Peter Wehrwein

Those biking Bankers: Active commuters to the World Bank

After the article on cycling in the August 2010 issue of the Health Letter, we heard from Gary Reid, a public sector management specialist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Reid is impressive. He commutes by bicycle 14.5 miles one-way (29 miles round-trip) from his home in McLean, Virginia, to the Bank headquarters, which is a just couple of blocks from the White House.

He told us via email that his employer is bike-friendly in a couple ways. Each of the garages has indoor parking for bicycles. More importantly, the Bank has locker rooms with showers. Especially during Washington’s hot, humid summers, access to a shower after riding to work is essential, says Reid.  Employers who want to encourage active commuting (cycling and walking) should heed those words, even those located in less steamy climes.

Reid also sent along the results of survey of about 500 World Bank employees who bike to work, a sizable group but a fraction of the institution’s 10,000-employee workforce.

Some fun facts: the average one-way commute is 5.75 miles and takes 28 minutes. And the average bike-to-work World Banker covers 1,335 miles on his or her bicycle over the course of a year.

Cyclists worry getting hit by a car and truck, as they should, but the Bank’s  bike commuters had more noncollision accidents—caused by potholes, slippery road surfaces, and the like—than collisions with cars or pedestrians.

The most common collision accident was the “right hook,” which is infamous in cycling circles. Right hook accidents occur at intersections when cars or trucks vehicles make right turns in front of cyclists.

There were two results from the survey that ran counter to research reported on in our August issue and elsewhere.

First, the accident risk for the Bank bike commuters traveling on bike paths was greater than those traveling on roadways. It’s unclear why that would be so.

Second, the Bank’s biking  commuters who said they wore helmets and reflective clothing were more likely to report having been in an accident in the past three years. There’s an argument that safety gear may encourage some people to take ill-advised risks. But there are any number of explanations for this result, including the possibility that safety-conscious cyclists are more likely to be forthcoming about their accident experience.

Comments:

  1. gerrard

    Great article, very interesting, thanks for sharing this material.
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  2. Brendan Hoar

    Some of the bike paths in the DC area have a very large number of streets intersecting them (e.g. the W&OD) with path-facing stop signs that are often taken less formally than they are meant to be. I am curious if accidents at path/street intersections are being reported as path accidents, street accidents or divided up/weighted across both categories. If these were self-reported, accidents at these intersections seem more likely to be reported as path accidents, I would guess.

  3. Dave Wyman

    “the accident risk for the Bank bike commuters traveling on bike paths was greater than those traveling on roadways. It’s unclear why that would be so.”

    This does not surprise me. On streets, motorists tend to follow the rules better than do cyclists and particularly pedestrians, who usually use bike paths, too.

    It may also be that cyclists on bike paths think they are safer and take more chances, just as it may be that those who wear helmets might take more risks because they think they are safer with head protection.

    Kudos to Mr. Reid for his sterling example as a cyclist.