Why Should We Tolerate Even One Bicycle-Car Accident?

Would you consider it tolerable if even one bicycle-car accident occurred a year if it were your child or family member riding that unfortunate bike?  So why should we tolerate such accidents for any other member of our community?  Why aren’t we up in arms with City Hall about making our street safe if we or our children ride our bikes in town.  I am.  In fact there was a fatality  of one family’s child last year.  We have a zero tolerance policy for drugs and weapons in our schools.  So why are we so tolerant about bicycle accidents?  Are not these accidents just as deadly and devastating as drugs or weapons?

It always amazes me how tolerant we are about bicycle-car accidents, as if there is nothing we can do about it.  Naturally the bicyclists will always come out the loosing end regardless of whose fault it is.  Many improvements have been made in the survivability of car accidents.  But very little has been done for bicycles other than helmets.  Fortunately most bicycle-car collisions are not serious and many are not even reported but each has the potential of being deadly.

So what can be done to protect cyclists?  In terms of what they wear for protection, very little can be done without adding considerable weight. bulk, and cost to bikes and their riders but due to the shear force and energy contained in a car, it is like trying to protect a cyclists against a powerful gun.  It simply isn’t practical.

But there are many things that can be done in the way we design bicycle lanes and streets to eliminate such accidents.  Here is where our city can make a difference.  So is it a reasonable expectation to eliminate bicycle accidents between cars?  Experts believe we can achieve close to zero collisions between bikes and cars with the right designs of streets and bicycle lanes in conjunction with educational programs.  One must keep in mind that bicyclists are often the cause of accidents so responsible bicycling must be equally emphasized especially for kids.

But it is up to we citizens to emphasize the need for such protection for our children and bicycle riders.  We must make our case to City Council to make this a priority that the city need to invest in.  It is already part of the Cupertino’s Community Vision 2040 Mobility Element.  So citizens simply need to insist that the City follow its own vision for Mobility.  But currently the City has totally neglected to incorporate traffic issues in the General Plan.  So there is nothing to mitigate the increase in traffic that growth will bring.  We rightfully should be up in arms about this.

By making our streets safe to bike far more kids and adults will start riding their bikes.  Consequently streets will become less crowded with cars.  As more people bike there will be more demand for improvements to make riding more convenient thus encouraging even more people to cycle etc.  Consequently there will be fewer cars on the roads.  This is clearly one major step the city can take to both reduce traffic and virtually eliminate bicycle accidents.

So the City must making such accidents unacceptable as the goal of city planners and invest to make this possible.  Increasing the number of bicycles on our streets has all kinds of benefits.  In contrast increasing the number of cars on our streets as the city grows creates all kinds of problems.  Can anyone see any flaw to this argument?

So the City should have as its goal a zero bicycle-car accident policy.  To achieve this the city needs to implement best practice bicycle lane designs to eliminate collisions between bicycles and cars.  There are many solutions to this problem if the city is serious about zero accidents.  Many Northern European countries have worked out solutions for their countries and many cities in the U.S. are implementing solutions.  This website is packed such examples (see Video Clips and Photo Album).

It will cost money but ultimately it will save lives and reduce traffic congestion on city streets especially around schools even as the population grows.  But first we the people must provide City Council the Political Will to make this a priority worthy of investing money and resources on.

About Frank Geefay

Sustainable Bicycle and Smart Growth Advocate
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