2.2 Bicycle Safety Education for Adult Cyclists
Overall Effectiveness Concerns: This countermeasure has not been systematically examined. There are insufficient evaluation data available to conclude that this countermeasure is effective.
The goal of bicycle safety education for adult bicycle commuters is to improve knowledge of laws, risks, and cycling best practices, and to lead to safer cycling behaviors, including riding predictably and use of safety equipment such as reflective clothing and helmets. The Cycling Skills Clinic discussed in 1.4 of this chapter can be adopted for use by adult audiences as can a safety class prior to and part of planning for a community bike ride (like a ride to support a particular cause). Opportunities to educate adults new to or returning to bicycling can reinforce traffic safety principals and to generate more interest in additional on-bicycle classes to enhance comfort, safety, and defensive riding maneuvers in and around traffic.
A handful of communities have developed bicycle education programs, with large variation in program elements. Common elements include safety ads (radio, TV, outdoor), dissemination of safety information, bike “ambassadors” and social supports, individual skills training or workshops, and coordination with enforcement officers to reinforce safe behaviors. The League of American Cyclists provides online training videos. Case study summaries are available of programs in Tucson, Arizona, Portland, Oregon, Augusta, Maine, Chicago, Illinois, and many other cities (PBIC, 2010). A University of Texas at Austin program was designed to provide tailored education and encouragement to new or timid bicyclists in the African American community and reported improvements in perceptions of comfort and safety among those participating (McCray et al., 2013).
NHTSA’s Be a Roll Model campaign is aimed at encouraging all road users, including bicyclists, to model safe travel behaviors for their children and others. It includes educational information, tip sheets, and a pledge program for local agencies to adopt and disseminate (https://one.nhtsa.gov/Driving-Safety/Bicycles/Be-a-Roll-Model).
Adult cyclists are trained that bicyclists fair best when riding and acting as vehicles in the roadway, following the same rules as motorists such as riding in the same direction with traffic and following the traffic signs and signals. For example, adults learning to ride safely are taught where to position themselves in the travel lane based on their intent to go straight or turn, the use of judgement to enhance their comfort and safety while riding in traffic, and when they must stay in bicycle lanes if they are present.
Use: Documented use is low. Adult-oriented safety education programs in the United States are not well documented and are rarely formally evaluated. Bicycle groups offer bicycle education to adults (and youth) including both classroom and on-bicycle training to help cyclists of varying levels enhance their knowledge of traffic laws and rules of the road and skills to ride safely and more comfortably in traffic. The oldest and most well-known is the League of American Bicyclists, see http://bikeleague.org/content/take-class for more information and to find league-trained cycling instructors (called LCIs) by geographic area. LCIs typically provide group training.
Effectiveness: This measure is unlikely to be effective in reducing crashes without comprehensive and sustained efforts to improve the cycling environment. A high-quality evaluation conducted in Brazil by Bacchieri et al. (2010) found that “an intervention based on an educational component and the promotion of the active use of safety equipment is not capable of reducing accidents among cycling workers” (in this case, male cycling commuters). The study concluded that “isolated educational programs, attempting to only change individual behavior, are not effective in reducing accidents” and that “the number of accidents will not considerably decrease without actions that also include improved road infrastructure and the effective application of legislation (with comprehensive and systematic law enforcement).”
A recent review of the effects of bicycle training programs on adults found that only a few studies of mixed quality existed, and none of them examined the safety benefits of these programs (Sersli et al., 2019). However, most of the studies reviewed reported that these programs increased the frequency of bicycling to work and overall bicycle use among adults, which may increase bicyclist exposure to risk.
Costs: The estimated costs for these programs is in the medium range. Costs may vary depending on the intensity of the educational program. Costs for radio/TV ads, print material, safety equipment, workshop and training events, and personnel time could be incurred.
Time to implement: A comprehensive education program could require several months of start- up time to plan and develop program material.