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Having a known population and a high response rate, we took the rare opportunity to develop a profile of the "accident" and the "non-accident" rider. To do this we looked for characteristics that would clearly identify a rider in either group. The test (difference of proportions, using the statistic Z) is explained in the Appendix. With this technique we examined experience, equipment, bicycle technique, and attitude. The major findings of this comparison are:
Typically, accident riders were between the ages of 16 and 20, had just graduated from high school, and were single. These bicyclists had no set plan of action for handling an emergency or hazard, and did not have a set riding technique, such as always riding to the right, or always riding in the center of the lane. Accident riders made more frequent repairs to their bikes -- especially those components that are related to the power train (derailleur, pedals, cranks, chain, gear cogs), and braking systems. They also had more problems with racks and bicycle packs, and had a higher proportion of flat tires.
The accident rider does not always obey stop signs, has no set procedure in using signal turns, often rides three abreast, has not made up his mind about riding wrong way on one-way streets, and has not decided whether he should or should not ride against traffic. Likewise, the accident rider does not have any set pattern for downhill procedure, and is undecided about where he normally rides. If an animal approaches, the accident rider normally increases speed and yells or screams to frighten the animal away.
Further characteristics include usually riding alone, riding in any weather, almost never wearing bright clothing; and either constantly tinkering with the bike or failing to make safety checks frequently enough. Typical speed is 14-20 MPH for the accident rider.
In contrast, those who had no accidents were between the ages of 26 to 35 and 46 to 55, were married, and had completed some postgraduate work. The non-accident riders had established definite techniques for riding,, and can be characterized by the following attitudes and practices: always obeys stop signs, never rides three abreast, always wears bright clothing, brakes frequently on downhills, checks the mechanical condition of the bicycle before riding, is careful about accessories including packs and carriers, keeps the bike in good repair, seldom needs to make repairs of any kind (including flat tires), never rides at night, exercises care during adverse weather conditions, either continues normal speed or stops and walks if an animal approaches, and considers the automobile a hazardous vehicle. The typical non-accident rider maintains speed under 23 miles per hour.
Also tested, but not shown as significant in this population: exposure to a bicycle course, number of miles driven in an automobile in the past twelve months, the number of years of active bicycle riding, and length of time bicycle was owned.
Hazard Recognition. A comparison between accident and non-accident groups was run for awareness of the most significant bicycling and roadway hazards. This test was run to determine if such awareness was significant in the prevention of accidents.
The most common cause of all accidents along the TransAmerica Trail, one bicyclist hitting another, was viewed by both groups as the least likely hazard of all. Such collisions made up 200 of all accidents. It is surprising that so many of the riders (both in the accident and non-accident groups) mistakenly perceived this as the least likely hazard.
The second most common cause of all accidents, potholes and broken pavement (10% of all accidents), was perceived as the single greatest cause of all accidents by both groups.
Motor vehicle traffic generated concern among both groups, with non-accident riders having a healthy respect for the hazards posed by the passenger car. Fear of the recreational vehicle generated the most concern of the combined groups, but was distinctly a characteristic of those cyclists who had experienced accidents. The accident group also expressed their concern for the semi- or tractor-trailer rig.
Railroad tracks were indicated as the number one area of caution by both groups.
In conclusion, it is unclear whether hazard recognition is a factor in accident prevention. Both groups had a similar awareness (or lack of awareness) of the real threats facing them. For a more complete discussion of the real hazards see page 4 0.
By studying the accident and non-accident rider profiles we have learned that the group having the highest number of accidents (students) have a common meeting ground with. those having the lowest number of accidents (educators)--the school system. Educators with bicycling experience should be encouraged to take additional course work in bicycling and to share their knowledge through the community education system.
There are distinct age groups (16-20, 21-25) that should be targeted with a concentrated bicycle safety program, for maximum reduction of accidents. (Note: since there were relatively few riders under age 16 on Bikecentennial, it was not possible to establish accident rates for this age group.)
Summary. Youthful, single riders, in general, stand a better chance of having a bicycle accident, especially if they have no clear plan of action, travel at higher speeds, and take greater risk (common to the accident group). Regular road maintenance and observance of traffic regulations are important in reducing the frequency of bicycling accidents.
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