Category: safety
Cycling is safe - a point of view

Last Sunday Baltimore cyclists gathered to honor a cyclist that was killed (Baltimore Sun coverage) by a right turning truck (that did not signal) and a lot of conversation was about how dangerous it is to bike in the city.  And if you look at all traffic fatalities in the city it does indeed look like a very frightening place to ride.

Map of all traffic fatalities 2003-2007:
All Baltimore traffic fatalities map


But the world I see when I bike is this:

Map of Cycling fatalities 2003-2007:
Cycling fatalities Baltimore map

That's what cycling fatalities look like here.  And the tragically ironic bit is too many of our bicycle crashes are because people feel unsafe cycling on our streets so they try their best to stay out of the way of cars by adopting unsafe practices like riding against traffic or even worse, riding against traffic on the sidewalk where no motorist is looking for traffic. So while it may feel initially safe to be out of the area of attention of motorist or to be able to "see it coming" the cold hard fact is for safety we need to ride our bikes as part of traffic, not invisible or contrary to traffic. Aggressive motoring calls for assertive cycling, timid cycling on an aggressive motorist road/time of day just does not work, that's the basic law of the jungle. 

Being assertive is often considered rude but being a aggressive motorists is even more rude.  So the question is how do we cope and ride safe in this environment? My first recommendation is reading a few articles on Ken Kifer's site and then watch the video produced by MDOT filmed mostly in Baltimore and hosted by Bike Maryland (note there are 5 parts to the video, when done with one part click the next part under the video.)

From conversations I have had, the people that are still reluctant to ride because they feel that the more people that ride the more bike crashes and fatalities will happen. But there is ever increasing evidence that is not the case, as one example, data from Portland, OR which has seen tremendous increase in cycling yet their cycling crashes remain fairly constant:
Portland's bike use and bike crash data

In conclusion: Cycling is good for you, your health and the environment and the more people that ride, the safer it is for everyone.  So while some "street smarts" is required for safety, it's not rocket science.  Oh ya, it's also fun and practical way to go places, get things done and enjoy life.

Bicycle safety event in Annapolis, October 29th

The City of Annapolis in partnership with the Annapolis Bicycle Racing Team (ABRT) invites you to join us at the…

City Dock, Market House
Thursday, October 29, 2009, 4:30 - 6:30 PM


  • The first 80 registrants to attend* will receive a bicycle light set (front and rear light).
  •  Free bicycle tune-ups and assistance mounting light set provided by local bike shops
  •  See latest cycling products for the new season
  •  Door prizes and discount coupons for bicycle safety items
  •  Refreshments courtesy of Hard Bean Coffee & Booksellers and Atwaters.

*An additional 20 light sets will be distributed at random to all remaining registrants at the event at 6:00pm.

Register in advance until October 28th at:

On-site registration available but pre-registration is encouraged!

For further information, contact Iain Banks at


Street Smart Campaign Launch 09/16

JOIN! Mayor Sheila Dixon, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, Empowered Representatives from the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board, Baltimore City Department of Transportation & Safety Division, and Regional Safety Representatives this Wednesday, September 16th at 11:00 AM at Patterson Avenue & Reisterstown Plaza.

Thirty-five percent of all pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Maryland occur in Baltimore City. The Baltimore metropolitan region averages 1,700 pedestrian and 500 bicycle crashes each year, resulting in an average of 50 fatalities per year.

See Street Smart Enforcement Operations in Effect at the Event!

School speed cameras get Balto. County nod

Drivers can expect to see speed-monitoring cameras operating soon in about a dozen school zones in Baltimore County, and those caught exceeding the posted speed limit by 12 mph will face a $40 fine.

The County Council authorized the speed cameras in a 6-1 vote Tuesday. The council added amendments limiting the number of cameras to 15 and requiring an annual report. Councilman T. Bryan McIntire dissented, saying, "I think it's more effective to have police on duty."

Administrators will have to negotiate a contract for leasing the equipment and bring that back to the council, before the cameras are installed.

