I was driving home today and listening to the NPR discussion about bicycling culture and growing number of bicycles on the road. As expected, a large percentage of the discussion concerned bicycle safety and preventing bicycle accidents. The situation is particularly difficult in major cities like Providence or Boston where a large number of bicyclists commute to work and bike messengers are everywhere delivering packages.
As an avid bike rider myself, I know how dangerous city streets can be. I have had my fair share of falls and close calls. Fortunately, no accident has been serious, but I remain constantly defensive on the road. Drivers are not accustomed to looking out for bicyclists and we are often lost in blind spots or completely unseen. This creates an obviously precarious environment for bikers. One commentator on the NPR show also pointed out how some drivers, particularly teenagers, find it funny to beep or yell out of windows to try and startle bikers.
Many of those on the discussion panel also pointed out the need for bikers to adhere to rules of the road and take steps toward their own safety. Too many bikers tend to run stop signs or red lights, ignore yield signs, and assume that they are safe along the side of the road. To prevent injury on a bike, bicyclists must ride defensively and take every precaution. Adhere to traffic signals, wear protective gear, and never assume that a vehicle is aware of your presence.
The panels envision an increased use of bicycles for daily commute and exercise. In many European countries, in which gas prices have topped 5 or 6 dollars a gallon for years, bicyclists are absolutely everywhere. I expect that we may see a similar upsurge in bicyclists as gas prices continue to rise, particularly in the cities of Providence and Boston.