Serious about Safety

Every bike commuter knows is that safety is a complicated issue. They face it every day. However, some safety campaigns focus entirely on helmets. But that means there’s been a crash. What if it could have been prevented? Wouldn’t that be safer?


There’s many points along the way where an individual, a community, and a city, can prevent more tragedies from happening. Helmet or not, when you put a car against a vulnerable road user, you know who the victim will be. Cities need to get real about safety. No excuses.

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  • Sheilia Scott October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Right on !!!

  • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012   Reply →

    The notion that motorists and cyclists are in some sort of competition or ‘match’ on the road is false. The basis of traffic law is equal access and laws exist specifically to prevent the bigger vehicle competing against smaller vehicles. This is why rules of priority (sometimes called ‘right of way’) govern every aspect of road use. If everyone acts responsibly and obeys these rules, the road is perfectly safe for cyclists.

    It really makes me mad when motorists whine, “Cyclists’ right to the road doesn’t mean much if they’re hit by a truck”. But that’s true for every road user – not just cyclists. Let’s not fall into the trap of repeating their anti-cycling BS.

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      The Teschke study (which appears to be ‘Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study’ – published only as a ‘first look’ in the American Journal of Public Health) seems to potentially be yet another example (like the many so-called ‘studies’ done by John Pucher, Ralph Buehler, Anne Lusk, Conor Reynolds and other health and wellness advocates) of how cycling advocacy within the scientific community can create unscientific research that is marred by expectation bias. Dr. Teschke and her associates are involved in public health research and while cycling does have overwhelming health benefits, neither Dr. Teschke or any of the people involved in the study appear to be specialists in transportation injuries or collisions.

      In fact, Teschke, Reynolds, Lusk, Harris et al seem to have built much of their careers around research that supports bicycle infrastructure that most respected researchers find to be dangerous. These folks are essentially paint and path advocates masquerading as scientists.

      The study appears to be based on self-reporting, which is prone to volunteer or referral bias, and nonrespondent bias. Also, like the infamous Lusk study of 2011, it is based on a route comparison, and these have proven to be very prone to selection bias. I’d like to see the details of this study. Full documentation doesn’t seem to be available at the present time, but I would urge cyclists to be very wary of this study, as 85% of studies done by those who ARE experts in the field of transportation find that cycling infrastructure INCREASES the risk of injury, especially at intersections. Almost every study finds that the increases in injuries at intersections more than counteract any safety gains between road junctions. See the following link for details:

    • dr2chase October 19, 2012  

      But Ian, isn’t this missing the forest for the trees? Using the unambiguous count-dead-bodies metric, the Dutch have the safest cycling on the planet, and we are far, far from it. All the allegedly reputable safety research done in this country and all the Effective Cycling movement (which has been going on since I was a kid) have amounted to zilch in terms of actual safety improvements and actual increases in ride share. No real change in ride share, cycling here is still less safe than in Northern Europe, and feels much less safe. What the effective cycling promoters have is a safety theory that in practice is incredibly unpopular, and if people won’t do it, then it Does Not Work. I’ve tried selling it to friends and family, and most of them are completely uninterested in trying it. It is not unlike abstinence as a form of birth control; perfect in theory, but not at all popular in practice, and a failure for real people.

      In addition, any research done in the US — where the cycling population is tiny and self-selected, or children — is automatically suspect simply because the sample is so weird, and our cycling is so atypical. Or to put this more plainly, if you only study US cyclists, you will not obtain results that apply to the 99% of the population that does not do utility cycling. One might as well plain an economy by studying the household finances of the richest or poorest 1%, or design clothing to fit the thinnest/fattest/tallest/shortest 1%.

      And further, the effective-cycling infrastructure bashing is contradicted by actual before-after results in places where infrastructure is installed (good infrastructure, not stupid door lanes). Biking’s been going up in Portland, the total accident rate has remained flat, the per-cyclist rate has fallen. Where infrastructure has been added in NYC (e.g., Prospect Park), accident rates go down.

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      The Dutch, generally speaking, use a pedestrian mode of cycling – they cycle at walking or jogging speeds. That’s probably why they are safer than anyone else (if indeed they are – Dutch cycling studies are virtually nonexistent.

      Effective cycling has had a huge impact on safety, for those who practice it. Unfortunately, the paint and path advocates have had a lot of success instilling fear of such practices. I wish the P&Pers had better success at making their preferred infrastructure safer – something they have failed abjectly to do, when they have tried at all (which is only rarely). They would, it seems, rather spend their time in propaganda efforts, proclaiming safety improvements without evidence and decrying integrated cycling.

