Cycling Safety

A big part of my cycling-themed teaching will involve questions pertaining to cyclists’ safety. I’m interested in how, why, and in what contexts people feel safe or at risk while cycling, and how that shapes cycling infrastructure, and how it encourages or discourages ridership. More on these themes in due course—and concepts to be developed further by my students—but my instinct is that cyclists are frequently their own worst enemy when it comes to safety and perceptions of cyclists across the general, non-riding public. Too often, cyclists follow laws unto themselves, disregarding the rules of the road. Or ride on the sidewalk. Or other such grievous activities. This was on my mind this afternoon as I was walking home from work and had a series of cyclists hurtling downhill towards me on a narrow sidewalk right beside a busy road. And I came home to this infographic from smellslikeglue, which is a very cool London-based style, cycling, and music site. My Arts & Science students are tasked with designing their own visual assignments, and it occurred to me that this infographic offered an apt model for thinking about their projects.

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2 thoughts on “Cycling Safety

  1. A research project I’m working on points toward a strong connection between feelings of safety and perceptions of normalcy. To put it briefly, when cycling practices seem normal, they are also more likely to feel safe to people. Still working through writing this up, but thought I’d throw that out there.

    1. That’s a really key point, and one I want my students to explore further. As an extra-curricular feature of my course, I am collaborating with McMaster’s Sustainability Office to offer CAN-Bike instruction to as many students as possible. The idea is to make cyclists feel safer, but also to train a series of CAN-Bike instructors who can then go to the local schools to teach elementary and high school kids. It seems to me that a big part of the normalcy you mention has to do with who is riding, how early they start, etc. This isn’t just an infrastructure issue. Also: this kind of instruction in schools–even if kids wind up driving more than riding–means more people in cars are attuned to looking for cyclists.

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