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Lighter traffic does not mean improved safety for bicyclists

In the past three months, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to fewer commuters on the road and fewer traffic jams, if any at all. The lighter traffic provides seemingly safer routes for everyone from motorists to bicyclists. Not so fast, though. While bicycling has grown in popularity during these uncertain times, it would be naïve to declare that roads are safer for the people who ride two-wheelers.

Bicyclists always must be on the alert and face road hazards nearly everywhere they ride. Now, they may face another one: a rusty driver who has rarely been behind the wheel in the past three months. Just because there may be fewer motorists on the road does not mean that bicyclists have fewer worries.

Hit-and-run and drunk drivers still around

Bicyclists must remain vigilant and focused on safety no matter how sparse traffic is. An accident can happen anytime. We know that at least three people were killed in bicycling accidents in Denver last year. So far in 2020, no cyclist fatalities have been reported in the city.

In reviewing bicyclist deaths from 2015 through 2019, the National Highway Transportation Administration noted that:

  • Hit-and-run drivers caused 20% of the fatalities.
  • Drunk drivers caused 16% of the bicycle fatalities.
  • Speeding drivers contributed to 9% of cyclist deaths.

And one also must not forget the distracted drivers operating their smartphones behind the wheel. They have become a road hazard on par with drunk drivers.

Responsible bicyclists understand that safety is critical, and following the rules of the road is a priority. They follow other rules, too, such as wearing helmets, bright and reflective clothing in order to be more visible to motorists and to use lights when riding at night.