After two disastrous collisions between bikes and cars last week resulted in serious injuries to both cyclists, it's easy to understand why so many of us are leery of riding bikes.|
According to PeopleForBikes.com, transportation research has routinely shown personal safety is the No. 1 reason most of us give for not riding bicycles.
But the terrible consequences of those recent accidents notwithstanding, the fact is that bicycling is pretty darn safe and governments, including those in the Quad-Cities, are working to make them safer.
The truth is that the number of bicycling injuries and fatalities is declining even as the number of riders is growing. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 1995 830 bicyclists lost their lives. That had dropped to 677 in 2011. Injuries declined even more sharply, dropping 37 percent from 61,000 in 1995 to 38,000 in 2011.
That doesn't mean, of course, that biking couldn't and shouldn't be made safer. Those numbers, for example, do not take into account the bike and vehicle collisions which are never reported. And, in any event, a single death or injury is unacceptable if it could have been prevented.
We don't know all the details surrounding the separate accidents last week which led a 60-year-Bettendorf man and a 22-year-old Moline rider to be injured so seriously they were airlifted to Iowa City. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, as well as the drivers of the vehicles involved in the crashes.
But the purpose of today's offering has nothing to do with placing blame but rather to remind us all of the importance of riding and driving safety, which, after all, is a two-way street.
Though there remain a remarkable number of Americans -- and, sadly, Quad-Citians -- who loathe sharing the roads with anyone on two wheels, or on foot, we simply cannot ignore that we're encountering more and more walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
Whether drivers like it or not, bike riders have every right to be on our roads in both Iowa and in Illinois, with the exception of interstates, which we suspect only the most radical of bicycling advocates would dispute.
It's important to note, however, that the rules of the road apply both to cars and to the cyclists who share the roadway with them. Remember, a moment's distraction, be it by a driver or a rider, can have fatal consequences.
That's why we're all responsible for keeping one another safe. For cyclists that means:
-- Riding on the right side of the road -- with traffic, not against it.
-- Obeying traffic signs and signals just as though you were driving a car. So don't blow that stop sign!
-- Knowing hand signals and using them.
-- Stopping and looking both ways before entering a street.
-- Wearing reflective clothing and making sure you have a front headlight and a rear deflector when you ride before dawn and after dusk.
-- Wearing a bicycle helmet. The reason is simple: They say lives.
What of the motorists' responsibility on safety's two-way street? Drivers should always:
-- Observe speed limits.
-- Stay focused on the roadway: Put down the cell phone. Don't text. Don't fix you're makeup. Wait to eat until you stop. Don't drive and read or go hunting for that CD in the backseat.
-- Be especially careful to check your blind spots.
-- When encountering a bike, wait until it is safe to pass and don't tailgate. Give the bike plenty of room. Remember, if you pass too closely, the drag from your car can pull a cyclist off course and cause the rider to swerve out of control.
-- Give these slower movers plenty of time to get through intersections.
-- Watch side streets, alleys and sidewalks for bikes entering the roadway.
-- Watch for hazardous road conditions, such as potholes and gravel, which can prove dangerous to bikes.
-- Watch out for cyclists making left-hand turns.
As we said, we don't know if any of these tips could have helped to avoid either of last week's disastrous encounters between bikes and cars.
But we are certain that, if carefully observed, they can protect other motorists and cyclists as they share our roadways every day.