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.

Next Post
Previous Post

You may also like


  • Kevin Love October 19, 2012   Reply →

    Safety campaigns in The Netherlands never, ever mention helmets. Instead, they put the blame squarely where it belongs: upon dangerous, reckless, negligent car drivers. Here`s one example:

    To quote one Dutch police officer: “When someone is shot, we don`t tell everyone else to wear bulletproof vests. Instead we go after the gunman.“

  • John S. Allen October 21, 2012   Reply →

    Well, I’ve seen my name mentioned a few times in these ocmments and maybe I’ll get to responding later, but let me comment on something in the cartoon itself: “And Lights: really should be mandatory.”

    They are mandatory. It’s in the law of every state. Bikeytface, I like your cartoons, but you could stand to inform yourself better.

    Actually, allow me to me propose something to you: a ride on the back of my tandem so you can see how a person who has been described by one of your commenters as promoting a “dying gasp” has been riding safely for 40 years in Boston urban traffic.

    • John Riley October 21, 2012  

      Just going on my leaking memory, but my impression is that the worst accidents in Sonoma County are in the _rural_ areas. In broad daylight. These are certainly the ones that make an impression on me.

    • Jonathan Krall October 22, 2012  

      They are?!? I thought they were only mandatory at night. Automobile lights, by contrast, are required to be built in and are mandatory in some daylight situations, such as rain.

    • dr2chase October 22, 2012  

      It was unclear to me if she meant all the time, or just at night. It’s certainly the case that items #1 and #2 in any bicycle related safety screed are helmets-helmets-helmets and not stopping, even though lack of proper lights plays a huge role in safety (when did you last see reported whether or not a crash victim had lights on their bike, hmmm?) I started using hub-driven lights with no off switch a few years ago, and put some like that on my kids’ bikes, and it’s clearly the way to go for idiot-proof lights.

      I’m also surprised, give how the VC method emphasizes the importance of visibility (being where people are looking, acting in particular predictable ways), that I don’t hear much official promotion for bicycle daytime running lights. It works for motorcycles and cars in the daytime; why not bicycles too?

  • Kevin Love October 21, 2012   Reply →

    Breaking news… I see that some more peer-reviewed research at a major university concludes that proper protected cycle lanes are safer. And that crossing railway or streetcar tracks is a hazard.

    A bit duhhh from me and my friends, but being able to quantify the safety vs. hazard helps to justfy and prioritize the necessary spending to remove the hazards and increase safety.


  • Jonathan Krall October 22, 2012   Reply →

    Great post! The focus on helmets is a source of great frustration for many cycling advocates.

    Studies show that bike-lane miles are the number one factor that correlates with high cycling rates and that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers 10 to one. Studies of crashes also show that many crashes are associated with dangerous practices, such as wrong-way riding or riding at night without lights.

    The point is to focus on what works to prevent crashes, not to assign blame after the fact, which seems to be the main function of helmets (reporters always ask about helmets even when there is no head injury).

    • Kevin Love October 22, 2012  

      I am waiting for newspaper reporters to blame shooting victims for not wearing bulletproof vests.

  • bostonperson whohasbike October 22, 2012   Reply →

    here’s a recent study that matches infrastructure user preference with actual safety:

  • Ethan Fleming October 23, 2012   Reply →

    Prevention is not the only thing that is key. Education is key. We need to educate the drivers about the laws of bikes, cars, and etc on the road.

  • DJ October 23, 2012   Reply →

    Nicely done.

  • Sheridan October 25, 2012   Reply →

    You’re allowed to ride at night without lights over there? It’s mandatory here, and you’re subject to a fine if you don’t!

  • Ordinary Bob October 26, 2012   Reply →

    I am so happy I found your blog during the #bikecommutercabal event on G+. I love the graphic!

  • Geoff Schneider October 30, 2012   Reply →

    I hope you are safe and well after the superstorm.

  • Blind Hodd December 3, 2012   Reply →

    All I know is that if I go cycling on in my home town on route 30(in PA) which is in fact a DESIGNATED CYCLING road, albeit without any cycling lanes to speak of, complete with “share the road signs” I get run off the road 50% of the time. Mostly by people too busy fussing with their quadruple bypass coronary burgers and smartphones, then I’M the one who did something wrong as they honk of flip me off.

  • Max Schneider June 21, 2013   Reply →

    As someone who has cycled in many different places/regions/countries, some with more cyclists and some with almost none I noticed that the main factor affecting cycle safety is whether drivers are used to cyclists on the road (may be they even cycle themselves) and know what to do or whether they have never seen one before and have no idea what to do.

    If they have no idea what to do (because they have never ever encountered one on the road before) that is when it gets scary and dangerous.

    The other most important safety feature is the cyclists brain. Just as brain.exe is your best protection against computer viruses it is *your* best protection against being hit by a car. Anticipating what might happen is your best insurance against being hit. Works for me anyway (*knocks on wood*)

  • John S. Allen June 10, 2014   Reply →

    I agree with the points made in the graphic except for the last one, 3500 pounds vs. 135 pounds. Having some knowledge of physics helps avoid such errors. The valid comparison is not about mass, but about energy dissipated in a collision. It is, all other things being equal, the same for striking another bicyclist head-on each going 15 mph, as being struck by a car at a 15 mph speed difference. I’ve discussed the issue in some detail:

  • Shawn September 21, 2014   Reply →

    The way they build bike paths in Chicago prove Ian’s point. They paint stripes in the street to delineate the path, then end the lane markings before the intersection (making it a shared ‘whole street’ near and at the intersection).
    They know the striped bike path doesn’t increase safety. It’s all about perception and PR, of convincing casual and non-bike users it’s safe to ride a bike on the street. They eliminate the markings at intersections because they can’t refute all of the data that says it’s unsafe (and therefore worried about being sued for unsafe infrastructure).
    But I think this ‘take the lane’ approach has more to do geography, as I believe European and Northeast US cities had historically narrower roads. So if you grew up around that, that’s how you see things. But most of the United States builds wide roads, so it’s not a problem to stay on the right. I’ve had more problems with other bikers passing me too close than cars.

Leave a comment