Source: Baltimore Sun

The point is no one likes living in the 6th highest pedestrian fatality rate state and something needs to be done. And if the raking is not enough, the chart below shows that Maryland is now 43% higher then the national average for the pedestrian fatality rate:


Baltimore County 2008 Crash Facts

14,259 crashes resulting in 70 lives lost and 6,972 people injured

Choose Safety for life

Each year in Maryland, more than 630 people die in traffic crashes - most, if not all, caused by at least one poor decision. In fact, 93% of all traffic crashes are caused by driver error. Choose Safety for Life represents a coalition of safety partners and calls upon drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to make safe, sound decisions when traveling Maryland roadways. By making the right choices, you can save lives and prevent injuries.

Maryland Strategic Highway Safety Plan

Emphasis Area #3d – Make Walking and Crossing Streets Safer

Typically, between 95 and 110 pedestrians are fatally injured on Maryland’s streets and highways each year. Pedestrian fatalities comprise about 20 percent of all traffic deaths. About 12 percent of fatally injured pedestrians are 15 years or younger and another 19 percent are 65 years or older. Nearly 3,000 pedestrians are injured annually, more than one-third of which occur in Baltimore City and more than another one-third of which occur in Baltimore, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties. Pedestrians 15 years of age and younger are particularly vulnerable to being injured – over 30 percent of injured pedestrians are in this age group.

Shared Space

Watch CBS Videos Online

One Dutch community made an attempt to change the rules of the road by implementing no traffic lights or street signs. Mark Phillips has the story of a Dutch town's shared roadway.

New Resource Addressing School Bicycling and Walking Policies

Chapel Hill, NC – Children across the US are back in school, and many communities are seeing the traffic jams that result from parents driving their children to schools. To help encourage more walking and bicycling, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Center for Safe Routes to School have released a jointly-developed resource, School Bicycling and Walking Policies: Addressing Policies that Hinder and Implementing Policies that Help, available at This tip sheet was developed in response to numerous requests from across the country.

School policies that encourage and support bicycling and walking can substantially boost a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, both within individual schools and throughout the community. In contrast, a policy that discourages or prohibits bicycling or walking can stop a SRTS program in its tracks. The tip sheet provides simple steps explaining how to approach and overturn barrier policies that prohibit walking and/or bicycling to school, and encouraging supportive policies, which support and enable bicycling and walking to school programs.

Just when you thought cycling couldn't get any greener

The Alliance for Biking & Walking list serve put out this wonderful idea, recycle sign shop waste. You know that reflective material they put on signs (basically a vinyl sheet with adhesive back) with the excess scraps going to the landfills will be collected and will be made available to decorate your bike, helmet or whatever and help make you more visible at night.

The word has gone out and we are getting the various sign shops to start collecting the scraps for use as safety giveaways. Our thanks go out to the many fine folks in government who helped to promote this idea.

Roads that are designed to kill

By By Mark Rosenberg - Boston Globe

THREE YEARS AGO, I was driving in Atlanta early one morning when I saw a body on the road. It was a young female runner. I called 911 and then ran to her. She had a horrendous head injury but still had a heart beat. I started CPR, but her injuries were too severe. She died in my hands. I wrote a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about what happened to the runner, and a flood of letters came in.

Half blamed the runner, saying she should not have been running in the street at that hour. Half blamed the driver, for not paying close enough attention. Not a single writer blamed the road.

I took a photograph of the scene where I had found the runner. When I showed this picture to friends from Sweden they asked, “This is where you live? This is your neighborhood? Your streets are designed to kill people.’’ They said that the thin painted white lines at the intersection could not be seen at dawn, nor was there a raised bump to or a narrowing of the road to demarcate the intersection and slow down traffic. They said the speed limit should be 30 kilometers per hour (about 18.6 miles per hour) or less if we wanted pedestrians to have much of a chance of surviving. They also said traffic lights increased the number of deaths because people often speed up when the light turns yellow.
Most people think we are doing all that can be done to keep our roads safe. They are wrong. Road traffic injuries kill more than a million people a year worldwide, including 40,000 a year in the United States. We will continue to have drivers who are too young or too old, too distracted, or too bold, but we can change our roads so they help protect both drivers and pedestrians. Reaching Vision Zero may take us a while but how in the world could we ever justify not starting now?

