My main source of news today is the Internet; the news is no less depressing, but I can at least pick and choose the stories I want to read or videos I want to watch.
When it comes to cycling news it is not only depressing it is incredibly boring, which is depressing in itself; especially when I am looking for something to discuss here.
The stories seem to fall into three distinct categories:
1.) Stories about improvements being made in cycling infrastructure in various cities across the US, and in other parts of the world; bike lanes added, etc. etc. Good news indeed and a good trend to observe, but of little interest to anyone but the people living in the particular city to which it applies.
2.) Stories about cyclists and motorists not getting along; this could be a daily soap opera or reality show on TV; it would be just about as interesting too.
3.) Stories about cyclists killed on our roads; the most depressing of all. Rarely is anyone held accountable for the death, and nothing is done except maybe a “Ghost Bike” is placed at the scene.
The problem is that this reporting of cycling deaths gives the impression that there is wholesale slaughter of cyclists, and that riding a bicycle on public roads and streets is only for those with some kind of death wish.
Those of us who take the time to look deeper into the issue find that cycling deaths are actually quite rare. So rare in fact that they are always reported at least in the local media.
Because of the Internet local stories go global and when one does a simple “Cycling” news search, up pops another cycling death piece.
The reality is that somewhere between 600 and 700 cyclists are killed on US roads each year; that is less than two each day. In a country with a population of 350 million, if less than 1% are riding bicycles that is several million cyclists on the road on any given day. And out of that number less than two will die.
There must be more people die from slipping in their bath tub each day. In the US between 90 and 100 people die in automobile crashes every day; these deaths do not make it into local newspapers, sadly there are just too many of them to be newsworthy.
The “Cyclist Killed,” stories stick around for several days and are reported multiple times in different newspapers and websites; then there are those from overseas. This gives the impression that there are more deaths than there actually are.
In the UK in 2010, 111 cyclists died; that is a little over two per week. I do not mean to make light of these figures, but simply to get them in perspective.
The UK has a population of 62 million, in an area of 94,060 sq. miles. Compare that to California with 163,707 sq. miles and a population of 37.7 million. Incidentally, in 2010 in California, 99 cyclists died, only slightly less than the UK.
Also when you look at statistics, the majority of people getting killed on bicycles are the ones doing all the wrong things. Riding at night without lights, riding on the wrong side of the road, or riding on the sidewalk.
In other words it is mostly the inexperienced cyclists who get themselves in trouble. Sadly, children between 6 and 14 years old are a large part of the annual figures.
Even though in many cases an automobile/bicycle crash is due to an inattentive driver; experience and defensive riding will often keep the cyclist out of danger.
And not meaning to start another helmet debate; head injury statistics are flawed because it is mostly the experienced cyclists who are wearing the helmets, but avoiding crashes in the first place. Whereas, it is the inexperienced, more accident prone riders who are not wearing helmets.
So if like me you read these daily cycling death stories, keep the facts in perspective and enjoy your ride. Let your loved ones who worry about you know that you will be fine; because I have heard that “Worry” is like praying for something you don’t want to happen.
Some more reading, facts and figures: