Thursday, September 3, 2009

8 Reasons Why Cars Suck, Plus 12 Ways Cyclists Can Stay Safer in an Automobile Culture

There are all sorts of safe and easy methods for choosing two wheels over four.

We all know cars suck and bicycles rock but with 254,403,082 cars clogging up this planet, cyclists have no choice—for now—except to co-exist with cars. And that can be easier said than done.

In 2005, there were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the U.S. This resulted in 2.9 million injured people and 42,636 deaths. Roughly 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in America—that's one death every 13 minutes. About one in 40 of those deaths is a cyclist.

So, let's recap: cars suck and bicycles rock and it takes some planning to stay safe.

8 Reasons Why Cars Suck

1. Traffic: From 1950 to 1970, the U.S. automobile population grew four times faster than the human population. As a result, we Americans spent nearly 500,000 years stuck in traffic in 2007—nearly 4.2 billion hours.

2. Cars kill children: The leading cause of death for children aged 5 to 14 in New York City is pedestrian automobile accidents.

3. Cars kill animals: Automobiles, SUVs, trucks, and other fossil field-burning vehicles kill a million wild animals per week in the U.S.—not counting tens of thousands of family pets.

4. Sprawl: During the last century, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the U.S.

5. Waste: Cars create 7 billion pounds of un-recycled scrap and waste annually and approximately one billion discarded tires are littering our increasingly paved landscape.

6. Global warming: More than 333 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted by U.S. cars each year,—that's more than one-fifth of the nation's total carbon dioxide emissions.

7. Oil consumption: The U.S consumes about 21 million barrels of oil per day. 10,000 gallons of gasoline are burned in the U.S. every second.

8. Car Wars: During the 40 days of the (first) Gulf War, 146 Americans died keeping the world safe for petroleum while at home, 4900 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents.

12 Basic Ways to Practice Safe Cycling

1. Avoid unsafe situations: Never assume motorists can see you.

2. Ride in the street and with the traffic: Think like a motorist.

3. Put lights and reflectors on your bike: Be seen at night.

4. Use your horn: Let 'em know you're on the road.

5. Avoid busy streets: You know, the path of least resistance and all.

6. Maintain a safe speed: Slower is better.

7. Know the traffic laws: A little knowledge can go a long way.

8. Take good care of your bike: A well-maintained bicycle is a safer bicycle.

9. Always wear a helmet: Helmets are 85% effective in preventing head injury.

10. Use your voice: A simple "Hey" or "Watch it" will do.

11. There's safety in numbers: United we stand...

12. Be an activist for two wheels, not four: Less cars = safer roads and a cleaner planet.

More on Biking and Eco-friendly Transportation
Quiz: Are You a Savvy Cyclist?
How to Go Green: Public Transportation