The more bicyclists, the safer they are, researchers say

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Photo: Bike to Work Day 2014It’s Bike to Work Day in the Denver area and tens of thousands of people have committed to pedaling their way to the office. Breakfast stations and group rides are set up across the Front Range to accommodate riders participating in the event, which is the second-largest of its kind in the country.

Biking to work is a growing trend in Colorado -- as it is across the country -- rising 60 percent since 2000. Still, bicycle commuters make up a very tiny contingent of commuters: about 1 percent.

Yet accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists across the state are also up, according to the League of American Bicyclists, a nonprofit advocacy group. More than 13 percent of all accidents with a fatality involve a pedestrian or bicycle, the organization reports.

But biking advocates say bicyclists should not be dissuaded by the statistics. Nor, they say, should local governments along the Front Range, some of which have started incorporating bicyclists into road design. One example is the new green-painted bike lane that runs down 15th Street in downtown Denver.

For cyclists the most important reason to continue bike-commuting might be that there is safety in numbers, according to Krista Nordback, one of the authors of the report "Bicyclist safety performance functions for a U.S. city."

Nordback, a Portland State University researcher who used to live and ride in Colorado, joined with University of Colorado Denver researchers to gather bicycling statistics for Boulder. Twelve percent of the population in Boulder bicycles, according to the study, which made it good for research. The study finds that collisions between motorists and cyclists decrease as the volume of cyclists increases.