If you live in a highly urbanized area, then yes, it can be dangerous if you do not take the proper precautions. I live in Phoenix, AZ and because of the nice weather, there are a ton of people that get around by bike including myself. These days, you have to be extra careful and pay attention because people are doing everything while driving; texting, talking on the phone or to other people in the car, dealing with kids in the back, putting on make-up, etc. There are lot of bike accidents here. I have been hit twice while riding a bike (nothing serious) and it was all because the people driving were not paying attention, so you have to pay attention for them and bike defensively. It is highly recommended that you wear a helmet and dress in firm fitting clothing (you may need to bring a change of clothes to work). You want to bike in the direction that traffic is going and not against it (if you have to go against traffic, use the sidewalk). Be sure to use bike lanes when they are available and follow all traffic laws (stop at stop signs and cross at crosswalks). If you are biking at night, try and make your self visible by using a front and back light on your bike with reflectors, and wear bright clothing. Finally avoid road rage with cars, if they are in such a hurry to go before you, stop or wait, and let them go, it’s not worth it to risk getting hit. Some people are really courteous and will wait for me or back-up if they have gone out too far in a driveway; but there are others that are jerks at me and yell at me (just like driving). I recommend always playing it safe, taking the proper precautions, and following all traffic laws and you should be just fine.
Danger is variable and can be assessed in degrees of risk. There is risk to walk in a bathroom or kitchen or most any other activity. Simiplified, risk is influenced by the physical environment and the human behavoir in that environment. Because there is so much diversity in the physical environment and the behavior in the environment where bicycling occurs there is not a singular level of risk (or dangerousness) to bicycle commuting. Many people have done it for years without mishap. This doesn’t argue for no-risk, but also indicates that in their environment and with their behavior the risk is manageable.
Biking to and from work can be dangerous depending on your biking route. Many more cities are beginning to develop bike lanes on streets and highways, but many business districts do not contain bike lanes. Also, in many business districts, cars are not used to dealing with bikers. You can enhance your safety by wearing bright colored clothing, reflectors, blinking lights on your bike, and a helmet. In some cities such as Austin, Tx, new laws have been made so that cars cannot yell at or harass bikers. Bicycle awareness has been increasing rapidly in recent years. If you are interested in biking to work, you may want to consider multiple routes and pick the safest one. Be sure to familiarize yourself with biking laws in your area.
You are much more likely to extend your life by getting yourself in shape than you are to shorten your life in a crash. However, it is a good idea to develop some bicycling skills and remain aware of your surroundings at all times when riding a bicycle. Just like driving a car, you have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else on the road. At least, that’s how California law puts it. You should check your own state’s driver’s handbook to see how it is phrased in your state. In some localities, drivers seem to have forgotten that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else on the road. So, if they honk at you, just tell them to re-read the driver’s handbook.
The League of American Bicyclists (Formerly League of American Wheelmen) is one of the oldest and most experienced cycling advocacy groups in the world. When I was little my dad was an Effective Cycling instructor with them. Now, they still teach essentially the same course under the name of Smart Cycling. I was literally on a bicycle before I was born, and I highly recommend using bicycles as your primary means of transportation. They will help keep you healthy as well as keep your carbon footprint low.
Other tips: Get a bicycle that fits. My dad was constantly adjusting my seat post every time I had a growth spurt, and it really makes a difference. Get regular tune-ups as well. Just take your bicycle into a shop once or twice a year and have them look over it to make sure that the chain is still good, etc. Also, get a good bicycle pump and pump up your tires about once every two weeks. Properly inflated tires will make you go a lot faster.
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