To the editor:
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is compelled to respond to the letter from Gregory S. Wallace, who recommended bicycle riders ride against traffic.
This recommendation would have cyclists do numerous things that are unsafe and illegal. By some measures, riding against traffic is the most dangerous thing you can do on a bicycle.
Multiple studies over the years have found that cyclists traveling against traffic are more likely to be in conflicts and crashes than those traveling with traffic. A 2020 study on bicycle risk factors found that operating against traffic put cyclists at about five times higher a risk of a collision than riding with traffic. When drivers pull out of driveways or turn at intersections, they look at the traffic flow, and are simply less likely to see a cyclist riding in the wrong direction.
How fast a car and bike approach each other is another factor in the severity of a crash. When facing each other, a car going 30 mph and a cyclist going 15 mph are approaching each other at 45 mph—a lethal impact speed equivalent to falling off of a seven-story building. Moving in the same direction, the impact would be only 15 mph—a much more survivable speed. Additionally, the faster the approach, the shorter the reaction time for the motorist, so in the event of a head-on collision, there is a higher risk of injury or death for the cyclist.
Riding a bicycle in the same direction as automobile traffic is the law in the U.S. and countries around the world. Consistency and predictability are very important when riding a bike, and motorists don’t readily expect or see wrong-way cyclists.
For these reasons, please ride your bicycle on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine