I started to write a long post about bicycling safety. It included lots of statistics, facts, and figures. Ultimately, though, I found it very difficult to write about staying safe on a bike. When it comes to defining “safe,” you’ll get as many different definitions as people you ask.
Remember when your mom or dad taught you to ride a bike and told you “Only ride on the sidewalk”? Many adult bicyclists still adhere to that advice in the mistaken belief that it’s safer on sidewalks.
Remember how your running coach always told you to run against traffic so you could see cars coming? Adult cyclists want to see what’s coming, too, and ride the wrong way against traffic in a mistaken belief that’s safer than having cars approach from behind.
Remember how as a pedestrian you could, at opportune moments, ignore the signal and dash across the street real quick with no negative repercussions? Even more than pedestrians, bicyclists hate having to slow or stop, and many blatantly run stop lights (not to mention stop signs!).
People firmly believe that these activities really are safer.
My question (questions, really) for you, then, is this: How should we as informed bicyclists respond in these situations? A very few bicyclists engaging in dangerous and rude behavior makes bicycling less safe for all of us. Do we have a responsibility to educate misinformed bicyclists as we see them putting themselves in danger? Is there a way to do this effectively, without sounding like an obnoxious know-it-all? Is it possible to improve safety and enjoyment for bicyclists and motorists alike through on-the-spot education?
Or must we simply fall back on the truth that the only person you can control is yourself?