New research suggest that getting more people on bikes could make the streets safer for everyone.
As a cyclist, you pay attention to your surroundings as if your life depends on it - because your life depends on it. The consequence of being blind to potential hazards is too high for us to zone out, especially when riding in high traffic and urban areas. Unsurprisingly, that also makes you quicker to detect changes in the road environment when you’re behind the wheel, according to a study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention.
The Australian study compared 42 drivers with and without cycling experience in a change detection “flicker task” which is like those picture games where you try to spot what has changed between two seemingly identical images.
In this case, the scenes - 60 in all - were typical road scenarios and the change was either a road sign, car, pedestrian, or cyclist. The cyclist-drivers detected all the changes more quickly and, perhaps unsurprisingly, were significantly faster at detecting the appearance of a bicycle.
That’s important because up to 12 per cent of serious injury crashes are due to failure to search for and/or detect road hazards. While there might be a chicken-egg scenario at work here, in that people who ride bikes in traffic are potentially willing to do so because they’re naturally more adept at processing their surroundings quickly, study author Vanessa Beanland of Australian National University also notes that the act of “experiencing the demands of cycling” hones those skills.
To that end she concludes, “It may be possible to improve drivers’ hazard perception through additional, nontraditional avenues such as promoting greater engagement in cycling and other forms of active transport." We couldn’t agree more, and it's just another reason that we encourage everyone to get someone riding.