      Regarding your assertion that before-and-after studies show improvements in safety for roads with bicycle facilities, actually, the one study that did a rigorous before-and-after study on ‘good’ infrastructure (Jensen 2007, Denmark) concluded:

      “The safety effects of bicycle tracks in urban areas are an increase of about 10 percent in both crashes and injuries. The safety effects of bicycle lanes in urban areas are an increase of 5 percent in crashes and 15 percent in injuries. Bicyclists’ safety has worsened on roads where bicycle facilities have been implemented.”

      Yeah, infrastructure advocates often ‘claim’ that NY facilities result in fewer accidents. Unfortunately, I have not met one advocate who can point me to an available study that supports such assertions. If you can, I’ll be glad to look at it. As for Portland, there is something to be said for the notion of ‘safety in numbers’, but again, reliable studies have yet to be done and all we really have to go on are assertions from parties who have a vested interest in promoting such facilities.

    • dr2chase October 19, 2012  

      Here’s a breezy presentation of some NY DOT numbers, before and after for Prospect Park West: It got better.

      And compare: “Effective cycling has had a huge impact on safety, for those who practice it.”
      with “Abstinence is an effective means of birth control, for those who practice it.” The problem is entirely a matter of “for those who practice it” — Effective Cycling is about as popular as abstinence (for all I know it might be less popular).

      The reason to focus on the Dutch experience is that we don’t really need “studies” when we see nation-level public health statistics, and ride shares regularly exceeding one-third. The contrast between public health and cycling studies might have a lot to do with the differing conclusions; people who do public health have to deal with people as they are, and not as they wish they were. In practice, the overwhelming majority of people who are exposed to EC reject it (this, from my own experience). You’re not allowed to exclude those failures from your evaluation of EC if you are going to talk about actual safety results and actual ride shares.

    • Brent October 19, 2012  

      Have you had a chance to cycle in the Netherlands?

    • John Riley October 20, 2012  

      A lot of this seems to be focused on in-town riding. I am more interested in the rural situation. Not many intersections. Paved shoulders seem like a good idea on busy roads, but there are still a lot of cases of people getting hit while on the shoulder. This is how I end up in the path camp.

    • Amy October 20, 2012  

      Actually, the main reason that the Dutch are safer cycling is because everyone is required to take a cycling educational program (much like our drivers Ed program) and then pass a cycling exam when they are 14. When you have users of the road understanding the way other users may use the road, it increases safety and reduces crashes because people can anticipate & subsequently avoid crashes.

    • KruidigMeisje October 22, 2012  


      We do have cycling studies. But mostly they’re reported in dutch. Would that hinder you? If not, visit and check the kennisbank (knowledge bank)
      And our national statistics agency has numbers of KSI reported for all modes of travel:
      more bike deaths in 2011, mainly because more people died in the over-65-ies group in december. How many people in the VS over 65 bike in december? I find the number people killed/ km cycled interesting. Do you know the VS stats? that might help.
      It might be not easy to compare the stats between the countries, because the cycling style varies “somewhat” (I have not seen any effective cyclinig in NL in the over 65 group, though they do cycling furtherin the road). And I do execute vehicular cycling in NL (when riding my velomobile it is sometimes useful), but it is considered extremely odd and dangerous by anyone else.

      Wondering on your NL experiences in the 6 weeks. Hope to have time to read your blog.

    • Andres October 24, 2012  

      Your comments ignore perceived safety. That is just as important as actual safety. Vehicular cycling may be incredibly safe, but if 99% of the population thinks it’s scary to be riding alongside cars moving at 30+ mph, they’re not going to do it. And more cyclists equalling fewer deaths is a widely accepted trend.

      In other words, getting more people cycling results in safer cycling for everyone. If it takes painting rainbows and unicorns on the streets for people to *feel* safe, so be it. So in that regard.. bring on the infrastructure!

    • Schrödinger's Cat November 6, 2012  

      “The Dutch, generally speaking, use a pedestrian mode of cycling – they cycle at walking or jogging speeds. That’s probably why they are safer than anyone else (if indeed they are – Dutch cycling studies are virtually nonexistent.”

      I’ve seen some tripe, but this takes the biscuit. I’ve seen plenty of fast cyclists on the cyclepaths in Dutch cities, but only when traffic is light. Of course when it’s busy people are going to cycle more slowly, just as people drive must more slowly when the road is congested! Do you really think it’s appropriate to ride at high speeds when there are many people around – young children, the elderly, people with shopping?

