Thursday, August 28, 2008

Emphasizing safety reduces the number of cyclists

The Irish Times has an article on cycling safety

The basic thrust of the article is that enforcing use of helmets and recommending reflective jackets just creates a false perception of how dangerous cycling is.

In cities where cycling is more the norm (Copenhagen and Paris are mentioned) there is less emphasis on helmets and reflective gear. People ride in normal gear and there are more cyclists.

There is even a website devoted to cycling fashion in Copenhagen

Having ridden in Dublin I have to say I'd be wary of not using a helmet there. Whilst there are bike lanes they are not well thought out, they invariably come to an abrupt end just where a cyclist needs protection. The roads are in poor condition in many places and there are many wheel swallowing potholes to contend with. Finally, drivers are not really cyclist aware or cyclist friendly.

The contrast when I was in recently Paris was marked. Parisian drivers are not noted for patience and care, but like most French drivers they are very aware of cyclists and invariably treat them with care and respect -- the Tour de France no doubt plays a part here.

I'd guess it is a slow process changing the cycling culture in a city from what it is in Dublin to what it is in Paris, but as the Irish Times article suggests, the authorities can really help by emphasizing cycling as a safe and healthy activity.

I was also interested in the "slow bicycle movement" mentioned in the article. One of my pet hates in Dublin is cycling behind some racer who doesn't have mudguards -- or worse still one who has one of those flimsy guards that protects himself, but does nothing for the poor cyclist behind.

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