Wiki Wednesday: Safety in Numbers
In a StreetsWiki entry on Safety in Numbers, Andy Hamilton points to the theory stating that the more cyclists and pedestrians use the streets, the less likely they are to be injured. It's an observation advanced by public health consultant Peter Jacobsen, but others have weighed in as well.
Traffic engineer and amatuer bicycling expert John Forester believes the relationship is a spurious correlation, with no proven cause. But safety experts appear to disagree, and believe that motorists drive more cautiously when there are a larger number of walkers and bicylists in their environment. For example, Dr. Chris Rissel of Sydney University in Australia stated in a 2008 interview, "It appears that motorists adjust their behavior in the presence of increasing numbers of people bicycling because they expect or experience more people cycling. Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists."
Jacobsen cites evidence from three studies that show drivers slow down when they see bicyclists and pedestrians, and speed up when they don't.
An unscientific look at New York stats appears to support the Safety in Numbers theory. While the number of city cyclists has increased dramatically in the past 10 years, the number of fatalities and injuries have dropped. Though most agree that one death is too many.
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