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How safe is safe?

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How safe is safe?

Old 08-11-17, 01:17 PM
  #1  
ironandblues
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How safe is safe?

I'm a Clydesdale on an equally meaty bike (Worksman Newsboy model) and my ride takes me down a busy street. There are marked bike lanes over the entire length of the road as well as independent radar speed signs (aka Your Speed Is...), but most people ignore both the limits and the lanes. I regularly ride with a helmet, rear view mirror, bright yellow reflective safety vest and a bike with all the standard reflectors on it. I'm planning on installing light-up pedals as well, but I wonder to myself if I'm overdoing it?

Should I just slap on a helmet and pray the traffic gods are good to me? I should I dress like a rolling construction site? All thoughts and opinions are cheerfully welcome. For the record, I've never been hit but seeing how...ahem... "adept" people are driving around here I simply figure it's a matter of time.

Slathered in safety sauce,

Scott
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Old 08-11-17, 01:24 PM
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Most people never do get hit. Whether or not you'll be one of them is something you'll only know in hindsight.
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Old 08-11-17, 02:11 PM
  #3  
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I can't say how safe you are, on your roads, but in the general sense ...

45,000 traffic related bicyclist injuries in 2015 per NHTSA
6.2 billion miles ridden (low estimate, the high is around 21 billion)

Which comes to one traffic injury for every 138,000 miles ridden. That doesn't seem all that dangerous.

But behind the curtain on those numbers, that's only what the police note on the accident reports. If the police didn't bother, or there wasn't a report, it's not included in that number so we know that there have to be more that 45,000 injuries.

I look at a different number, the estimated number of all ER visits that are bike related. That will include crashes on sidewalks, mountain biking, kids playing chicken, etc, so it's an upper bound.

485,000 ER visits bike-related.

So that would be one ER visit per 13,000 miles ridden.

The best thing we can do, more than concerning ourselves with equipment is actively protecting ourselves. Awareness, experience, avoiding the riskiest situations and behaviors.
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Old 08-11-17, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ironandblues View Post
I'm a Clydesdale on an equally meaty bike (Worksman Newsboy model) and my ride takes me down a busy street. There are marked bike lanes over the entire length of the road as well as independent radar speed signs (aka Your Speed Is...), but most people ignore both the limits and the lanes. I regularly ride with a helmet, rear view mirror, bright yellow reflective safety vest and a bike with all the standard reflectors on it. I'm planning on installing light-up pedals as well, but I wonder to myself if I'm overdoing it?

Should I just slap on a helmet and pray the traffic gods are good to me? I should I dress like a rolling construction site? All thoughts and opinions are cheerfully welcome. For the record, I've never been hit but seeing how...ahem... "adept" people are driving around here I simply figure it's a matter of time.

Slathered in safety sauce,

Scott
That organ between your ears is the single biggest factor determining the likelihood that you'll be hit.

Learn about all the crash types and how to avoid them. I highly recommend taking a CyclingSavvy course.
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Old 08-11-17, 03:44 PM
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Confidence is the key. I’d say it will do a lot more for you than visibility. Riding confidently and safely, with an understanding of your rights and responsibilities, will go a lot further than any safety equipment. How do you get there? Go out and give it a try.

Riding in city streets has taught me that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it might be. I still won’t ride on a road where the infrastructure clearly makes cycling unsafe (like a highway, for example), but I feel free to ride anywhere else.

I definitely recommend lights in addition to reflectors if you are riding a lot and might ride into twilight or later hours. I believe they do more for visibility under many riding circumstances, even in the daytime, than bright clothes or reflectors.
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Old 08-11-17, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
[...snip...]
I look at a different number, the estimated number of all ER visits that are bike related. That will include crashes on sidewalks, mountain biking, kids playing chicken, etc, so it's an upper bound.

485,000 ER visits bike-related.

So that would be one ER visit per 13,000 miles ridden.
[...snip...]
Just curious ... Where did you find that 485,000 bike related ER visit number?
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Old 08-11-17, 04:29 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by ironandblues View Post
I'm a Clydesdale on an equally meaty bike (Worksman Newsboy model) and my ride takes me down a busy street. There are marked bike lanes over the entire length of the road as well as independent radar speed signs (aka Your Speed Is...), but most people ignore both the limits and the lanes. I regularly ride with a helmet, rear view mirror, bright yellow reflective safety vest and a bike with all the standard reflectors on it. I'm planning on installing light-up pedals as well, but I wonder to myself if I'm overdoing it?

