Urban Bicycle Safety (in Numbers)


photo by edmonds59

An excellent story on local NPR 90.5, WESA. It came across as reasonable, balanced, and positive.

Reporter Larkin Page-Jacobs did a fine job exploring the bicycle safety paradox: aggregate (urban) bicycle safety is a function of the number of people bicycling. The more bicyclists in a city, the fewer car-bicyclist injuries. The best thing a bicyclist can do to improve their odds is to get ten friends to ride as well.

I see more and more bicyclists in Pittsburgh, so it seems we have a positive trend going. I hope the upcoming completion of the Pittsburgh-DC trail provides a significant jump in visible bicyclists on local roads.

There is one aspect of the bicycle safety paradox that is troublesome and controversial, and it is "the helmet thing". If you want more people to get out on bikes, you need to stop requiring helmets. Our society requires helmets for dangerous things: football, construction, etc. Requiring helmets makes bicycle riding an implicitly dangerous activity, and some rational people will hesitate to ride. If you remove the helmet mandate, more people will ride, and fewer people will get hurt. OTOH, those few people that bounce on their heads will get really hurt.

I am glad I don't have to make that policy decision. Bravo, WESA and Larkin Page-Jacobs.





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