Dear Cascade Bicycle Club:
I was shocked and extremely disappointed to read today that Cascade Bicycle Club is hosting the Seattle Brews Cruise – a ride that promotes drinking during the ride. Part of the reason I support the club is its ongoing efforts to ensure its rides are safe and promote cycling safety in general. Not only is this event in contravention of these goals, it explicitly encourages unsafe riding behavior. As such, I would like to request that Cascade Bicycle Club rethink whether the club should hold the event as planned.
You might be thinking, “Aw lighten up already! One beer can’t hurt. Our riders know their limits and will be responsible.” The trouble is statistics say otherwise. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28% of all cyclists killed in 2009 had a measurable blood alcohol level. That bears repeating, more than a quarter of all cycling deaths involved alcohol consumption by the rider. Only 24% of the fatalities involved a BAC in the rider of .08% or higher. That means a rider doesn’t have to be legally impaired to increase his/her risk of death. On the contrary, a bicyclist’s risk of a crash begins to increase significantly at 0.05% BAC and climbs rapidly after about 0.08%. To put it succinctly, when a rider is only a pint or two down, the odds for a bicycle crash go up – sometimes way up. One study showed BAC over 0.10% increased injury risk tenfold.
The risks aren’t just related to cycling deaths either. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine shows that risk of injury also increases.Alcohol, bicycling, and head and brain injury: a study of impaired cyclists’ riding patterns, found that among the 200 patients studied “[a]lcohol use showed a strong correlation with head injury” and that, “[i]mpaired riders were less experienced, less likely to have medical insurance, rarely wore helmets, were more likely to ride at night and in slower speed zones such as city streets, and their hospital charges were double.” The study’s conclusion is unambiguous: “Alcohol use leads to a host of unsafe bicycling practices, increased head and brain injuries, and costs to the cyclist and community.”
What strikes me is that the risk of head injury and costs to the community are the very reasons cited for helmet wearing. And yet, the club has blatantly chosen to ignore these risks as it promotes behavior that impairs riders’ motor skills and judgment before they throw a leg over the bike.
The club discourages the use of headphones, riding on sidewalks, disobeying traffic laws, riding in a paceline if you aren’t trained to do so, and riding without a helmet – all because these behaviors compromise rider safety. Alcohol consumption is no different. It compromises rider safety and should be relegated to its proper place as a worthy post-ride celebration. Please consider canceling the Seattle Brews Cruise or at least canceling the mid-ride beer stop.
Finally, it strikes me that this type of ride could lead to legal trouble for the club. I’m not a personal injury lawyer and am not offering specific legal advice in this area. I’m just raising the red flag. If the club actively encourages behavior that it knows to be unsafe and someone is injured or killed as a result, could it be liable for gross negligence or wrongful death? Does promoting an activity that the club knows to be dangerous constitute grossly negligent behavior? Will the club’s waiver hold up if the club is found guilty of gross negligence? If you decide to hold the event as planned, it would be worth consulting an attorney about the club’s potential liability in the event of an injury or death. I would prefer the club spends its legal budget on creating positive change for cyclists, not on defending against avoidable lawsuits.
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I’ll be doing the Chilly Hilly. I’ll be on a somewhat unique bike. Say “hi” if you see me!