Should I just slap on a helmet and pray the traffic gods are good to me? I should I dress like a rolling construction site? All thoughts and opinions are cheerfully welcome. For the record, I've never been hit but seeing how...ahem... "adept" people are driving around here I simply figure it's a matter of time.

Slathered in safety sauce,

Scott
I too am a Clyde, long of tooth I might add. Always a helmet, shirt or jacket of that color that can't decide if it's lemon or lime 😉, lights fore and aft, some gloves (winter for warmth and cushion, summer fingerless for cooling, but still some padding in the palms. All this plus a mirror and there's little more you can do. Beyond this, just heads-up and enjoy the ride.
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Old 08-11-17, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Recycle View Post
Just curious ... Where did you find that 485,000 bike related ER visit number?
Although it sounds really high, I've seen it in a couple of places, originally from ER records. I'd have to look up an old post, or google it, to get you a source though.
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Old 08-11-17, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Although it sounds really high, I've seen it in a couple of places, originally from ER records. I'd have to look up an old post, or google it, to get you a source though.
Never mind ... I found a CDC source that produces a number close to that for overall nonfatal cyclists injuries.
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Old 08-11-17, 08:46 PM
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It's normal for most newer riders to be extra concerned/nervous about being in traffic. Learn as much as you can and then ride with confidence... and all your safety gear. Soon you'll see it's not really dangerous out there.

Plus, don't discount the health advantages of regular cycling... some studies show that NOT riding is more dangerous to our health!
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Old 08-12-17, 08:03 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by ironandblues View Post
should I dress like a rolling construction site?
Yes.

I grew up biking in Chicago, then started dabbling in cycling in Iowa. I've been bike commuting seriously in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Discovering the bikeforums commuting forum was the best thing that ever happened to my cycling.
Commuting - Bike Forums

You can have bike safety with style for little or no money. You can learn to enjoy safe, confident riding in vehicular traffic.

With bike lanes, hi-vis clothing, and bright, efficient, affordable LED lighting, this is a golden age for bike commuting.
My big advice is to look into an AirZound Airhorn and be heard in traffic as well.


It sounds like you have the right attitude...I would rather be "slathered in safety" than in my own blood and guts.

Be safe, happy riding, and go, Go, GO!
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Old 08-12-17, 05:39 PM
  #12  
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You can only do so much, after that you cross over from reasonable care to paranoia.

So, ride smart and take reasonable steps to be visible, and after that you simply have to trust the statistics.

One thing I do suggest, especially to those who ride when lighting is poor or in heavy traffic is to have a friend ride simulate your clothing and lighting then ride down the road past you so you can observe how obvious you would be at about 50 yards (the decision window). Doing this experiment years ago convinced me that I need more light at dawn and dusk than at night, and I've adjusted accordingly.
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Old 08-14-17, 10:31 AM
  #13  
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What is safe??? A person could slip in the bathroom and hit his or her head on the corner of the sink cabinet and die.
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Old 08-14-17, 10:41 AM
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I feel that accidents are just what the name implies -- accidents. You can be extremely safe but still end up in poor circumstances. We definitely carry a risk of high injury as cyclists but it's also very preventable. Choosing to opt out of the busy street or the sketchy group ride can save you the risk of very dangerous situations.
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Old 08-15-17, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
You can only do so much, after that you cross over from reasonable care to paranoia.
There's a huge gap between the two.

I don't have a vest but I did the next best thing - orange and prismatic tape on my backpack. I have a light on my helmet as well as front and rear lights on my bike. Any time it is suggested or mandated that motorists have their lights on (rain, an hour before dusk, etc) my front light is on steady and my helmet and rear lights are blinky.

Things I've seen on others that I think are reasonable for safety and want to do are additional spoke reflectors that have bright multi-colored lights for nighttime use and individual green LEDs that a motorcyclist had both on his motorcycle and his person (I counted 6 total).

Crossing into paranoia was getting my will signed at work and sticking it into a plastic bag so the writing wouldn't be obscured by blood in case I got hit going home. Making oneself as visible as possible is common sense, not paranoia.
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Old 08-15-17, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by rachel120 View Post
There's a huge gap between the two.

I don't have a vest but I did the next best thing - orange and prismatic tape on my backpack. ...

