try to stop some of them driving as if people riding aren’t there…

    • bgddyjim says:

      MJ, no, my numbers aren’t made up, but they are US numbers. Here in the US, many bicyclists (there I go calling them bicyclists rather than cyclists on purpose, again) suffer under the delusion that if riding on the wrong side of a two-way road, that riding into oncoming traffic rather than with oncoming traffic, is safer because “they can see traffic coming”. This opens them up to cars “T-Boning” them coming out of intersections because they’re looking the other way to make a right turn (it’d be a left in England) and a number of other problems such as closing distances too quickly… The numbers (I wrote a post on them a couple of years ago, I was just too busy to look them up again) are real. How interesting that you think I’d just make shit up to write a post.

      As for being a pain in the ass as a cyclist, look man, yeah we’re not that big a deal but when you look at the fact that we’re usually moving at half of the speed limit, we often require motorists wait to pass us. In America, this constitutes a pain in the ass – right or wrong I’m just acknowledging the way we’re perceived.

      As for riding on sidewalks, I’ll stick to my remarks in the post. Anyone who thinks a sidewalk is for anything but foot traffic is a fool, and this is the cause for a lot of cycling accidents in the US.

      • MJ Ray says:

        Hey, it’s nothing personal, but it seems a favourite pasttime of both motorists and cyclists to make up numbers when writing about interactions of the two types, so I often challenge it when numbers are given without sources, especially when it’s so surprising.

        Wrong-way cycling is fairly rare here – I know of one street in the nearby town where it happens but that’s partly encouraged by bad road markings (bike lane on only one side and badly-laid-out junctions at both ends). But “motorist crossing stop/yield line” still includes tons of T-bones: motorists look straight at people riding the correct way up the main traffic lane and still T-bone some. And this sort of crap is happening to pedestrians too… but surveys like http://www.contracthireandleasing.com/car-leasing-news/millions-driving-with-bad-eyesight/ report 24% of motorists drive without wearing their glasses, so I guess it’s not that surprising.

        Half the speed limit? Oh yeah, I remember from motoring in the US, your speed limits are lower than ours. I’d love it if it were easy to do half England’s 60mph/70mph national speed limit on our rough chipseal roads without coughing up a lung from the effort. 🙂

        Strange that sidewalk cycling seems to be a bigger cause of collisions (not really accidents IMO) in the US than England. Why do you think that is? More hostile roads and wider sidewalks? Because many English sidewalks are blocked by “pavement parking” and so can’t be cycled on?

      • bgddyjim says:

        Oh yeah, our limits are WAY lower… 45-55 max on our chip seal roads. 65-70 is only legal on expressways and you can’t take bikes on those anyway. As for sidewalk incidents, it’s a widely held view that bicyclists tend to think the rules of the road apply to them when they’re riding on a sidewalk. Sadly, we have a fairly ignorant chunk of population over here… Also, many neighborhoods have sidewalks and tree-lined streets. When a truck or car rolls down the driveway, if the bicyclist isn’t paying attention, WHAM!

        I’d say 100% of all cyclists ride on the proper side of the road… Maybe 30% (on the high side) of bicyclists ride on the proper side of the road… In fact, I almost ran one over last night in Flint. Raining, dark, he’s in dark clothes with no reflectors…9 pm, riding right at me. When I say ignorant, I frickin’ mean it man.

        As for taking it personally, you’ve got a point. I needed a nap. 😉

  4. A fellow commissioner just asked the groups rolling through stop sign question of me last Tuesday night, the second BICYCLE advocate commissioner to ask me that question. It is the most common question I am asked, the one where no one really wants to listen to a logical answer. Your answer is good and logical, one of the best I have heard.

    I should be given legal free rein to slap everyone who asks me that question.

    • bgddyjim says:

      There are three great answers to that question, really and several good one’s… The one in this post is one – a group should be thought of as a semi truck. One goes through, we all go (on an all-way stop). The second is that it’s best to get a cyclist through an intersection and out of danger as fast as possible. While I can out accelerate most cars up to 15 mph, most cyclists cannot. Stopping, unclipping, pushing off, clipping in and pedaling at an intersection takes a lot of time, leaving the cyclist exposed. For this reason, a respectable rolling stop makes sense. Third, if cyclists unclip and restart, motorists will invariably try to shoot through a left turn before the cyclist gets into the intersection placing the cyclist at great risk. We see this a lot in Michigan, where left turner’s will shoot across oncoming lanes to beat thru traffic before they can get to the gas pedal. It’s insanely stupid and dangerous, but I see it a lot. Again, the goal has to be to get the cyclists through an intersection and into a safe passing zone so motorists can safely get by with minimal waiting. The more a motorist has to wait, the more impatient they become, the more dangerous it is to a cyclist. I may do an entire post just on that… You could simply email the commissioners the link and be done.

  5. Sandra says:

    Indeed. Good article, I think it’s particularly “bad” now because the Nebraska cycling community is finally advocating loudly after so many deaths in the past year. When cyclists start making noise, it seems like it’s worse. So the news picks up on it more. Problem is? It actually is worse.
    I was just talking to someone yesterday. When I was in college, I bought my first real bike. A 1982 Bianchi, all campy parts, steel–still made Italy. I rode 7 miles to work, and home again (or back to campus). I’d ride around town, logging 25-30 miles. NEVER had even so much as a close call (good thing, cuz helmets weren’t cool in those days). I look at the roads I used to ride on now? No way in hell would I even try today. I would get my ass handed to my nose in a heartbeat.
    We Nebraska cyclists refuse to give in though, and have increased awareness of the issues, as well as the number of riders (or maybe that’s the “problem?”–more to hit?) by encouraging more people to ride (thus our ranking at National Bike Challenge, not just Nebraska, but Lincoln and the Omaha Cycling League for teams).
    On a good note, I finally found a good stretch of road that, while chip-sealed, is in great shape for riding. . . and with a really wide shoulder! WOOP! Now if only my new tires would get here!
    Keep your fingers crossed.

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