      And another ‘of course’ – when you have 93% of the population riding at least once per week, not all of them are going to be speed demons. The elderly and young children, for example – the Netherlands isn’t a nation of middle-class white male cyclists aged 18-45, you know.

      One thing that struck me in Dutch cities is how far you can cycle without stopping – it’s arranged so well that you hit green light after green light, and you can get from A to B in no time without breaking a sweat.

      Surely you can see that people simply don’t enjoy cycling around trucks and cars? The American and British public have been given a choice of vehicular cycling or taking the car – and they have voted with their feet firmly on the gas pedal, not the bike pedal.

    • dutch November 16, 2012  

      “The Dutch, generally speaking, use a pedestrian mode of cycling – they cycle at walking or jogging speeds.”

      Incorrect. Ever been there?

      They are travelling at the same speed as any average commuting cyclist in north america would travel. ~20-30kph.

      The roads are also basically flat, so their avg. speed is probably faster too.

      Combine this with infrastructure and respectful drivers too.

    • Cranktacid November 23, 2012  

      I cannot quite see what it is you feel is useful in your quote from (Jensen 2007, Denmark). The numbers are completely meaningless. If cycle infrastructure improves and more people use it I would be extremely surprised if the total number of accidents involving bikes didn’t go up. That’s kind of how percentages work.

      Is this accident’s per mile travelled? accidents per 100 users? or just total number of accidents?

      Put simply if, say, 1 in 1000 people have an accident in every 100 miles on ‘normal’ roads would better infrastructure make this 2 in 1000 or 0.5 in 1000? The total number of accidents is irrelevant without knowing the relationship to increased number of users AND the distances they travel AND the frequency.

      To then use this as some argument against segregation is unfair and does the argument no favours.

      The vested interest is with those who believe in ‘assertive’ or ‘effective’ cycling. These tend to be enthusiasts (like myself) who cannot see past their own needs and pay too little heed to the needs of more vulnerable people who will make up the numbers required to drag cycling out of the ghetto of enthusiasts and into the mainstream of modern transport.

      This isn’t to say I am not a believer in assertive riding style and the need for access to roads for fast transport and leisure by bike. I just see there is far more untapped potential for cycling to attain a 2nd golden age. And rightly so.

    • Erik Griswold October 19, 2012  


      Please try to ignore the “Cult of the Johns” (Franklin, Forester and to a lesser extent Allen) as they make their dying gasps about “Effective” or “Vehicular” cycling, something they have condmned us to now thanks in large part due to willing traffic engineers for whom their “solutions” cost nothing.

      Today the mode share for bicycles in the USA is just under 1% thanks to these aggressive, middle-aged-to-elderly, mostly white, mostly males.

      Even in Portland it is now just 6%.

      Copenhagen? 35% Groningen? Over 50%!

      In order to make cycling mainstream and give it political movement, you need participants of all races, all genders from age 8 to 80. That’s not going to happen under the #VroomVroom crowd’s mentality.

      Oh sure, a group ride can be led using these techniques and these are not concepts that a bicycle user should not have in their heads, but once the ride is over, if you think the average individual is going to strap on a mirrored helmet and a neon clown suit, and go for a second ride alone and without any infrastructure or motor-vehicle calming, you over estimate the confidence and desires of the average American who shows an interest in cycling.

      For example, the Soeren Jensen paper listed as evidence that bike lanes and cycletracks are bad becasue accidents increased, ends with the point that overall cycling increased, motor vehicle use decreased, which has led to the benefits of more physical activity for the average citizen, less air pollution, less noise and less money going out of the country to buy oil.

      (Never mind that Jensen’s major point of the paper was to look at intersection deisgns as shown on page 11).

      I find the whole notion bizarre that a group who say they are pro-cycling will then go out of their way to disgrace and dismiss the very kinds of infrastructure that are the only proven ways to get cyclists on the road and vehicles to behave and to respect bikes.

      And that much of it comes from a man (Forester) who has not been to the Netherlands since WW2?

      “Then I moved to Holland. My strongest memory was realizing everyday how John Forester had hoodwinked our entire country into dangerous infrastructure that denied the actualization of joy and freedom that I saw each day: children gaining freedom of mobility, moms with 3 kids on a single bike, and seniors having healthy lives.”

      More links for you all to read as you digest the studies Ian Cooper has listed:

      This one has a great mix of pictures from the Netherlands juxtaposed with Franklin & Forester quotes:

      Mikael Colville-Andersen’s take:

      More blunt:

      (Thankfully, the organizations that understand where cycling is going and can go in the USA have stopped listening to these dinosaurs).

