Need for Skills Training

      ... continuation of November 2012 news item on home page

      Correspondents, Fuller et al point out that the recommended helmet policy addresses only 45% of fatalities in the study (58 of 129). In comparison, the Coroner's report shows that 92 of 126 victims where the contributing factor was clear, were either wholly (44) or partially (48) responsible for their own demise. This clearly suggests that policies to improve skill and behaviour among cyclists addresses almost 75% of fatalities. Recent high profile crashes in Ottawa where cyclists made fatal errors reinforce this fact. No other cycling measure, not helmets, not infrastructure, comes close to the accident reduction potential of cyclist skill and behaviour modification. If cycling currently is perceived to be dangerous, it's because some cyclists make it so.

      In contrast, the record of the Ottawa Bicycle Club (OBC) can be used as an example of the potential for practising safe cycling habits. The OBC organizes group rides for ordinary cyclists. The club has one of the most enviable per kilometre safety records of any group anywhere. Each year, members accumulate approximately one million kilometres, experiencing only minor cyclist-only crashes and which result in little more than a few sore knees and elbows. Perhaps once every five years or so a member breaks a limb but virtually all cyclist crashes arise from the elevated risks of group riding and are not of the type that urban cyclists are exposed to. Only one fatality has been associated with club events and that was the death of a non-member through no fault of her own in the 1990s. She was wearing a helmet.

      Cyclists can act themselves by acquiring skills necessary to stay safe on a bike. Participation in bike club skills development similar to Ottawa's group riding program or in Can-Bike training is the most important first step an inexperienced cyclist can take in reducing their risk of being involved in a tragedy. Given the increase in numbers of novice cyclists from promotion of cycling among the general public, reorientation of public policies is needed immediately.

      It's time to acknowledge facts, dump failed measures, and embrace practical solutions that have been shown to work.

November 2012
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