Concerns about rider safety have received a lot of attention following the tragic deaths of Mike Hall, Eric Fishbein, and Frank Simons in self-supported, ultra-distance races in Australia, the USA, and Europe in 2017. Many people on social media an in personal interactions have therefore been encouraging people to “Ride safely!” Personally, I think this is the most pointless instruction/encouragement that can be made, and the implicit connotations may be detrimental to the intended goal and it places the blame where it’s often not deserved.
First, I believe that every cyclist is managing their own levels of risk to the best of their abilities and tolerance levels and so saying “Ride safely!” is not going to change anyone’s behavior in any way.
Second, by saying “Ride safely!” you are implying that cycling is a dangerous activity, which may discourage people from cycling who read or hear the comment. Because having more cyclists on the roads is the best proven method for making cycling safer in general, discouraging people from cycling by presenting it as a dangerous activity will make conditions more dangerous for people who do cycle.
Third, by saying “Ride safely!” you are implying that cyclists can avoid accidents by behaving differently, and therefore people that are involved in an accident are partially to blame because they were not riding safely enough. Even implicit victim blaming is a dangerous game to play without any facts.
Therefore, although I absolutely hope that everyone stays safe out there, I will never tell anyone to “Ride safely!” and I will cringe every time I read or hear that comment. It won’t change anyone’s behavior, you don’t want to implicitly say that you believe cycling is dangerous and so discourage people from doing it, and you shouldn’t blame the victims without any facts.
If you want cycling to be safer, instead of telling people to “Ride safely!”, please go ride your bike, take public transport, keep your car in the garage whenever possible, and if this is not currently possible then choose to live closer to where you work/study/shop or closer to public transport (and/or lobby for better public transport). Personally, I haven’t driven in about 10 years.
By the way, please drive safely!