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      I see the anti-road-cycling cabal are suddenly out in force. I must have touched a nerve somewhere.

    • bostonperson whohasbike October 19, 2012  

      right – the goal is to get more people out on bikes – vehicular cycling is a lousy advocacy strategy because you can only convince maybe 1 or 2% of people who are even willing to ride bikes to get around (there was a study done by portland OR back in the 90s – I think of potential riders less than 1% felt that no additional infrastructure was needed) – while it may arguably be “safer” – especially if you reduce speed limits, create laws that place more liability on motorists, and through education, the vast majority of still people want separate infrastructure – even most long-time bike commuters would rather be on a separate path than ride in traffic. the VC people can argue until they’re blue in the face that bike lanes are somehow bad, but this attitude doesn’t increase mode share.

    • Erik Sandblom October 19, 2012  

      I like bike paths but I don’t think the issue is so clear-cut.

      Vehicular cycling might have been more successful if there had been more political will to slow and reduce car traffic.

      This political will seems to be materializing now. There are congestion charges in London and Stockholm, and after New Years in Gothenburg too. There are 30 km/h speed limits going up everywhere. Young people are delaying taking drivers’ licenses and people are travelling on high-speed trains and low-fares airlines. Light rail is being built all over the USA.

    • bostonperson whohasbike October 22, 2012  

      @erik sandblom:

      no – it is clear cut – the vast majority of people won’t ride bikes without separate infrastructure. lowering speed limits and more traffic controls won’t get enough people out on bikes – yeah, it can make things safer (and I’m not arguing against road cycling), but you simply cannot convince enough people to ride on the same road with large motor vehicles – no matter how slow they’re going.

    • Tricia Kovacs November 9, 2012  

      I noticed recently that many of the masters of bicycling have the first name John – Allen, Brooking, Ciccarelli, Forester, LaPlant, Schubert, … probably more I’m forgetting.
      I am one of the many cyclists who are grateful that these guys share this planet with us.

    • Tricia Kovacs November 9, 2012  

      I knew I’d forget one.. Franklin.

    • dr2chase November 10, 2012  

      @Tricia Kovacs – I think you misunderstand the complaint against “the Johns”. The tiny fraction of US residents who are bicycle commuters can indeed be thankful to the Johns for publicizing the safety tactics necessary to effectively cycle in current US conditions. The people who have been ill-served by the Johns are all potential cyclists who are not currently riding, because the Johns have mistaken the local, tactical safety maximum for the global, strategic safety maximum deployed in Northern Europe — better infrastructure (and other things, but mostly infrastructure done right, and that does not mean door lanes). Potential US cyclists outnumber current US cyclists by an order of magnitude and then some. They’ve not been well-served by the Johns at all.

      It is also deeply ironic that this tiny, self-selected group of cyclists then complains (incorrectly, in my opinion) of “selection effect” in studies that do not conform to their own atypical experience.

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      I’ve cycled extensively in the Netherlands – I spent 6 weeks there during my European tour.

    • scanner October 25, 2012  

      Ian, It is clear to anyone but car drivers that the principal cause of automobile accidents are car drivers. Eliminate drivers and the problem goes away. this will happen, probably fairly soon, judging from the success Google and others have had with autonomous automobiles. In the meantime a universal decrease in speed limits by 10 km/hour would slow the slaughter, which extends far beyond auto/cyclist collisions.

    • Megan Ramey October 19, 2012  

      Excellent, Ira, thanks!!

    • Schrödinger's Cat November 27, 2012  

      Ian Brett Cooper says “I’ve cycled extensively in the Netherlands – I spent 6 weeks there during my European tour.”

      According to his website, this took place between 1984 and 1986, so if he hasn’t been back since then he’s not actually used the kind of infrastructure we’re talking about. That was early days for the Dutch cycle paths and very little from that time still remains. Nearly 30 years of development and refinement has happened since then.

      It’s a bit like saying you hate Blu-Ray because you tried out a LaserDisc in 1985 and found it too bulky.

      Maybe Ian will enlighten us further and tell us when he last cycled in the Netherlands?

    • Ian Brett Cooper January 25, 2013  

      My previous doubts about this study have proven justified. I have since found out that the bicycle infrastructure that was used for this study was on Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge. This bridge has no crossing or turning traffic to produce the conflicting traffic movements that make cycle tracks so dangerous. No wonder cycling injuries were reduced by half!

