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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Paris: Bike sharing and safety

Repeat after me: Bicycling is safe. Bicycling is safe.

A look at bicycling fatalities in the U.S. suggests that if you are a bicyclist over the age of 16, aren't intoxicated, ride with traffic on the right side of the road, use lights at night, and generally practice common sense traffic behavior--your risk of being killed while bicycling is in the bee sting or lightning strike range.

This statement is prompted by a comment in a recent column by Richard Reeves, "Free Travel in Paris? Well Almost." Reeves' generally supportive article discusses the innovative bike-sharing initiative Velib' in Paris that debuts this week, and concludes:

Bicycles may be too dangerous to use in many American cities (emphasis mine), but are they any more dangerous to life and limb than vans and trucks bigger than the homes most of us grew up in before we could buy little houses on the freeways?
The perception that bicycling is dangerous is greatly exaggerated--by non-cyclists who use "danger" as a rationalization, by cycling social rebels who like biking's outre image, and perhaps also by bike advocates (facilities people and vehicularists alike).

We may need to reposition our demand for improved bicycling infrastructure, from an emphasis on safety improvement to an emphasis on bike lanes as eco-friendly community enhancement. Which would you rather have rolling through your neighborhood? Smiling bicyclists, or impatient road-raging SUV drivers? Bicycling is a fun, healthy, energy-saving, life-enhancing, and life-extending activity. And bicycling is safe.

Paris has made significant strides in recent years tackling its chronic traffic congestion. With bicycling, the great French capital city has taken a two-pronged approach, creating more space on the street for bicyclists, and increasing the availability of bikes. After successful community bike programs elsewhere in Europe, the July 15 launch of the Paris Velib' will be closely watched by bicycle advocates.

Image: Web capture.
Visit:, safety, fatalities, and injuries information portal
Visit: Ken Kifer: Is Cycling Dangerous?
Visit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedalcyclist fatality analysis
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

1 comment:

Yokota Fritz said...

Paul, if you had a "favorites" button on your articles this article would be favorited. I like your idea that perhaps we should couch facilities in terms of quality-of-life enhancements rather than protection.