When you think of distracted drivers, it’s usually in connection with motorists. Last year, 3,331 deaths were attributed to distracted driving. Distractions were implicated in 18 percent of injury crashes in 2010, according to the website distraction.gov.

But motorists aren’t the only users of streets who are guilty of  taking their eyes off the road. Think about it: How often do you observe people pedaling bicycles on New York City streets while texting or talking on cell phones? Call it distracted cycling.

Staying focused and alert to changing street dynamics on busy streets is as essential to bicyclists to prevent collisions as it is to motorists. 

The New York Times Well blog last week underscored this when it reported the following:

A recent study in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention found that bicyclists who text or talk on the phone or with a fellow bicyclist are more than twice as likely to engage in unsafe biking behaviors.

“You’re more likely to do silly things on your bike if you’re using a secondary device,” said Kate Terzano, a lecturer at the Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, who led the study. “And by silly I mean enter an intersection without looking.”

Each of us can reduce personal risk by taking steps to prevent the most common forms of injury. We can do this by wearing a helmet, avoiding the notorious “door zone” by riding at least 3 feet away from the driver’s side of parked cars (signaling and taking the adjoining traffic lane if necessary), and forgoing the kinds of distractions – texting and talking on the phone — that we regularly pin on motorists.

Not coincidentally, this also models smart cycling practices for the Citi Bike users who are new to cycling on city streets.

In the mean time, it’s also important to get behind public initiatives that improve street safety by reducing the causes of collisions. Among them: building more protected bike lanes and installing speed cameras to help reduce deadly speeding by motorists. Advocating for getting more people on bikes also helps build New York City’s growing cycling community, which in turn boosts overall safety.

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