Bicyclists who operate visibly and predictably according to driving rules, like the one described by Froma Harrop in her Nov. 12 column “Wheels of misfortune plaguing bike riders” as taking up the right hand travel lane of a four lane street, have a very good safety record. Drivers can see such bicyclists in time to know what to do – in that case, slow and change lanes to pass once it is safe.
Bicyclists who operate unpredictably and enter other road users’ paths from unexpected places, such as by passing on the right or riding on sidewalks, have a much higher crash rate. It is unfortunate that Harrop conflates the occasional inconvenience caused by lower vehicle speed with danger. In fact, an examination of urban cycling crash statistics and failure modes reveals that those bicyclists who are trying to stay out of the flow of other traffic by operating contrary to normal driving rules are the ones at highest risk of collision on city streets.
As for avoiding busy streets when bicycling, transportation cyclists use popular roads for the same reason as everyone else – they are the most useful and sometimes only routes for getting where they need to go.