  • Tim K October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Totally awesome. Will you be making posters (and maybe postcards)? I’d rather hand one of those out than all the all the well-meaning bikey advice!

  • Andy M-S October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Well put. You may be right, but it’s hard to win when your opponent weighs 20 times as much as you do!

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      Again, it’s not a competition. There are no ‘opponents’ on the road and no one ‘wins’ anything. All we’re trying to do is get to work/school etc. We are not in a competition, nor are we at war, and people who use such language are engaging in hyperbole and clouding the real issues.

      Motorists do not want to hit us. They are not using their vehicle’s weight against us. They just want to get to work the same as we do. Their major problem is that they believe cyclists don’t belong on ‘their’ roads. This is where the conflict lies. Couching the discussion in terms of a contest based on weight is a mistake – it’s fear-based, because it can only apply to collisions which are very rare indeed, and it does not help to clarify the real issues cyclists face, which are based in misunderstanding.

    • B October 19, 2012  

      Motorists do not want to hit us. I agree. But many people drive as if they don’t not want to hit us. Which is why the focus on helmets and not infrastructure is misguided.

    • Valcrist October 19, 2012  

      ” They are not using their vehicle’s weight against us. They just want to get to work the same as we do. Their major problem is that they believe cyclists don’t belong on ‘their’ roads. This is where the conflict lies. ”

      Great quote and I completely agree.
      Cyclist argues bikes belong on those roads but it becomes ugly when the argument ends with, “well I’m bigger than you so I’m more right”.

    • John Riley October 20, 2012  

      There are a lot of videos to the contrary.

  • dr2chase October 19, 2012   Reply →

    The grumbly bit, about the non-law safety rules, and the infrastructure, is that they are picky. It was very very disheartening when talking to a bunch of boy scouts about safety, to realize all the extra rules that I’ve accumulated. They’re much more detailed and complex than “the law”.

    There’s a whole category of “slippery stuff”, many of it tied to minor slides and scrapes. So, wet metal — manhole covers, and especially bridge grates. Wet (rain) paint. Soap accumulation near car washes (yes, my very first non-crash power slide ever was on car-wash soap). Dry sand, small pebbles. After dry spells, the accumulated car slime in the first rain (I’ve seen it make a slick brown froth). And of course, ice and snow.

    Next, there’s all the ways of detecting the guy who might turn right (but isn’t signalling). Etc.

    Off in infrastructure land, you get all these gratuitous hazards (the lovely, but dangerous, granite posts that DCR puts in the middle of their new paths) as well as thoughtless stuff (misaligned old-style sewer grates, or the new intersection where Concord Ave enters Belmont, and the bikes are sandwiched in to an itty-bitty lane between two lines of cars entering a narrow intersection, or the renovation of Trapelo Road complete with 4.5 foot wide “door lanes”). And those lovely sharp-edged granite curbs; why get bruised when you fall off your bike, when you can have a compound fracture? (Formed concrete is cost-competitive, and equally durable if done right — so says DOT in Minneapolis and Chicago)

    And infrastructure includes maintenance – leaving winter sand in the road all year, or allowing bushes to grow into the bike gutter, or letting brush grow up and obstruct sight lines, or simply leaving potholes unpatched until one actually sends someone to the hospital.

    That’s the problem for me — car-only people reading that poster will just flit their eyes right past the car part, nod their heads, and think that they are doing enough, without thinking at all about what’s really there. They think they understand safety, when they don’t, and they think they understand infrastructure, when they don’t. They go away blissfully ignorant, and nothing happens.

  • Megan Ramey October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Great post and thanks for suggesting the City’s responsibility for providing safe infrastructure! Cycle-tracks, cycle-tracks!

  • Bob Kastigar October 19, 2012   Reply →

    The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

  • Commandeer October 19, 2012   Reply →

    “Ian Brett Cooper” and “dr2chase” should have their own blogs.

  • Richard Masoner October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Regarding education, I think on the road is as important (more important?) than reading. Look for bike safety education classes at your local bike club or advocacy group, or refer to this list:

    +1, “Like”, etc on Ian Cooper’s comments.

  • Rebecca Albrecht October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Great cartoon! Bicycles need to be provided with a larger share of the Public Space that will keep them safe from cars and away from pedestrians. In the Netherlands where no one wears helmets for utilitarian cycling, the injury and death rates of cyclists are minuscule compared to the US because they have a greater share of the Public Space which keeps them safe from cars and away from pedestrians. Netherlands – 1.1 killed per 100 million km cycled, 1.6 injuries per 10 million km cycled. USA – 5.5 killed per 100 million km cycled, 33.5 million injured per 10 million km cycled. Based on a 5 year average (2004-2008). Statistic from “City Cycling” by John Pucher & Ralph Buehler.

