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Ask BikePortland: How can I convince my friend that cycling is safe?

“This is the second time she’s been right-hooked in five months…How can I suggest to her that biking around can be okay again?”

Welcome to our latest installment of Ask BikePortland where we (that includes you, dear readers) attempt to answer your burning bike-related questions.

Today’s question comes from reader Chris Muhs. It’s sort of a bummer of a topic, but one I felt was important to share with the community because I think it’s something many other people grapple with. Chris wants to know how to convince his girlfriend that — despite two collisions in five months — she shouldn’t stop riding.

Here’s the background and Chris’s question…

“On the morning of October 2nd, my girlfriend, a student at PSU, was on her way to class when she was right hooked by a woman driving southbound on N Interstate looking for parking on her way to an appointment at Kaiser Permanente… My girlfriend proceeded into the intersection, not expecting the car to suddenly slow down and turn (it didn’t have a turn signal on). She was hit and flew off her bike. An ambulance and police came to the scene, and she is now in the hospital with a neck brace on getting x-rays. (Update: Chris says she is now home and doing fine with just bumps and bruises.)

I introduced my girlfriend to how easy it is to commute by bike in January of this year. She since then has loved biking every day, and we went on a bike tour this summer. Last week she bought rain pants, ready to bike through the winter that seems to be here. The problem is that this is the second time she’s been right-hooked in five months.

The first was a hit-and-run on SW Broadway & Washington… She was not hurt physically at all that time and kind of shrugged it off.

After that, we talked about how some streets have bike infrastructure but are still quite dangerous, and what alternate routes are available. That crash shook her up quite a bit (and me too), but she wanted to keep biking.

But now I’m at a loss after this one. What do I do? How can I suggest to her that biking around can be okay again?

That’s a tough one Chris. I think in order to have that conversation you yourself have to believe that biking around Portland is safe. The good news is, I believe it is. Or, I should say, I believe it can be safe if you are always very alert and vigilant.

In a real biking city, like Groningen for example, your girlfriend would be able to ride around completely relaxed and out of harms way for her entire trip. But unfortunately here in the U.S. (and yes, even in Portland) people on bikes must pay constant attention to potential hazards in order to avoid collisions.

Despite that, the fact is that tens of thousands of people ride bikes in Portland every single day without incident. And they love it! It’s also been proven statistically that as biking rates in Portland have gone up, the rate of (reported) collisions/crashes has come down.

“Combined Bicycle Traffic over Five Main Portland Bicycle Bridges Juxtaposed with Bicycle Crashes” from PBOT, 2012.
– Click to enlarge-

I’ll stop there and open this up to our readers. Can anyone out there relate to this? If you were Chris, what would you say to a good friend to assuage cycling fears?

— Read more in the Ask BikePortland archives.

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