By Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH
Happy Bike to Work Day! Bike to Work Day (#BTWD2016) is celebrated every year in May in cities throughout the United States and Canada to promote bicycles as a commuting option.
I ride my bike to work almost every day—rain or shine. Although I have many forms of transportation available to me, I choose to travel by bicycle, not because it’s always the fastest way to get to work, but it is, by far, the most enjoyable. Sometimes I ride to a public transit station, other times I ride straight to the office, but I always feel lucky that I have this transportation option to get to my job at the National Transportation Safety Board. Some of my colleagues have been riding their bikes to work for years (you can see a few of them in this photo). They are ship, airplane, train, highway, and pipeline accident investigators. They are medical, communications, engineering, legal, and administrative professionals. While we all appreciate the different types of transportation, we also share a personal appreciation for bicycles as an important mode of travel.
At the NTSB, our mission is to independently investigate accidents and to use the key findings from those investigations to help make our country’s transportation system as safe as possible—in all modes of transportation. And, as with all modes of transportation, traveling by bicycle has its risks. In the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 900 bicyclists die and 400,000 go to an emergency department every year.
We can design communities that are safer for both bicyclists and pedestrians, as we learned recently at the NTSB Pedestrian Safety Forum. We also can work to ensure that bicyclists are visible and that they always wear a helmet, which reduces the risk of head and brain injury by 63 percent to 88 percent for all ages, according to a systematic review of scientific literature. And we can all do our best to obey traffic laws and pay more attention to everyone who is sharing the road with us. The next time you see a person on a bicycle—whether you are in a car, walking, taking the bus, or riding a bike yourself—say hello or wave. It may be me or one of the good men and women at the NTSB who are working hard to keep our nation’s transportation system safe!