Increase in Bicyclist Numbers Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to Spike in Accidents

bike%20tires.jpgContrary to popular belief, an increase in bicyclist numbers doesn’t, or should not, automatically lead to an increase in the number of bicycle accidents. Many countries in Europe have a stronger bicycle safety culture than ours. In fact, countries that have higher bicyclist numbers actually have better bicycle safety records.

An interesting new report titled Safety in Numbers was released recently by the European Cyclists Federation. The study has a number of intriguing findings for Indiana bicycle accident lawyers, and should be of interest to bicyclists in this state. Traditionally, transportation agencies blame increasing number of bicyclists for any increase in bicycle accident fatalities. According to them, when there is a spike in the population of bicyclists, it instantly translates into a higher risk of accidents.

The Safety in Numbers report, however, offers a number of examples to illustrate why this should not be so. According to the report, the Netherlands saw a 58% decrease in bicycle accident fatalities over a 25 year period, while it’s bicyclist numbers increased by approximately 45%.

The researchers examined data from 68 cities in California, 47 towns in Denmark and 14 European countries, in order to arrive at their conclusions. What they did was to specifically compare the amount of bicycling and walking taking place in these cities and countries, with the injuries that occurred in bicycle-related accidents.

The researchers found that motorists were simply less likely to hit bicyclists or pedestrians when there were more numbers of pedestrians or bicyclists on the road. This could indicate one of 2 things.
• When there are more numbers of bicyclists on the road, motorists may get more used to seeing these bicyclists, and get accustomed to looking out for bicyclists all the time.
• More numbers of bicyclists encourage each other to become more cautious while riding.

Such trends have been seen elsewhere in the world too. Between 1982 and 1989 in Western Australia, the number of bicyclists almost doubled. However during the same period of time, the number of bicyclists who were injured dropped by 48 %, while bicyclist fatalities dropped by 33%.

When there are more numbers of bicyclists, it appears that good bicycling behavior becomes much more widespread, and motorists find it easier to predict bicycling behavior.

That seems to have been the reason for the drop in fatalities in major cities like London, as well as cities and in Denmark and the Netherlands. The researchers, in fact, recommend encouragement of bicycling, in order to reduce accident risks.

For such trends to be seen in the United States, however, there needs to be a complete revamp of the prevalent attitude towards bicyclists. As Indiana bicycle accident lawyers often see, many bicycle accidents are blamed on the bicyclists themselves. In many American cities, there is an atmosphere of hostility between bicyclists and motorists.

The League of American Bicyclists recognizes at least 7 Indiana communities as “bicycle-friendly.” It has been encouraging for Indiana bicycle accident lawyers to see more communities, businesses and universities designated as friendly to bicyclists. The growing number of bicycle-friendly communities shows that it is not impossible for American cities to encourage bicycling, while keeping it safer for all.

The Indiana bicycle accident lawyers at Montross Muller Muller Mendelson and Kennedy represent persons injured in bicycle accidents across Indiana.