The full article

Twenty is plenty

A pedestrian hit by a car at 40 mph has a 95% chance of being killed, at 30 mph this becomes 50% and at 20 mph it becomes 5%.

Dr. Stephen J. Watkins, National Health Service, Stockport, UK

Speed contributes to causing accidents and it also increases their severity.

A pedestrian hit by a car at 40 mph has a 95% chance of being killed, at 30 mph this becomes 50% and at 20 mph it becomes 5%.

Most child pedestrian road deaths would be averted if people drove at 20mph in side streets. As few places are more than a mile from a main road, few journeys involve more than two miles on side roads (a mile at each end). The difference between driving two miles at 20mph and at 40mph is 3 minutes.

We are killing our children to save less than three minutes on our journeys.

In residential side roads 20 is plenty.

To enforce this policy we need
• A 20mph speed limit in residential side streets

• A recognition that motorists are solely responsible for the injuries that occur in accidents in residential side streets to the extent that they exceed those that might have been expected at 20mph. The concept of contributory negligence by pedestrians should apply only to injuries that would have been likely to have occurred anyway at 20mph. Any excess over that should be the motorist’s fault.

• Ideally we need to reshape streets so that they are used primarily for community use and the vehicle is a guest.

The Dutch concept of the “Woonerf” (living street) (often called Home Zones in the UK, although the Woonerf is more radical than many Home Zones) divides up the street for community use. Car parking spaces are provided, usually in nose to kerb car parking places so that the parked cars add to the obstacles to traffic. Space is allocated to gardens, trees, communal meeting space and play areas. The carriageway becomes simply the gap between obstacles and is usually arranged in chicanes to slow traffic down.

This concept has other advantages as well as slowing traffic down. It increases community networking and social support (the Appleyard & LIntell study in San Francisco, recently replicated in the UK, has shown that people know more of their neighbours in lightly-trafficked streets). It improves environments. It creates usable greenspace. It increases the aesthetic attractiveness of the street so as to encourage walking.

Dr. Stephen J. Watkins,
Stockport Primary Care Trust
National Health Service, Stockport, UK

Thanks to the efforts of Bike Maryland and others raising concern for cyclists and pedestrians safety Streets Smarts campaign is coming to the Baltimore Metro Area. From Baltimore Metropolitan Council BikePed Becon:

Street Smart Campaign coming in September....

Street Smart Region MapStatewide in 2007 there were a total of 615 lives lost and 51,729 persons injured in 588 fatal crashes and 34,866 injury crashes (totaling 35,424 crashes).  Another 65,519 crahses were property damage only (PDO) for a total of 100,943 reported crashes with the possibility of even more injuries unknown or unreported. 
Statewide 110 lives lost were pedestrians and 2,667 pedestrians were injured, in a total of 2,928 crashes.  Statewide 7 Bicyclist lives were loss and another 662 injured in a total of 809 bicyclist involved crahses.
In our Baltimore region we represent 39% of the toal fatalities and more than half the crashes and injuries across the state.
Street Smart is aimed to target local law enforcement to locations where enforcement can raise the awareness of the rights and responsibilities of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to look out for one another on the roadway.  Drivers should stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.  Pedestrians should use crosswalks, obey signals and cross at intersections.  Learning to be Street Smart reminds us of the importance to use crosswalks, obey signals and Share the Road before it's too late.
In 2007 in the Baltimore region:
  • 237 lives were lost
  • 25,004 people were injured
  • 52,898 crashes were reported
  • 50 pedestrians lost their lives
  • 2 bicyclists died

>>> Visit Drive Safe Baltimore