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      Relying on John Pucher and Ralph Buehler for cyclist injury statistics is like relying on Bernie Madoff for investment advice.

    • dr2chase October 19, 2012  

      A reference for that claim would be really, really helpful. They publish their work in peer-reviewed journals, and nation-sized mortality statistics are not easily fudged. They have citations, you can actually track them down and check them. Bluster is not rebuttal.

      In 2004-2005, the fatality rate per 100 million km was 1.1. 1.5, 1.7. 3.6, and 5.8 in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, UK, and the US respectively, with these figures obtained from the respective national transportation agencies. These were reported by the OECD in 2007, and Pucher and Buehler cited them in their 2008 Transport Reviews article (p. 506).

      The injury number that they cite is the more conservative one provided by the US DOT; the CDC’s number based on ER reports is over 10 times higher (however, it makes sense to compare like with like, one might assume that other DOTs similarly underreport).

      I confirmed the Dutch fatality number from page 191 of this OECD document:

      Have you perhaps underestimated the reliability of Pucher and Buehler? Would you perhaps reconsider some of your other opinions about their work?

    • Tim December 4, 2012  

      Ian, the modal share of cycling in the Netherlands makes that in the US look like a joke. The demographic there includes far more vulnerable users like schoolchildren and pensioners. And yet, they have far fewer injuries and deaths per mile cycled. A whole country is proving you wrong.

      None of this is down to in-depth conjecture based on the research you like to be so snide about. There are simple overwhelming stats.

      And it’s safe because they all cycle at walking pace? Please will you listen to yourself! There are plenty of videos of fast cycling in the Netherlands on YouTube ( ) , and the Dutch themselves argue that sports cyclists are perfectly happy training there. Of course it’s slower in town in the rush hour because there are SO MANY CYCLISTS. Where I commute in the UK I get caught up in queues of cars, buses and lorries. I know which I’d prefer.

      Did you ever stop to wonder if you are in a minority on here because you’re wrong?

      Forester and Franklin have had their chance. The numbers are in and they blew it. I don’t anticipate any remorse on their part for the lost years of life – not in accidents, but because their insistence on, and support for, vehicular cycling has helped scare nearly all the potential cyclists off the roads. People who might have loved to ride a bike to work or the shops will be sitting in front of the TV now, nursing their diabetes.

      But maybe we can realise when to follow a good example and make things better.

      For those still wondering if good-quality cycle infrastructure is really dangerous and slow, some pictures:

  • Koula October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Right on! I’m going to spread this post to my fellow Jacksonville based bike advocates.

  • Murali October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Excellent points, and I am surprised this discussion does not happen more frequently and at a higher level within the cycling community.

    I would personally add using a rear-view mirror can be more useful than wearing a helmet. The former goes under the “avoid crashes” column while the latter is in the “survive crashes” column. When you are riding in traffic, I think you are more naked without a mirror than without a helmet.

    • Gary Gagnon October 24, 2012  

      Good one Murali !

      Finally, someone brought up THE most important piece of equipment on a bike, A MIRROR !!! I have NO problem riding thru downtown Boston with cars 12″ off my left hip. Why ? Because I can see what they are up to / doing !

      Try driving in your car for an hour, and never, NOT once check any of your mirrors. I’ll bet you can’t / won’t do it ! So how anyone can climb on a bike, and not protect themselves (and their loved ones by getting back home safely) with something as simple as a mirror is beyond me…


  • l October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Cut down road accidents drastically : the right/correct attitude by everyone who is using/ while on the road. “Accidents” (occuring by chance/unplanned/not premeditated) will still happen.

  • Howard Abts October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Re “… when you put a car against a vulnerable road user …”

    We’re vulnerable, and motorists aren’t? About 100 motorists are killed by themselves and/or other motorists every day in the U. S.

    Misconceptions about comparative safety are an important part of the foundation of stoking irrational fears to build support for facilities that make riding safely more complicated, and/or more likely to get you honked at, and/or illegal, depending on your jurisdiction. (Happily for me, the Ohio State Legislature no longer allows local governments to require bikers to use sidewalks, bike lanes, sidepaths, or “cycletracks.”)

