DOUBLE TAKE: CYCLING SAFETY
Cyclists want a brand new bag
Dutch group advocates external airbags to reduce traffic injuries
With a report from Reuters
April 24, 2008
Airbags in cars have been proven to decrease traffic deaths for passengers and drivers in recent years, and now cyclists want to benefit from the technology.
The Dutch Cycling Federation said a study showed that 60 lives could be saved each year if airbags were installed on the hoods of cars, where cyclists are typically hit in accidents. External airbags could also cut 1,500 serious injuries a year.
"In the past many measures have been taken to protect those sitting inside cars but hardly anything has been done to protect people outside cars," it said in a statement.
"The federation calls on politicians and the car industry to take measures that could limit the chance of serious injury."
The organization said 216 cyclists died in the Netherlands in 2006, 106 of whom were in vehicle collisions.
In densely populated countries such as the Netherlands, where bicycles outnumber people, cycling and walking are preferred modes of transportation. Sweden's Autoliv Inc., the world's biggest airbag and seatbelt maker, took that into consideration when it developed an external bag that inflates from the bottom of a car's windshield.
"Here in Europe, roughly 15 per cent of all traffic fatalities are pedestrians," Mats Ödman, vice-president of corporate communications for AutoLiv, told Double Take in a telephone interview from his Stockholm office. "What happens is most of them hit their head on the hood ... and it's the hard part that you hit. We started by addressing that problem, using U-shaped airbag technology to lift the end of the hood to make it flex instead."
Car manufacturers have so far shown little interest in the product, Mr. Ödman said. "People are eager to pay for their own safety, but not eager to pay for somebody else's. There have to be laws to make sure these types of products are used."
But there is increasing awareness of the need for pedestrian protection to decrease traffic fatalities globally, Mr. Ödman added. Discussions are taking place in the European Parliament to decide how to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
"It's a more pronounced problem in the U.K. and Europe, less so in North America because roads are designed in a different way - people don't walk as much," he said. "But if there's a standard that [Europe] adopts, North America should likely follow."