Bicycle commuting has increased in the past decade, but connected bicycle infrastructure networks are not keeping up with the need. The current car-centric roadway system has developed over the last sixty years and the bicycle revolution is just beginning. While many agree that more bicycle infrastructure is necessary, it will take some time to overhaul the road network that has developed for decades. Although bicycle infrastructure continues to develop, bicyclists need to take precautions to minimize risk.
In 2012, 33,561 people across all modes were killed in traffic accidents according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While passenger vehicle deaths decreased from 2003, the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased and made up 17% of deaths in 2012. While the number of deaths from pedestrian and bicycle deaths have increased, this is in part a result of increased bicycling and walking. According to the National Household Travel Survey, the number of bike trips has increased by a million from 2001 to 2009. This increase in travel, in addition to increased bicycle infrastructure, has significantly reduced risks.
The percentage of bicycle commuters is .6%, which is greater than it has been in decades (Table 1). Research has shown that increases in the number of bicyclists, lowers the associated safety risk; there is safety in numbers. Thus, as the nation continues to increase the amount of bicycle infrastructure, these risks will continue to decrease.
However, it will take a few years to develop bicycle networks and bicyclists need to take precautions. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center has identified the most common types of collisions.
Left Cross – A left cross is when a motorist making a left turn fails to see the cyclist. In order to prevent this type of collision make sure not to sneak into the intersection at stopped signals and if a car does fail to see you make the turn with the car so hopefully the driver will see you and maneuver appropriately.
Right Hook – A right hook collision is when a cyclist is moving forward and a motorists suddenly takes a right turn. In order to minimize this type of collision cyclists should ride further left on the road to make themselves visible.
Although there are strategies to avoid bicycling collisions, there are some tactics that should always be used. Cyclists need to make sure they are always aware and are visible with reflective wear and headlights on the front and tail lights on the back.
The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety has information on bicycle and pedestrian safety. It has links for proper helmet fits as well as information directed at children and seniors, two of the most vulnerable pedestrian populations. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) also has a Complete Streets policy that works to make streets safe for all modes of transportation. NJDOT’s comprehensive complete streets webpage includes a copy of the complete streets policy, a guide to policy development, a guide to creating a complete streets implementation, success stories and more (https://www.state.nj.us/transportation/eng/completestreets/).
New Jersey boasts more walking commuters than the national average! (Table 1). With the support of NJDOT’s policy, and the 109 municipal and 7 county complete streets policies, New Jersey has expanded its bicycle [and pedestrian] infrastructure across the state and continues to be a leader in making streets safer for everyone.