More and more bikers are taking to the roads. That’s good for many reasons: it’s an an environment-friendly transportation option, it’s economical and it offers health and cardio benefits to the rider.
There’s a flip side of the coin, though. According to a new report from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety. The report notes that, “… yearly bicyclist deaths increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2012, while overall motor vehicle fatalities increased just one percent during the same time period.”
The report also notes that some groups are at higher risk.
In 1975, adults represented only 21% of all fatalities; On 1974, adults repreent 74% of all fatalities.
Bicycle fatalities are increasingly an urban phenomenon, accounting for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975.
While bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased in 22 states between 2010 and 2012, six states – California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas – represented 54 percent of all fatalities.
In looking at prevention, these rather shocking stats from 2012 are significant:
Two-thirds or more of fatally injured bicyclists were not wearing helmets
28% of riders age 16+ had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 percent or higher, compared with 33 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers.
May is National Bike Month, time to pull the bicycle out of the garage if you haven’t already. This year, consider participating in the National Bike Challenge — a great way to get connected to other bike-friendly — and bike-curious — folks in your community and across the country. Join the challenge at any time as an individual or form a team. The Challenge runs May 1 to September 30, 2014.
As with any other valuable property, you need to think about protection. The Insurance Information Institute has a short video about insurance coverage basics for your bikes.
“Bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane or other disaster listed in your policy.”
For most casual bicyclists, this coverage will likely be be sufficient. Professional bikers and avid hobbyists with high-end bikes may want to add coverage: Bicycle insurance: A rider may want a rider. There are also some specialty insurance programs available in some states. If you have special needs or concerns, we recommend a one-on-one conversation with your independent agent to determine whether your current coverage is good for your needs or if you should have some supplemental coverage.
The Insurance Information Institute also has advice on bicycle safety, including tips for locking and securing your bikes and observing basic safety when riding. They also suggest looking into enrolling in the National Bike Registry.
Bike theft has been a problem just as long as there have been bicycles. College campuses routinely warn students about theft and just as routinely, bikes are stolen from campus in ever increasing numbers. When I was in college in the late 80s, the campus police used a battered white bike as bait, leaving it unlocked next to different college buildings and waiting for it to be stolen. School lore reported that it usually took less than thirty minutes. That was more than twenty years ago and I’m pretty sure that the timing hasn’t changed much. One writer spent several months in several cities setting up his bike for theft and chronicling the fascinating results. In America’s underworld, he reports, there are four major currencies: cash, drugs, sex and bikes.
As biking has become more and more popular over the last decade, bike security has become big business. There are three main types of bike lock: U-locks, the familiar U-shaped metal locks, often manufactured by Kryptonite; cables, which are simple to use but easily circumvented and chains with padlocks, which are efficient but heavy and time consuming to lock and unlock. The Santa Barbara Independent goes over the different types of locks but ruefully admits that if you must leave your ride on the street, you’re better off with a cheap bike. Wired magazine also recently reviewed a variety of different bike locks, rating them for ease of use, difficulty of theft and weight, which is always a consideration when it comes to bike locks. Most high end locks offer a theft guarantee, so make sure to complete the required paperwork before you use your lock.
The Insurance Information Institute has a checklist for keeping your bike safe. They suggest marking your bike, writing the serial number down and taking several photos of it to help police in identification. They also recommend registering your bike with local police and the National Bike Registry. Bicycle theft is covered by your homeowners or renters insurance but there is ordinarily a rather high deductible. If your bike is particularly valuable, you may want to speak with your independent insurance agent about a floater policy to keep it covered at all times.
With spring in the air, it’s a good time to issue a reminder that bicycles are associated with more serious childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles. Every year, about 300,000 kids wind up in the emergency room because of bike injuries. Head injuries can result in serious brain injury or death. Most states have laws about mandatory bicycle helmets – some laws are for all riders. Most pertain to kids under age 18.