QUESTION: I’m a mountain biker, but I want to get faster and I’ve heard that I should be training on a road bike if I want to improve my cardiovascular fitness. But I’m a little worried about traffic. Is road cycling dangerous? Bob R
ANSWER: Worrying about distracted and drunk drivers or those with road rage against cyclists is a common occurrence with road cyclists. Unfortunately, deaths of both pedestrians and cyclists have risen over the past several years.
The New York Times reported that 2019 saw the largest number deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists caused by drivers since 1990. Here’s the Department of Transportation study (PDF).
But if you’re already a mountain biker, you’re probably equally safe on a mountain bike compared to a road bike overall, according to this study. But if we’re talking only about spinal injuries, mountain bikers are worse off the roadies. Head injuries and trauma are about the same.
“With the exception of spine injuries, severely injured cyclists display similar patterns of injury and comparable outcomes, regardless of style (street v. mountain). Helmets and thoracic protection should be advocated for injury prevention.”
There are ways to make road cycling safer, though. Here are some of the ways we recommend to stay safer on the road.
Always Wear a Helmet
You’re already a mountain biker, so you are probably well aware of the benefits of a helmet. Helmets can protect you from traumatic brain injury, and they make a huge difference. Here are some of the top rated low cost helmets if you don’t have one yet.
Obey the Rules of the Road
Bicyclists have the same obligation as cars to follow the rules of the road. By riding predictably and following the rules, it will keep you safer.
Ride with High Visibility Apparel
Ride with Headlights and Taillights, Even During the Day
Cycling lights have gotten very affordable, and they capture the attention of drivers. Most of the models have a daylight flashing mode, which is highly effective.
Around the Web
Adventure Journal: Why I don’t ride on the road anymore.
Outside Magazine: Is road riding worth the risk?
Bicyclesafe.com: How to not get hit by cars.
Carmichael Training: Think roads have become more dangerous? I don’t. Here’s why.