Editorial: Biking is safer than driving

Published 8:30 am Friday, July 2, 2010

On the matter of the bike lane proposed for Front Street, the Tribune Editorial Board weighed the matter and came out divided.

That happens. We see the pros and cons.

But no matter how the Albert Lea City Council decides on July 12, there is one part of the debate we grow tired of hearing because it is plain false.

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Too many times we have heard an opponent or a skeptic make comments on how bicycling isn’t safe. The fact is, it is safer than taking an automobile.

We found these figures on Grist.com, which cites Charles R. Murray, author of “The Real Story: Overdesign Prevents Cars from Exploding,” Design News, Oct. 4, 1993.

Below are the activity and the number for fatalities per million hours of doing that activity.

Skydiving, 128.7

On-road motorcycling, 8.8

Scuba diving, 2.0

Living (all causes of death), 1.5

Snowmobiling, 0.9

Passenger cars, 0.5

Water skiing, 0.3

Bicycling, 0.3

Flying (scheduled domestic airlines), 0.2

Passenger car post-collision fire, 0.0

These figures are old, too, and many bike-advocating sources note that as more bicycle infrastructure is built in the United States, the safer the riding bikes has become.

American bicyclists are twice as likely to get killed as German and three times as likely as Dutch cyclists, according to a 2003 piece in the American Journal of Public Health, largely because motorists in places that build the bicycle into the transportation infrastructure end up giving the bicyclists greater respect.

Figures from the National Transportation Safety Board also show, year in and year out, that bicycling is safer than taking an automobile.

So if the City Council holds off on building a bike July 17, that’s fine. Let’s just hope the decision isn’t over safety concerns. Saying such a thing would based on speculation, not research.