Are More Cyclists on the Road the Key to Preventing Accidents?

Take a quick scan of an online newspaper or watch the local news on TV and you'll likely stumble on another account of a cycling accident.

In 2011, there were 48,000 cyclists injured from motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. It's a gloomy statistic that can discourage even the most committed cyclists. But what cyclists
should realize is that these tragedies are the biggest reason why more cyclists should begin riding their bikes to work.

Consider that the demographic of cyclists most likely to be involved in a collision with an automobile are men, aged 35 to 45 who are on racing bikes. At first glance, this might not make a lot of sense. After all, these are the most experienced riders on the road. They spend the most time in the saddle and train for demanding situations. They also make up the smallest population of cyclists (next to women who race).

More: 8 Signals for Your Next Group Ride

Ask anyone in the industry, and they'll tell you that commuter bikes dwarf high-end performance sales.

So why are men on racing bikes more likely to be hit by a car?

For starters, they spend more time riding than typical commuters. These cyclists also spend more of their time riding on rural or suburban roads, where motorists don't see or expect cyclists. They often fail to use rear safety lights or reflective gear when riding.

But what's most concerning is a statistic cyclists might have trouble admitting—they're bad at following traffic laws.

More: How to Handle a Bike Accident With a Vehicle

Competitive male cyclists tend to take more risks in terms of speed and handling than others. Combine that with riding in 45 mph zones and in places where motorists don't anticipate cyclists, and the risk of an accident increases.

None of this is meant to excuse motorists or indict cyclists. Rather, it's evidence to demonstrate that the problem is neither bikes or cars, but the one factor they have in common: the people operating them. If you look at history and psychological studies, you can begin to see that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

To prove this isn't crazy talk, take this quick awareness test. Now consider that cycling accident rates are significantly lower in Italy than the United States. This, in a country so notorious for its drunk-driving that the European Union once threatened to stop recognizing its driver licenses.

More: 10 Things I Learned From Being Hit By a Car

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