This post doesn’t actually have anything to do with school – or formal education for that matter. But I feel it captures the essence of the question I wish to pose. I think education is key for making cycling safer – safer for cyclists AND drivers. I have read numerous blog posts, essays, etc. that claim that roughly half of bike-car collisions are the cyclist’s fault:
In his 2004 book The Art of Urban Cycling, Robert Hurst cites evidence that as many as half of car-bike crashes are the cyclist’s fault: the cyclist ran a stop sign, made an illegal turn, rode against traffic, or otherwise broke the law.
And that does not surprise me. While I feel that safe cycling depends on more bikes sharing roads with cars and therefore exposing auto drivers to more cyclists – it also requires that the cyclists know what they are doing. The cyclists themselves have to know how to behave appropriately on the road and not take for granted the privilege of sharing the road.
But one thing that I have noticed, and I assume is similar in other major metropolitan areas: a vast number of cyclists are not the kind of people who are reading blogs like this. On any given day, I pass 20-25 cyclists in the 17 miles of biking I do to and from work. Of those, maybe 4 or 5 are what we think of when we hear the term “bike commuters.” This term implies a middle-class or higher individual who has made a willing choice to drive less and bike more.
But what about those that don’t really have a choice – but instead are forced into biking as the only way to get to and from where they need to be due to socio-economic status? These individuals do not necessarily spend much time on the internet – if they even have regular internet access at all! My experience witnessing individuals like this is that they also do not have a very good idea or a desire to be an “upstanding cyclist.” I routinely encounter them riding on the same side of the road as me, but going the opposite direction; swerving all over the road and showing complete disregard for others around them; crossing intersections while their direction has a red light; crossing in the middle of the street during times of high traffic.
These individuals rely on their bikes for transport much more than the general population – and I would assume are the victims of bike-car crashes more often than the “wealthy” bike commuters. I think an improvement in the education of this group would show an exponentially greater impact in safe cycling than educating middle-classers.
But how do we do that? I invite your thoughts and responses on this as it is an issue I hope to continue to explore…