Cyclists, listen up. There’s new proof for the argument that there’s strength in numbers. So if you needed a reason to encourage more people to get on their bicycles, here it is.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver analyzed data from Boulder, which has one of the highest rates of cyclists (about 12 percent) in the country. They looked at various intersections which had high rates of collisions, and compared that to data on the number of cyclists — according to the study co-author Wesley Marshall, Boulder has been counting bicycles since the late 90s. The researchers found that the more cyclists there were, the more the chances of collision decreased. In fact, according to the study, “the risk of accident was relatively high at intersections with less than [sic] 200 bicyclists per day.”
What is it about more cyclists that decreases collision numbers?
The reason is unknown, but there are several hypotheses as to why. “Other studies have hypothesized that when drivers expect to see a significant number of bicyclists on the street, their behavior changes,” Marshall said in a statement. “They are more likely to look over their shoulder for a bicyclist before taking a right turn.” Cyclists could also be attracted to safer areas, choosing to ride in places where they know there are more cyclists and less traffic.
The results of the study are promising, especially when looking at rising cycling rates around the country. “We are beginning to find that cities with a high level of bicycling are not just safer for cyclists but for all road users,” Marshall said. “Improving the streets to better accommodate bicycles may enhance safety for everyone.”
The conclusion of the study mirrors data that has already been coming out of Europe, that there is in fact strength in numbers, and if we want to make cycling safer, we need to think about how to encourage more people to ride. According to a report from England, looking at health benefits of cycling as well as safety risks, “Low cycling levels, particularly in cities, are often correlated with transport policies that pay little attention to the safety of cyclists.”
Feeling safe is a big reason that people choose or choose not to ride. And for those who argue that the risks of cycling are too big, there are many studies that show that the benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks. If cities invest more money into policies that build better infrastructure for cyclists, that means that more people will be encouraged to ride, which as these studies show, will continue to make cycling safer for everyone. A win-win situation.
Keep pedaling everyone.
Photo Credit: Alper Cugun