The 'Virtuous Cycle'

More bikes equals safer roads

We're already learned a lot about how riding a bike can both green up your 'hood and keep you healthy and spry — but new research shows that a profusion of bike riders can actually make city streets safer. When's the last time anybody said that about a Hummer?

In what they call a 'virtuous cycle,' Australian researchers at the University of New South Wales determined that communities get safer for cyclists when the number of bikers on the road increases. In fact, a city that doubles its number of bikers can expect the frequency of bike/car crashes to drop by a third.The added perception of safety in the community then encourages more people to get out and about on the ol' two-wheeler.

"It's a virtuous cycle," says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW who address a cycling safety seminar in Sydney, Australia, on September 5. "The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle."

Surprisingly, the reduction isn't because fewer motorists are present on the road; rather, when city streets see more cyclists and pedestrians, motorists tend to change their behavior and drive more conscientiously. As an added bonus, this is independent of any pro-bike regulation changes like lower speed limits or better bike paths.

Add it to the list of karma points you rack up while riding a bike: In addition to making your town a cleaner, healthier place, you'll make it safer, too.

— Ted Alvarez

A Virtuous Cycle: Safety In Numbers For Bicycle Riders (Science Daily)