As more and more young drivers enter the road, and as more bicyclers do the same, people and families everywhere constantly ask themselves: Should bikes and automobiles be allowed on the same road? This question has become a serious issue in many communities as people are looking for ways to become more active. Yet, as bikers and motorists, what are the risks we should be aware of? How many bicyclists are injured annually as a result? What is the economic cost of crashes involving bicyclists? What can be done to create a safer environment for both groups?
■ What are the risks we should be aware of?
First, when we go out on a nice ride or a workout, as more and more people are stressed, going out for a ride in the morning when everyone is hurrying to work might not be such a good idea. For example, as stated by the League of American Bicyclists, there are an estimated 804 cyclists killed per year by motor vehicles and a total of 13,000 cyclists killed in accidents between 1990 and 2007, which about equals the total population of Steamboat. Also in 2001, the average age of cyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles was 36, up from 28.1 in 1990. Most of those killed in 2001 were men (91 percent).
■ How many cyclists are injured annually as a result?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2001, 728 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles and 45,000 were injured. These numbers represent 2 percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes. In 2000, the number of fatalities dipped below the 700 mark for the first time in the past decade. Recent data also shows that there has been a 14 percent reduction in fatalities among cyclists between 1997 and 2007.
■ What is the economic cost of crashes involving bicyclists?
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the comprehensive cost of each person killed in a traffic crash to be $2.9 million. Multiplying this number by the 728 bicyclists killed in 2001 totals $2.1 billion.
A 1991 study, “The Costs of Highway Crashes,” produced by the Urban Institute and Federal Highway Administration calculated the average nonfatal injury cost per person involved in a motor vehicle crash. The average nonfatal injury cost per person involved in a motor vehicle crash is $61,375. Multiplying this number by the 51,000 reported injury crashes in 2000 totals $3.1 billion.
■ What can be done to create a safer environment for both groups?
First, I think that for the safety of the cyclists, we should change our codes from the mandatory 3 feet of space needed for motorists to pass cyclists to at least 5 feet. Second, I think it should be against the law to “partner up” or ride side by side and that only single file riding should be allowed. Also, motorists should be more aware of cyclists and not count on the to move over. Bicyclists should do the same. And when you are coming around a blind corner, slow down in case there is another bicycle or car coming. Remember, it always pays to be safe, and across the world, the safer we all try to be, the better our community will become.
Joseph Littlehorn VI
Steamboat Springs eighth-grader