Crossing into paranoia was getting my will signed at work and sticking it into a plastic bag so the writing wouldn't be obscured by blood in case I got hit going home. Making oneself as visible as possible is common sense, not paranoia.
Yes, there's a gap between the two, and it's up to everybody to decide for himself where to draw the line.

I draw it where I feel that more lighting won't make more than a marginal difference, you may draw it somewhere else.
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Old 08-16-17, 09:32 AM
  #17  
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https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/n...-injuries.html

The Safety Über Alles crowd might learn from this accident that it is not safe to walk in Central Park, or perhaps strollers should avoid walking near trees without first carefully examining each and every one of them of them, or perhaps should wear a helmet at all times, just in case.

More reasonable people understand that Stuff happens and deal with bicycling safety (and life) in a rational manner without all the hysterical drama as read on various bicycling lists and blogs.
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Old 08-16-17, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
What is safe??? A person could slip in the bathroom and hit his or her head on the corner of the sink cabinet and die.
Exactly. Nothing is safe. Only degrees of risk involved.

I would love to B.A.S.E. jump. Too risky for me. I put in about 2000 miles a year on a longboard (giant skateboard) in parks and Rail-Trails. The risk of getting scratched up is worth the payoff. The risk of dying...remote.

I also gave up recreational cycling completely since the cell phone craze hit. But I still do not own a car and bike to work, grocery, doctor, etc. I am MINIMIZING my risk by cutting back on cycling to the bare necessities as compared to cycling across the USA five times and all of the shorter tours and roadie rides. I likely cut my risk of being killed on my bike by 95% - this is my PERCEPTION.

YOUR perception of risk is what really matters. Is the payoff FOR YOU worth the risk? And if you are in here asking for our opinions, then I believe you must be fairly worried about it.
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Old 08-16-17, 06:07 PM
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I ride with lights day and night, hi vis clothing (usually) and reflective vest when dark. This makes me comfortable, but knowing that inattentive drivers rear-end stopped school buses, I know that too much may not be enough. Nevertheless, your riding savvy and general awareness are the primary defenses.
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Old 08-17-17, 01:43 PM
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former work colleague used to be fond of telling me (reg: my commuting attire): "you look like a crossing guard"

yeah, so what?
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Old 08-17-17, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
What is safe??? A person could slip in the bathroom and hit his or her head on the corner of the sink cabinet and die.
Yes but in the bathroom you are in total control. It's not like the soap is going to rush up behind you and slam under your foot, or the cabinet is going to suddenly fly off the wall and bash you in the side of the head.
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Old 08-17-17, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Ninety5rpm View Post
That organ between your ears is the single biggest factor determining the likelihood that you'll be hit.

Learn about all the crash types and how to avoid them. I highly recommend taking a CyclingSavvy course.
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Old 08-17-17, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by coominya View Post
Yes but in the bathroom you are in total control. It's not like the soap is going to rush up behind you and slam under your foot, or the cabinet is going to suddenly fly off the wall and bash you in the side of the head.
Have you ever seen Final Destination?
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Old 08-25-17, 10:48 AM
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Lights, if not required by law, are always a good idea when on the road. The odds of you actually being hit by a driver from behind are really quite small, however - particularly if you're riding predictably and legally. The most revolutionary thing I ever learned when riding in traffic was to take my lane. I feel much, much safer in a lane than in the gutter or bike(trash) lane and I get remarkably little aggression from drivers. The upshot to this, of course, is making sure that you obey EVERY rule of the road.

There's always the risk of an accident or a distracted driver, of course. But if you're riding safely and making appropriate precautions for visibility you should be in good shape.
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Old 08-25-17, 12:04 PM
  #25  
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I went on a ride last night and was almost hit by 2 bicyclists not paying attention. So there's danger everywhere. The difference is I'm typically bigger then they are so they have a much greater chance of loosing the battle if we collide. Based on this site's criteria, I'm a clyde too. Though I gone from a bicycle version of a 1 ton dually Ford F250 superduty crew cab to an F150 Ford Truck.


I've also fallen on roads and bashed myself up without any help from others.

If you want to evaluate risks you'll need to factor in more then just cars. My guess is the probability that cycling exercise will increase your lifespan is higher then the probablility that a cycling related mishap will shorten it.

Last edited by InOmaha; 08-25-17 at 12:08 PM.
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