As the weather gets warmer, bikers will be gearing up for bicycle season. However, drivers also need to gear up for bicycle season. So often we as drivers are not used to sharing the road with bikers. However, this could prove costly as lives are at stake: traffic accidents killed more cyclists between 2016 and ’18 than over the previous 25 years.
A Spike in Fatalities
The rate of deaths among cyclists is the highest its ever been since the introduction of proper bike networks/trails. While bigger cities are the main places being affected because of their different methods of transportation, anyone can be at risk. Three main things are contributing to this:
- How much Americans are driving now: it’s no secret that the nation as a whole is getting lazier. But since the economy has recovered from 2008, many Americans drive to even the closest of destinations. They aren’t yet accustomed to encountering so many pedestrians or cyclists. Unemployment rates are down and more people are now commuting to work, clogging the roads and leading to more accidents.
- Distracted driving: smartphones are at the center of more accidents than any other cause. Even with our cars becoming smarter through technology, drivers need to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. PeopleForBikes’ Jennifer Boldry summed it up best: “It’s really tough to see someone if you’re looking at your phone.”
- Larger trucks and SUVs: many arguments can be made for and against this point. But a lot of teenagers like trucks or larger vehicles as their first car. While these vehicles are great for people with kids or who haul materials around for work, they often have larger blind spots. Drivers need be more cautious and experienced before getting behind the wheel of a larger vehicle.
From 2016-’18, eight men died for every one female cyclist killed in California. The simplest fix to all the bicycle fatalities is reducing speed limits. Along with getting a handle on speed, cities need to understand the importance of safe bike routes. Cyclists and drivers can share the road, as long as there is somewhere designated to bike safety. Cyclists aren’t allowed to ride on the sidewalk but we can’t expect them to feel safe riding along with large, fast-moving SUVs.
There are a few precautions cyclists should be taking at all times when riding: reflective gear, helmets, and pads, as well as having an emergency kit on their bikes. However, drivers should be the ones practicing safer habits. There are too many distracted drivers out there risking the lives of pedestrians and fellow drivers. New technology on cars is often good at detecting blind spots, but that doesn’t always extend to cyclists and pedestrians. The main concern during a driving test is being aware of your surroundings. We can’t let drivers get too comfortable and stop doing this. There is hope that technology will improve and be able to detect pedestrians or cyclists, but we should be able to rely on the common sense of our drivers. And, as with anything else, the more bike riders we see, the more aware drivers will be when looking to switch lanes or make a turn.
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