Response to Richard Reeves
“Bicycles may be too dangerous to use in many American cities, but are they any more dangerous to life and limb than vans and trucks bigger than the homes most of us grew up in...” Richard Reeves, “Free Travel in Paris? Well, Almost.”
Here in Tulsa, we have a pilot program not unlike that bicycle program in Paris. If I recall the census date correctly, the average commute distance here is comparable, about 5 miles or 25 to 30 minutes at bicycle speeds. I don't believe anyone would ever refer to Tulsa as 'Paris on the Arkansas' but we can hope!
But my focus in writing to you is that quotation up above. You believe that bicycling in major American cities is a highly risky endeavor, a belief that is both common and greatly exaggerated. Roughly 800 American cyclists die each year on our roads, and about a third of those deaths are children. I won't bore you with a long statistical argument. Suffice it to say that cyclists are only slightly more at risk than motorists, and that's mainly because motorists do not topple over.
Why do I say this? I'm a League of American Bicyclists instructor with over 30 years of road experience. We know that young riders and new riders are the most likely to crash. Experienced club cyclists crash very infrequently and commuting cyclists are the least likely to have an accident. So those of us riding back and forth to work every day are comparatively safe on the road. This may seem counter-intuitive, that a vulnerable road user can safely mix in with motor vehicle traffic, yet statistics confirm it.
I don't expect you to take my word for it. No, I'd prefer that you discover the reality of bicycle commuting for yourself. The first step is to sign up for a League Road1 class your area. This is the bicyclist's equivalent of driver's education. We teach people to ride safely and comfortably in all types of traffic situations. And like most educational efforts, we overcome misinformation and fear with facts and practical instruction. Learning to ride confidently in city traffic isn't an exercise in mind-numbing terror. It's doesn't require the strength and speed of a racing cyclist. Bicycle commuting is something that ordinary people can do everyday as part of a healthier, happier life. Trust me on this one – despite all the verbiage about green issues, congestion mitigation, and the like, most of us commute by bicycle because it's fun and we adults should seize every opportunity for a bit of fun!