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5 ways to enhance urban cycling safety

Bike deaths and injuries are on the rise – here are some ways cities can make their communities a safer place to ride

Not to be a downer, but deaths and injuries to bicycle riders have been steadily rising in the last decade.

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According to recently released statistics (April 2013) from the National Highway Transportation Association, bicycling deaths increased by almost 9% from 2010 to 2011, while pedestrian deaths increased by only 3%, and deaths to occupants of vehicles (cars, trucks, etc.) decreased by more than 7,500 during this time frame.

In 2011 alone, there were nearly 48,000 American cyclists injured in crashes, with most taking place between 4pm and 8pm.

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Worth noting: the average age of a cyclist killed in 2002 was 36. 10 years later, the average age is 43.

What state had the highest number of bicycling deaths in the U.S.? Florida. In the sunshine state, bicycling deaths totaled more than 5% of all traffic fatalities (125), which is shocking when compared to the fact that Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia all had zero bicycling deaths!

Bicycling has plenty of benefits, including better health, decreased local pollution and auto emissions, positive economic impacts on the community, and more. But with statistics like those mentioned above, how can we make our cities a safer place to ride?

I propose the following five ways that communities can enhance urbane cycling safety:

Make it a fineable offense for bikers to wear headphones, texting while riding, or partake in any other distracting habit. If they’re on the road, their focus should be on the road, just like a driver.

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Add more bike lanes, and put barriers between vehicle and cycle traffic at all intersections.

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Also, to this point a bit, paint shared lanes so that bikers and those on foot know where to ride / walk, and cyclists needn’t swerve out of the way of an unmoving group, and wind up in oncoming traffic.

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Install clear signage that tells bikers where they can and cannot ride. These signs will also allow drivers to be aware if they are in a biker-heavy zone or not.

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Signage can be your standard nail-up or post in the ground, but electronic signals can certainly be used to.

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Invest in developing key routes that include safe intersections and recommended paths for bikers to follow through a city. Make these maps easily downloadable so cyclists can follow them on their phone’s GPS system, or listen to them on their portable speaker.

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Teach bike education and safe cycling in gym class at elementary schools. Make this a mandatory topic to cover so that children grow up with a sense of what’s safe and what’s not when it comes to biking in an open traffic environment.

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What do you think? Agree or disagree with any of these points? Have any that you would add? Let us know!

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