Study Shows There Is Safety in Numbers for Cyclists

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It may seem paradoxical to some, but researchers at the University of South Whales in Australia shows that the more people that bicycle on the roads, the safer cyclists are.  The study included research from cyclists in
Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 European countries and 68
Californian cities.  Put briefly, the study concludes that the more cyclists there are on the road, the more likely that drivers will recognize them as part of the transportation system and be aware of their presence.

Dr. Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from
UNSW, explains what she calls the "Virtuous Cycle" of more people biking in Science Daily,

"The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck
by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community.
And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared
to cycle."

If we accept the researcher’s findings that to improve cyclist safety we need to get more people cycling, it raises questions about the effects of advertising campaigns built around encouraging safe cycling.  Remember the City of Los Angeles’ award winning advertisement that compares cyclists to insects who need to be trained? 

Dr. Chris Rissel, co-author of a 2008 report on cycling safety with Dr. Hatfield, tells Science Daily that these types of advertiesments help keep people off their bikes and make the streets more dangerous.

"We should create a cycling friendly environment and accentuate
cycling’s positives rather than stress negatives with ‘safety
campaigns’ that focus on cyclists without addressing drivers and road
conditions. Reminding people of injury rates and risks, to wear helmets
and reflective visible clothes has the unintended effect of reinforcing
fears of cycling which discourages people from cycling."

Photo:Los Angeles Streetsblog/Flickr

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