Bicycle safety story misses the point
A recent State News article about bike/car/pedestrian conflict on campus (Students, drivers have tough time sharing roads on campus, 9/19) is in need of some clarification aimed at saving lives.
As an experienced, commuting cyclist (30 years), my common sense says that riding on the sidewalk (when there is no bike lane) is safer than on the road, and that intersections are dangerous in general. The statistics on cyclist fatalities (from NHTSA) confirm this common-sense view. In 2011, 3,750 cyclists were killed on U. S. roadways. In stark contrast, only 126 cyclists were killed on sidewalks.
Which behavior is safer for the cyclist? Intersections are, statistically, also very dangerous (1,171 cyclist fatalities). The MSU Bike Services Manager was quoted as saying “Just ride in the roadways, with or without bike lanes.” This is bad advice. The facts say ride in a bike lane (27 fatalities) or on the sidewalk, but NEVER in the roadway, and take extra care at intersections (which generally lack bike lanes). I prefer to be alive than “legally protected” or law-abiding. In fact, one might question laws that greatly increase the chances of an individual dying. I ride in the bike lane when is exists, but as any cyclist on campus can attest, MSU’s bike lanes are under-developed and tend to end in the middle of a block, dumping cyclists onto the dangerous roadway. Pedestrians and cyclists are not going to die in a bike crash (and we should be most concerned about fatalities), but a $5 bike bell might reduce such encounters. Also, wear a helmet and get a bike light! Pedestrians can help by not walking on marked bike lanes.
Orlando Sarnelle is a fisheries & wildlife professor.