A recent Philadelphia Inquirer highlights the improved bicycling safety in the city. The article reports that over the past decade, the number of Philadelphia cyclists has more than doubled while the number of accidents has almost halved, from 815 in 2000 to 513 in 2011. That’s the difference between nearly 16 cyclists getting into accidents each week and less than 10 cyclists getting into accidents. There is a strong positive correlation between the number of bicyclists on the street and the safety of those bicyclists.
The trend of increased bicycle safety with an increased number of bicyclists has occurred in other cities in the world and is known as the ‘Safety in Numbers’ effect. In short, because there are more bicyclists on the road, automobile drivers are more aware of bicyclists and take them into account when opening doors, making turns, and merging lanes.
A key factor of increased bicycling safety is bike lanes, which highlight to drivers the potential presence of bicyclists. Philadelphia currently has over 220 miles of bike lanes and according to the Philadelphia Pedestrian and Bicycle plan, intends to build even more bike lanes by 2020.
If the ‘Safety in Numbers’ trend continues, bicycling will become a much safer activity, which in turn can attract more bicyclists, making bicycling an even safer activity and will certainly contribute to Philadelphia’s plan to reduce bicycle fatalities and injuries by 50% by 2020.