    For some recent information about the safety of wonderful cutting-edge innovative facilities, see

    More important than a helmet, I think, is learning the difference between “feeling safe” and being safer, and riding accordingly. The cartoon is absolutely right when it says “WE NEED EDUCATION.” It doesn’t take much of it of it before you begin to recognize MIS-education, whether it’s ad hominem attacks (see above), or painted lines on the pavement.

  • gpo October 19, 2012   Reply →

    I just came here because the Patch linked me here. The cartoons are great, but God, what pains in the ass most of you people are. No wonder so many people hate bike riders. To address one of the past cartoons, just get out of way of the guy trying to turn right for goodness’ sake. What point are you making by not getting out of someone’s way? Otherwise just ride carefully, which has worked for me all over the world for 50 years — somehow I have managed to survive with a crew of Danish PhDs or whatever studying my every move and advising me. PS just wear the damn helmet too.

    • Ian Brett Cooper October 19, 2012  

      Get out of the way of the guy turning right? Sure. As soon as he has priority (as determined by the rules of the road (remember those?), we’ll get out of his way. But while we have priority, ‘his way’ belongs to the vehicle in front, and if that’s a cyclist, he must wait. That’s not my rule – it’s the law in every state.

      Some folks need to read their driver’s handbook. Re-taking the driving test might help too. Also, the traffic laws of each state are online nowadays, so there’s no excuse for not knowing the law – at least not for anyone who can post here.

    • dr2chase October 19, 2012  

      That guy who wants to turn right, you know we’re not the least bit required to get out of his way, right? But I do often move to let people past, but I have some conditions.

      First, you have to use your signal. If you don’t use your signal, how can I know that you want to turn right? It’s also really important to safety; if I’m rolling up on the right, that signal lets me know that I don’t want to be beside you. So it should be a habit, all the time.

      Second, if I don’t know the cycle for the light, or if I know it is about to turn green, I’m not going to do it, because it might not be safe for me. It’s not safe to do non-standard things around cars that are in motion, or about to be in motion.

      Third, am I in a good mood? Honking doesn’t help my mood, but you knew that, right?

      And yeah, I know, this lackadaisical attitude towards the Rules Of The Road drives vehicularists up a tree, but let’s get real. I’m not going to get hit, scooching my bike over to the left in stopped traffic so someone can squeeze by, or riding back around and behind the guy who wants to turn, and I already checked the light to be sure it would be red for a while. This is all slow-speed stuff (which, as we read above, is what makes the Dutch so safe, and not their wonderful infrastructure). I figure, I cut you some slack on right turns, maybe you’ll be less anal about my Idaho stops.

  • Adam October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Hi! First-time visit to the site and I love your art! (It’s true about the 1000-words vs 1 picture thing, isn’t it.)

    @ Ian,

    “The notion that motorists and cyclists are in some sort of competition or ‘match’ on the road is false.”
    “It’s not a competition. There are no ‘opponents’ on the road and no one ‘wins’ anything.”
    Tell motorists that! Indeed, you seem to contradict yourself: “Their major problem is that they believe cyclists don’t belong on ‘their’ roads.” Yup, no competition: the motorist rules. :-p

    “That’s probably why [the Dutch] are safer than anyone else (if indeed they are…)”
    Do you have any idea how benighted and naïve you sound? You’ve been in the US too long, Ian. Visit the Netherlands. See for yourself. Please!

    “If everyone acts responsibly and obeys [right of way] rules, the road is perfectly safe for cyclists.”
    The idea of sharing a road with motor vehicles is intimidating and scary for the vast majority of people. Hence, they don’t ride. I agree that training does have a place in safe riding (the Dutch all get lessons at school as well as lessons from their parents) – but riding with motor vehicles will always remain intimidating and scary. Like swimming with sharks or running with bulls or any other extreme sport.

    “Off in infrastructure land, you get all these gratuitous hazards (the lovely, but dangerous, granite posts that DCR puts in the middle of their new paths) as well as thoughtless stuff (misaligned old-style sewer grates, [unpatched potholes, ill maintained]”
    No-one here is arguing for BAD infrastructure. Straw man.

