[Letters] Preventing bicycle accidents

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[Letters] Preventing bicycle accidents

With the financial crisis still pressuring the world economy and with regulations concerning greenhouse gas emissions getting tougher, people are leaving their gas-guzzling vehicles at home and turning to alternative modes of transportation. Among them, the bicycle is particularly in the spotlight, with President Lee Myung-bak recently announcing that he would be riding his bike to commute to the presidential office. However, the recent efforts made by the government to promote the use of bicycles as a means of transportation seem to be hindered by a number of problems.

The first obstacle that threatens cyclists is the confusing laws concerning the use of bicycles. Many of the plans designed to protect bicyclists were crossed off the final list made in 1999. As a result, many laws on bicycles come across a paradoxical situation, sometimes identifying the bicycle as a vehicle and other times not, making bicyclists vulnerable to accidents that could be prevented if we had the right measures and provisions. Countries such as Switzerland or Germany, where measures to protect bicyclists are well established, have traffic signals that allow bicycles to move ahead of cars so as to prevent collisions during heavy traffic hours. Germany even fines drivers when they are less than three feet away from bicycles. Our country however, lacks even the basic safety regulations needed for reducing collisions.

The lack of “bicycle-only” lanes is another problem domestic bicyclists face. According to a report released by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security in 2008, of the 729 kilometers of bicycle lanes installed in Seoul more than 80 percent of them also serve as pedestrian walkways. Lanes used exclusively for cyclists consist of 15 percent of the total paths. Other cities and provinces basically face the same situation. This serves as a risk not only to bicyclists but to pedestrians as well. Especially with many bicycle models having the U-shaped handles, injuries due to collisions can be aggravated.

The lack of safety education is also a major reason for cycle accidents. Although basic safety courses are held in municipal institutions or amateur bicycle clubs, a proper and organized curriculum is vacant. Because of this, many users overlook even the simplest of safety measures, such as riding from the right side of the bicycle since cars drive on the left side. Bicyclists themselves are responsible for their lack of vigilance, and not protecting themselves with safety helmets or other equipment that could minimize collision traumas.

According to statistics released by the Road Traffic Authority Comprehensive Analysis Center Accident, the number of bicycle accidents have increased from 5,546 cases in 2002 to 10,848 cases in 2008. What’s more is that 80 to 90 percent of the accidents involved collision with four-wheeled vehicles. With more and more people riding bicycles, cyclists may encounter more precarious situations.

In order to prevent this, the government should establish new laws, with drivers understanding and considering the safety of bicyclists, while cyclists themselves must be cautious about safety regulations and always be vigilant against unexpected accidents.

Kang Jae-yoon,

Daewon Foreign Language High School
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