How Safe is Riding a Bicycle?

Aug 14, 2014 @ 02:19 PM — by Myles L. Berman

Riding a bicycle in any large metropolitan area, such as Los Angeles, California, can present numerous safety challenges. Especially considering the high volume of traffic, many dangers can present themselves to the street cyclist. These dangers can be difficult to avoid due to the fact that bicycle riders must follow the same rules of the road as those driving automobiles. For instance, one would assume that a cyclist can ride on a sidewalk in a heavily trafficked area or ride facing traffic to see potential dangerous drivers head on. To protect pedestrians, cyclists are prohibited from riding on sidewalks. Also, as cyclists must follow the same rules of the road automobiles they must ride with traffic – and not facing traffic.

Because there are so many dangers on the road and a cyclist has less protection than an automobile driver, a cyclist must be very alert to not only watch for dangers but also have a quick reaction time in order to avoid such hazards.  Whether it is speeding motorists, inattentive drivers, irregular road surfaces, impaired drivers, or poor weather conditions – a cyclist must be completely focused and ready to react to anything at a moment’s notice. Failure to adhere to these simple guidelines could result in a cyclist’s death or serious injury. An inability to adhere to these guidelines due to impairment from alcohol or an intoxicating substance creates greater problems – not only for the cyclist but for others who share the road.

Alcohol consumption has been discovered to result in loss in judgment, reduced coordination, and lowered alertness.  When an individual has consumed large amounts of alcohol, that person can be expected to exhibit reduced information processing, problems concentrating, and impaired perception. These symptoms are further exacerbated when the blood alcohol levels increase. A cyclist suffering from the effects of alcohol consumption while riding in the public can no longer maintain the level of alertness required to safely ride their bike.

Recently in California, an intoxicated cyclist was convicted of “recklessly driving a vehicle” after losing control of his bike and seriously injuring two pedestrians. As you can see, California judged the cyclist as if he were operating a vehicle. As the risk of danger increases to the cyclist and the public, the penalties for such consequences are increasing for the impaired cyclist.

So, to answer the question posed at the beginning of today’s blog – How safe is riding a bicycle? The answer seems to be that although all dangers can’t be eliminated from the road, the more alert the cyclist, the safer the ride will be.

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