If more people rode bikes, there’d be fewer crashes with cars
Last week Grist had a great article about “safety in numbers” for cyclists. Research within the US and around the world has shown that as bicycling rates go up, the total number of crashes stays flat, resulting in a significant decrease in bicycle crashes per trip. While this might initially sound counterintuitive, the premise is pretty simple. The more cyclists a city has, the more drivers expect cyclists, and drive accordingly. Similarly, as bicycling rates increase, drivers are more likely to be cyclists themselves, causing further behavioral changes that improve the safety of bicycles.
The phenomenon, dubbed “safety in numbers,” was first identified in 2003, in an academic paper by public health researcher Peter Jacobsen [PDF]. After being asked by officials in Pasadena, Calif., if their city “was a dangerous place to bicycle,” Jacobsen began looking at crash data from various communities where bicycle ridership had fluctuated over time…. (more)
For me this brings up two points about bicyclist safety from a public health perspective that almost always get glossed over. First, helmets are a distraction when it comes to the overall safety of bicycling in a city.