Monday, April 21, 2008

Cycling is dangerous, especially for children

Sorry to see bike guy Greg Hayes hobbling into Cafe Abir on crutches this morning. Greg, an experienced cyclist, was hit by a car on his bike at the Market/Valencia intersection. Greg has strong opinions about road design, and he offered a few about the scene of his accident. 

But the point I insist on making in the face of vigorous denial by commenters to this blog: no matter how well-designed city streets are, riding a bike will never really be safe. Even if, God forbid, the Bicycle Plan is implemented down to its last traffic-snarling, anti-car measure, riding a bike will still be a risky way to get around the city---or anywhere else, for that matter.

The Bicycle Coalition's Bert Hill tells us that most cycling accidents don't involve another vehicle; they're "solo falls" due to something in the road, a pothole, equipment failure, etc.

Even the SF Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum sees the poor condition of city streets as a bigger danger to cyclists than other vehicles: “We now get more complaints about poor pavement quality than about car-bike problems.”

This is one of the few agreements I have with Shahum. I don't own a car, but I had to do some driving in the city last year, and I was shocked at the terrible condition of city streets, especially Geary Blvd., which was like driving on a washboard. 

At first I thought that this is typical of the city's anti-car policies: why make it easy for cars, aka "death monsters"? But a moment's reflection called to mind similar complaints by city cyclists, which are noted in the Bicycle Plan itself. While drivers can damage their vehicles driving on bad roads, cyclists can suffer serious injuries from the same conditions.

Given the acknowledged dangers, this makes it even more irresponsible of Shahum and the city to encourage children to ride bikes in the city.

American neurologists on children and head injuries from riding bikes.

It's one thing for politically-motivated adults to risk serious injury on bikes, but to encourage children to do the same is unacceptable.

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