Monday, September 07, 2009

bike safety and cougars

With various people showing excessive concern about bike safety, I want to make it clear that I don't plan on dying in a bike accident and that I also do many of the things that prevent such things from happening. Here's my excessively detailed TMI response.

Top level, per mile biking is 3-11 times as dangerous. That sucks. I should be at least 3-11 times safer than the average "statistic" of a injured/dead cyclist. Joy.

Three good sources for cyclist accident/injury/death data:

From the Moritz study, we can see that the most dangerous paths (by crashes per distance ridden) are other/sidewalk and off road. I don't bike off road (except the short distance on the field when I bike to play ultimate). I don't bike on sidewalks except for short distances where the alternative is going on a major non-bike friendly road, such as the occasional few blocks by Montlake. Based on where I bike, I'm roughly 2x better than the average stat. Yay me.

For biking fatalities (second link), I'm not susceptible to 20% of the causes since I check for cars, I check for cars, I check for cars, and I use lights anytime there is low contrast or backlighting. 56% of fatalities happen at night with no lights. I use lights at night. I'll also be biking less when it gets completely dark, so no more bike commute. )-:

So to summarize, the studies show that sidewalks are bad, off road is bad, bike lanes are good, paying attention to traffic is good, and no lights at night bad. I'm looking pretty good. Bad part is that that gives me a 2x advantage, which means it's still 1.5-5.5x as dangerous as driving. Ouch. I'll rely on the "soft" stuff for the remainder, like how the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risk and the other stats on those linked pages that use the most optimistic lenses when looking at all the data.

If you're curious what my typical routes look like, here you are:
5x/week - 2.5mi - Morning ride to Montlake
5x/week - 1.4mi - Morning ride from OTC to the office
2x/week - 1.4mi - Afternoon ride to OTC from the office
2x/week - 0.5mi - Afternoon ride from bus stop home
1x/week - 18.6mi - Bike home on I-90
1x/week - 26.4mi - Bike home on the Burke Gilman

You can cross reference those routes with the local bike maps to see the facilities I'm on (or zoom in on the satellite view). Also note that on Boston/15th coming up the hill they are putting in more sharrows, which aren't reflected on the map. It's good to see that since I've moved here they've put these in along all the major corridors by where I live.
Seattle Bike Map
Bellevue/Redmond Bike Map
King County Bike Map

Lastly, I'd like to point out another danger of my west coast life that I haven't gotten many concerned messages about: Cougars. They are out there.

Not the location of where the second cougar was - 520 and 51st - that is precisely where I work. I'm only on a bike a few hours each day and I'm usually looking out for things that could happen to me. I'm at work 9 hours a day and I'm usually not looking out for wild predatory animals sneaking around campus. Perhaps that is what y'all should be more concerned about!

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