"Bicycling on San Francisco city streets is safe." Thats what you can tell your non-bicycling friends who will hopefully join you on Bike to Work With a Buddy Day, Tuesday, May 18th.
As advocates we sometimes overemphasize the dangers of bicycling in our attempts to make the streets safer. "Bicycling isnt safe enough, but its safer than it looks. Give it a try." Thats the soundbite I employ when I know a soundbite is all Im going to get.
Most people find bicycling in city traffic too risky, but surveys show that San Franciscans made about 12 million bike trips to and from work last year. Theres a 1-in-60,000,000 chance of a fatality on a bike trip in city traffic. Those are not bad odds. Compare that to your chances of developing heart disease if you dont get enough exercise, and bicycling suddenly looks safe even compared to sitting at home!
But while bicycling fatalities are thankfully less common, statistically the story about injuries is not nearly as rosy.
We need to respect peoples fears about bicycling and work together to improve the streets. Slowing car speeds, educating drivers, and setting aside space for bikes will make bicycling a viable choice, even for the most timid. (It will also improve my ride, which is marked less by danger than by animosity from drivers who unknowingly want me to compromise my safety.)
We also need to allay peoples fears. On Bike to Work Day, or any day, tell your friends its not as dangerous as it looks. This issue of the Tube Times is dedicated to getting new folks to try cycling. The list of tips on page 1 is an excellent place to start. Happy riding!