Monday, June 15, 2009

More numbers on safety in numbers

On 6 June I wrote about the safety-in-numbers effect.

There are some more numbers corroborating the effect from London, Copenhagen and the Netherlands. See this post on the "How we drive" blog.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unsafe ignorance versus dangerous ignorance

A survey by the AXA insurance company paints a picture of ignorance and recklessness among Singapore motorists.

The finding that struck me most was that only 23% knew the speed limit that applies on most ordinary streets and roads (the ones that don't have speed signs). Do you know the answer? ** Most thought that the answer was 60 km/hr.

This was reported today by the Business Times and the Today newspaper (here and here). AXA surveyed over 500 Singapore motorists, including around 100 taxi drivers.

Large percentages also admitted to various dangerous acts, such as:
  • Driving more than 10kmh above the speed limit (63 per cent)
  • Tailgating (47 per cent)
  • Overtaking, turning or switching lanes without signalling (46 per cent)

So few Singapore motorists have the high moral ground to attack bicycle users for their bad behaviour. Yet we do see many forum letters about bad behaviour by bicycle users in Singapore (like this one yesterday). Many online comments on these letters tend to demonize cyclists.

Of course, many cyclists ARE woefully ignorant of even the basics of safe cycling. But think ... What is the main result of unsafe cycling?

Answer: injured or dead cyclists are the main result. Cyclists are the main victims of their own ignorance or recklessness.

I don't want to deny that inconsiderate or negligent cycling can pose some hazard to others, especially to pedestrians. But we need a sense of proportion about the danger from bicycles. It is tiny compared with the danger from motor vehicles. Yes, bad behaviour by cyclists is a problem. But it is a problem primarily for the cyclists themselves.

Let us admit that BOTH motorists and bicycle users in Singapore have a frightening lack of awareness about road safety and road rules.

But while ignorant cyclists
make themselves unsafe, ignorant drivers make the roads dangerous for everyone.

** Answer: 50 km/h is the speed limit on ordinary streets and roads without explicit speed markings. Did you get it right? If motorists stuck to this speed cycling would be much safer here.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Safety in Numbers

Cycling seems rather dangerous in Singapore. So are we crazy or irresponsible to be promoting more bicycle use?

I think not. The more people use bicycles the safer it will become for each individual bicycle user.

New York City cyclists seem to be getting the benefits of safety in numbers after some years of increases in the amount of cycling (and some effort to make it safer). This image comes via Streetsblog.

That there is safety in numbers for cyclists and pedestrians was the (more scientific) finding of a 2003 paper in Injury Prevention journal by Peter Jacobsen, which found:
A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle. Policies that increase the numbers of people walking and bicycling appear to be an effective route to improving the safety of people walking and bicycling.

The safety in numbers argument reassures us that we are not being irresponsible to promote more cycling.