    If you’re going to quote Jensen (2007) to us, get your facts straight. You cite a 10% increase in crashes and injuries. This is for ALL injuries (pedestrians, mopeds, bicycles, motor vehicle crashes) on the street with the new bicycle track. Read the discussion section: Jensen notes that the bicycle facilities had a ‘rather large’ effect on traffic volumes that indicate ‘thousands of travelers [sic] in total must have changed their choice of transport mode’. He notes a ‘20% increase in bicycle/moped mileage’ and a ‘decrease of 10% in motor vehicle traffic mileage’. Jensen suggests that these modal changes resulted in ‘higher vehicular speed, increased crossing activity by pedestrians outside formal crossings, etc.’ Making corrections for changes in traffic volumes, ‘the safety effect [improves], because the bicycle traffic has increased.’ In other words: bicycle numbers rose 20%, all injuries (including pedestrians and mopeds) rose only 10%. OVERALL RISK therefore fell.

    Several studies have reached this conclusion: as more people ride, overall risk of cycling decreases – the total number of injuries to riders rises, but less than what would be predicted from the initial risk. (See Ekman, Lars (1996); Ministerium für Wirtschaft und Mittelstand, Energie und Verkehr des Landes Nordrhein-Westphalen (2001); Jensen, Søren Underlien (1998); Jacobsen, P L (2003); UITP/ European Cyclists’ Federation (1997, December). )

    Here in New Zealand we saw the opposite when the helmet law came in: the government were quick to point to the TOTAL numbers in claiming that law caused a 19% reduction in cyclist head injuries. Compared however to the number of cyclists freefalling 22%, the OVERALL RISK of head injuries rose.


  • dr2chase October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Ahoy, on the bad infrastructure, we’re in violent agreement. The issue/worry is that things have to be spelled out in detail for car-centric planners and designers, because look at all the crud that they do already. We say “infrastructure”, they think “skinny bike lane next to parked cars”, that’s not so good. They don’t think about cleaning up sand, they don’t pay attention to sewer grates, they don’t trim brush, they think everything is fine. These are people who need examples, lots of them. And yes, I write annoying letters, and sometimes it even appears to get results.

  • traffic cyclist October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Where I ride, there is no bicycle infrastructure to speak of, so I can’t comment on that. For safe commuting, I’d mostly rely on intelligence, skill and equipment, in that order. Intelligence and equipment are there in your depiction. But competent (and advanced) riding skill is an equally important component that could get you out of an almost-out-of-control situation.

  • Kevin Love October 19, 2012   Reply →

    See below a list of cycling mode share in cities across the world. Let`s benchmark success!

    What do they all have in common? Proper supportive infrastructure!

    I`ve been in many of these cities and can attest from personal experience that Italian car drivers fully deserve their reputation for recklessness. But stout Italian protective concrete barriers don`t care – they keep the crazy drivers away from cyclists.

    Similarily, the lone USA example of Davis, California has to struggle with the same poor traffic laws and lax law enforcement as the rest of California and the USA. But their separated cycle path system doesn`t care. Car drivers can be as criminally negligent as they wanna be and police can practice FIDO (Fuck It, Drive On) all day long – the crazies are kept away from cyclists.

    Enforcement is nice, but even when police do care they can`t be everywhere all the time. Concrete can.

    Cycling mode share – OECD countries. Yes, this excludes China.

    Groningen, Netherlands – 59%
    Copenhagen, Denmark – 55% (37% metro area)
    Greifswald, Germany – 44%
    Lund, Sweden – 43%
    Assen, Netherlands – 40%
    Amsterdam, Netherlands – 40%
    Münster, Germany – 40%
    Utrecht, Netherlands – 33%
    Västerås, Sweden – 33%
    Ferrara, Italy – 30%
    Malmö, Sweden – 30%
    Linköping, Sweden – 30%
    Odense, Denmark – 25%
    Basel, Switzerland – 25%
    Osaka, Japan – 25% [est.]
    Bremen, Germany – 23%
    Bologna, Italy – 20%
    Oulu, Finland – 20%
    Munich, Germany – 20%
    Florence, Italy – 20%
    Rotterdam, Netherlands – 20-25%
    Berne, Switzerland – 20%
    Tübingen, Gemany – 20%
    Aarhus, Denmark – 20%
    Tokyo, Japan – 20% [est.]
    Salzburg, Austria – 19%
    Venice (and Mestre), Italy – 19%
    Pardubice, Czech Republic – 18%
    York, UK – 18%
    Dresden, Germany – 17%
    Ghent, Belgium – 15%
    Parma, Italy – 15%
    Bern, Switzerland – 15%
    Davis, USA – 15%
    Cambridge, UK – 15%
    Graz, Austria – 14%
    Berlin, Germany – 13%
    Strasbourg, France – 12%
    Turku, Finland – 11%
    Stockholm, Sweden – 10%
    Bordeaux, France – 10%
    Avignon, France – 10%

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