Study Shows There Is Safety in Numbers for Cyclists


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

  • Thank you for finding that LADOT video! I downloaded a RealPlayer version of it a while ago – but I’ve never been able to find a way to easily share it with other cyclists.

    This type of study, coupled two others I know of, make an excellent case for cycling, and provide recommendations for policy makers.

    The two studies I am referring to are Alta Planning’s study an interconnected bikeway network inducing more cyclists to ride and the MTA’s 2002 EPOP Survey which established that most bicycle trips occur on the same arterial roads and districts that have heavy car traffic.

    Bringing all of this together leads to this:
    -Build a city-wide bike network
    -Make the network follow along all the major surface streets
    -More people will ride, and they will be safer than before

    Bonus: this might slow down urban car speeds, which will lead to fewer deaths and accidents.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    What a stupid commercial! Kinetic energy is linear in mass but quadratic in velocity. 71% of the car’s kinetic energy surplus with respect to the bicycle is due to its excessive speed, not its mass. If the driver maintained 10MPH, like the bicyclist, the situation would be far safer.

  • Does this mean that since bicycle ridership is up in Los Angeles that the roads have gotten safer to ride on? Let’s do a Streetsblog Study of this…

    For the record, I stopped wearing my safety vest last week. I found that it was causing me to develop a false sense of security and that I was not watching traffic as carefully as I was without the vest.

    Here is what I am craving to see….(it would make a good PSA)

    A more balanced perspective on the road, that comes both from riding and driving….

    Imagine that! A person who chooses one day to drive, and another to ride!!! Is that sort of thing even POSSIBLE?

    What a shocking revelation this could prove to be for the good citizens of Los Angeles…..

    Just think how “SAFE” the roads would be!!!

  • Isn’t the link between urban car speeds and deaths, crashes, and injuries well established?

    This is a bike issue – but it seems to have wider implications.

    Like Stephen Box says, “Bicyclists are the indicator species of a healthy community” (or something to that effect).

  • Quite frankly, I don’t think bicyclists are much of an indicator species of a healthy community…Not sure that simply putting your foot to the bike pedal instead of a car pedal qualifies you for that….

    Just this morning some DWEEB on his bike literally cut me off, forced me to slow down unexpectedly and generally compromised my safety.

    Guess what — the dude was on his cell phone. Just pedaling and chatting away…

    Can somebody PLEASE de-bunk that self-righteous bull-crap about bicyclists representing healthy communities?

    News flash!! They don’t!

    People treating one another with respect represents a healthy community.

    I’d like to see the imaginary and elusive unicorn of the “bike community” try that sometime.


    “indicator species”


  • and yes, I was riding my bicycle to work as always. This makes the third time this week another cyclists has done something ASS-TARDED right in front of me….

    Wait a minute…. it is possible to look critically at the way CYCLISTS behave?! HUH? I thought we were all super righteous health nuts contributing only to the betterment of society.

    Your welcome for that, by the way.

    Pedal on, bikies, we shall on pedal on….

  • I love this concept/research finding – it’s pretty powerful stuff. PL Jacobsen – (who is from OC I think) also did research along these lines – maybe they’re working together? His article is from Injury Prevention titled: Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling.
    That video is from a City of LA campaign? for reals? what a bummer

  • Ingrid, what I meant was: research indicates that when people feel safe riding their bikes, that several other important things are likely happening in an urban area too. Those things include: fewer traffic crashes and deaths, better local retail foot traffic, and a measurably more connected community. So, cyclists can be an indicator of a healthy community (cell-phone attached to their ears or not).

  • “People treating one another with respect represents a healthy community.” Ingrid

    That’s an awesome statement Ingrid and so true.



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