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Electric Bicycles Reduce Risk

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Financial Risk: Riding an electric bike doesn't require a license, registration, or insurance. The investment and operating costs are small. (Fuel, for example, costs about 0.3 per mile.) You may also be able to save on bridge tolls, parking lot fees, and tickets. All this reduces your financial exposure. Also, considering that fuel costs, in real terms, are near their 20 year lows, it's much more likely they'll go up rather than down. Even without a market-driven price rise, the cost of gas may rise if a national carbon tax is imposed to reduce global warming.

Fuel Availability Risk: In 1973 when the oil embargo disrupted America, we imported about 40% of our oil. Now we import 80%. World oil production facilities are at capacity. What could cause another oil shortage? The demand for oil from the developing countries could bid the price up - as could any disruption of the supply channels (say a terrorist bomb at a large oil-shipping port). The death of the ailing king of Saudi Arabia might open the door to Muslim fundamentalists who would like to shake up the West. An earthquake at the right place and time. How would you fare if you couldn't "fill 'er up" tomorrow? SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, MARCH 1998 issue, points out that every year for the past two decades the industry has pumped more oil than it has discovered, and production will soon be unable to keep up with rising demand. http://www.sciam.com/1998/0398issue/0398quicksummary.html

Disaster Risks: A natural disaster could knock out roads and overpasses making car travel impossible. Bicycles can be ridden, walked, or even carried over most obstructions.

Traffic Jams: In some areas, traffic jams are a daily occurrence. When things go wrong, they can happen anywhere. Electric bikes are immune to traffic jams.

Corporate Control: It's not personal, but large corporations want to control us so we continue to support their growth and profitability. Whenever we take back more control of our own lives, connect with others in our community, and live simply, we empower ourselves. All this is possible by using an electric bike. Electric bicycles decentralize power away from corporations and toward individuals. They give us more control over our lives and a bigger say in how our world will be.

Health Risks: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 50% of the US adult population is overweight and that one of every four adults is obese.t Worse still is the sad fact that one of every four American children is overweight, and that obese children are predisposed to become obese adults. Obesity costs the nation $68 billion annually in health care and personal living costs. Recent evidence shows that 29% of Americans are sedentary and that 80% do not meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days per week. Physical inactivity is a primary factor in at least 300,000 deaths annually, including deaths from chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Given the dangers of obesity and inactivity, would our country be better off if we chose to walk or bike more often in our daily routines, and helped make it possible for our children to do so?

Safety: Many people believe that bicycling is inherently dangerous. Statistics indicate that, on an hourly basis, bicycle transportation is only 55% as dangerous as traveling in an automobile (http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm). It can be even less dangerous if one follows some simple rules.

Let's start with the stats. Annually, over 50 times as many people are killed in cars or walking across the street than cycling. Over 40 times as many commit suicide, over 30 times as many get murdered, over 15 times as many die from falling, over 9 times as many get poisoned, over 6 times as many die of burns, over 5 times as many drown, and over 25 times as many die of various and sundry causes. In terms of injuries per hour, cycling looks safe compared to other sport activities. Figures from Australia show injuries per million hours: football = 1,900; squash = 1,300; basketball = 1,100, soccer = 600; cycling = 50.

In 1996, 757 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in the U. S., down 8% from 1995 and 25% from 1975. (To put that in perspective, 41,907 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in '96.) It is estimated that 96% of cyclists killed in 1996 were not wearing helmets. Obviously, more collisions occur than deaths. Turning and crossing situations accounted for the vast majority (76.9%) of collisions. Only 8.6% of car-bicycle collisions involved cars overtaking bicycles, i.e. hitting them from behind. (This figure includes rural areas where overtaking collisions are more common.) The remaining collisions were as follows: bicyclist overtaking, 2.7%; wrong-way bicyclist (head on), 2.5%; other parallel path collisions (including operator loss of control), 2.7%; and other or unknown, 7%. A recent study found that bicycling against traffic increases accident risk by 360%, bicycling on the sidewalk increases accident risk by 180%, and bicycling the wrong way on the sidewalk increases accident risk by 430% (Wachtel and Lewiston 1994). Accident studies show clearly that motorists were judged to be solely at fault in only 28% of car-bike collisions, cyclists solely at fault in 50% of collisions, and both were at fault in 14% (In the remaining 8% of collisions, culpability was unknown or unclear.).

Now for the safety rules that prevent the vast majority of collisions and injuries: Be predictable; don't make sudden, unexpected maneuvers. Always wear a helmet. Learn basic bicycle handling and traffic skills. [See next paragraph.] Ride with the flow of traffic on the street, not on sidewalks. Act more like a slow-moving car by "taking the lane" when conditions warrant (debris or parked cars on the right, or preparing for a left turn). Get a good headlight and a tail light and/or a large rear reflector in order to be equipped for night riding. Most importantly, however, is to assume that car drivers cannot see you and ride defensively.

Basic bicycle handling includes proper seat height; picking the right gear; stopping by using both brakes; and scanning for traffic behind (looking over the shoulder) without swerving. Basic traffic skills include changing lanes; lane positioning depending on the speed of traffic and the width of the travel lane; lane positioning based on destination at intersections; and yielding and stopping when required by traffic rules. There are other skills which are helpful-- quick turns and quick stops, riding in bad weather and at night, climbing and descending, and on-road bicycle maintenance.

[The source for this info is http://danenet.wicip.org/bcp/dilemma.html/]

Additional information on traffic deaths and injuries is at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/ncsa/overvu96.html

An article entitled "Is Cycling Dangerous?": Fear mongering discourages vehicular cycling and by doing so increases the number of deaths; bicycling is safer than driving an automobile and has compensatory health benefits that overshadow the risks. http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm

How Safe is Bicycle Commuting?

by Tom Ayres

Is it safe to commute by bicycle? There is no simple answer to this, partly because we do not have any reliable data.

U.S. government data for adults in 1990 (the most recent year with both usage and accident data available) indicate there may be about eleven serious (treated in a hospital emergency room) bicycle injuries per million miles of riding, compared to only six injuries per million miles on motorcycles and less than one injury per million miles in a car. That would mean that biking is much riskier than riding in a car. But consider the following:

  1. The risk is very low when you consider how much riding you do. Most of us will never come anywhere near to cycling a million miles in a lifetime, whereas most people will end up traveling close to a million miles or more in motor vehicles.
  2. The risk for cycle commuters may be much lower than for adult cyclists in general. Commuters tend to be fairly experienced cyclists riding on very familiar roads at moderate speeds. A study of a local bike club, for example, found that accidents on club rides were much rarer than the government data would suggest, except when descending big hills.

Studies of bicycle accidents show that most such accidents involve only bicyclists (that is, getting hit by a motor vehicle is rare even among bike accidents). Therefore, many bicycle accidents can be prevented by a change in cyclist behavior.

As a cyclist commuter, you can reduce your risk in various ways:

  • Learn safe riding skills (e.g., take a course like Street Skills)
  • Choose safer routes (e.g., use designated bike routes where convenient)
  • Use proper equipment (e.g., wear a helmet, use reflectors and lights at night)

Finally, although there is some accident risk with cycle commuting, there are also important benefits to weigh. Regular cycle commuting is likely to improve your personal health, reduce the stress of commuting, and contribute to solving your community's transportation and environmental problems.

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