Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Road Design and Cycling Hazards, Part 1

I got back on my bike this evening, for the first time since I was suddenly placed in sudden and close contact with the pavement last Saturday on Kennett Pike (Route 52) where it meets Route 141.
Kennett Pike is a nice wide road. It feature four lanes through Greenville, and has consistently wide shoulders from Wilmington out to the state line and on up to Route 1. I ride my bicycle on Kennett Pike from Wilmington to Centerville or into Pennsylvania, where I like to turn aside onto the country roads I love so much.

When I think back on the moments when I've been put in danger on my bike, I realize that the lion's share of the incidents have occured on Kennett Pike. I'm forced to the surprising conclusion that narrow country roads, if they're not too heavily travelled, are safer than wide roads with their comfortable shoulders. And when considering wide roads, I'm not thinking about roads like Concord Pike, which I have never ridden on my bike. I am using Kennett Pike, the only heavily trafficked road I will ride, as my baseline.
In a typical ride, I will spend as much time, and as many miles, on narrow county roads as I do on the supposedly safe shoulders of Kennett Pike. And yet, in reviewing the incidents that have forced me to the pavement, or otherwise placed me in physical risk, I conclude, in my unscientific personal experience that, mile for mile, lightly travelled narrow country road are safer than Kennett Pike with its wide shoulders.
Why would that be? I don't propose to elevate my personal experience to extra-scientific importance. Instead I recount these incidents to make a point that traffic speed and volume are the two most significant factors in determining the safety of anyone travelling on a bike. When I review these incidents in detail, I conclude that the speed of the motor vehicles involved, and the relative ability of the drivers to otherwise ignore the presence of a cyclist on the road, are the most important factors in determining the danger posed to someone legally riding his or her bike along the road.
Next up, I will recount these incidents in my personal experience to illustrate the factors that create hazards for those not driving motor vehicles.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although it's been a long time since I did any biking, I do remember that I kept to the back roads to get from Harrington to Felton, then dodged cars on RT 12 going from Felton to Cantebury. RT 15 north to Camden wasn't easy either. I always found the small backroad from Harrington to Felton was the safest.

6:43 AM, August 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The driver who killed the DOctor in SC was asleep. No doubt those types of incidents occur on wide straight roads that don't challenge the driver with stops and turns.

7:14 AM, August 02, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

That's a good point about long, straight roads. High vehicle speed and driver inattention is a dangerous combination.

9:06 AM, August 02, 2007  

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