It ain’t necessarily so — new study proclaims L.A. one of the nation’s most dangerous places to walk or ride

This morning, the L.A. Times discovered the unacceptably high rate of bike and pedestrians deaths in this city. Quickly followed by a number of other news outlets.

Only problem is, they got the story wrong.

The study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute looks at bicycle and pedestrian fatalities in New York and Los Angeles, compared to other large cities in the U.S.

They concluded that while bicyclists represent 1.7% in other cities nationwide, they make up 2.8% of traffic fatalities here in Los Angeles. And pedestrians fare even worse, with nearly three times as many deaths on L.A. streets, as a percentage of total traffic fatalities, as in the rest of the nation.

Needless to say, New Yorkers fared even worse, with cyclists making up 6.1% percent of all traffic fatalities, and pedestrians nearly half.

And the media took that limited and misleading information and ran with it, proclaiming — loudly and falsely — that L.A. and New York are exceptionally dangerous places to walk and bike.

The problem is, as stated above, this study only considered these deaths as a percentage of overall traffic fatalities. Which means that if motor vehicle fatalities in those cities — which make up the overwhelming majority of traffic fatalities nationwide — were lower than the national average, it would skew the results and make bike and pedestrian deaths look disproportionately high.

And guess what?

Driver and passenger deaths in New York accounted for just 43.6% of traffic fatalities and 63.6% in Los Angeles, compared to a whopping 86.3% nationwide.

In other words, because fewer people are getting killed in motor vehicles in New York and L.A., it incorrectly suggests that more people who bike or walk are getting killed.

What’s missing from the study is an appendix with hard numbers of how many bicyclists and pedestrians were killed in each city, rather than just a percentage. As well as individual stats for each city that was included in the study, rather than a national aggregate.

Because the one statistic that would allow us to compare apples to apples is the number of deaths per capita for each city.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to access stats for individual cities from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s FARS database today, which would allow us to figure that out. And let us determine whether Los Angeles is really a more dangerous place to ride a bike than Dallas or Des Moines. Or any other city of any size in the U.S.

What I can tell you is that in 2011, Los Angeles County had the lowest per capita bike fatality rate of any county from Santa Barbara to San Bernardino and south to the Mexican border, with the single exception of sparsely populated — and even more sparsely biked — Imperial County.

And the City of Los Angeles had just one bicycling fatality for every 763,940 people who call L.A. home. That’s one for every three-quarter of a million people in this city.

Which sounds like pretty damn good odds to me.

In fact, that compares with one cycling death for every 189,454 people in San Diego. One for every 116,394 in Long Beach. And one for every 69,050 residents of Pasadena.

Don’t get me wrong.

One death is too many. Let alone the four the city has already suffered this year. And nothing in this study, or the press reports that followed, considers the city’s rate of serious cycling injuries, as opposed to fatalities.

But one of that nation’s most dangerous places to ride a bike?

Far from it. At least as far as your risk of dying is concerned.

And study’s authors — and the media who ran with it — would have known that if they’d just dug a little deeper.

Thanks to Harris M. Miller II and Where to Bike Los Angeles co-author Jon Riddle for the heads-up.

Update: Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a WTF response to this study and the hype that followed. The Native Angeleno had a similar reaction, as did our friends at Los Angeles Walks, who offer suggestions on how to improve safety for our fellow bipedalists. And L.A. Streetsblog meister Damien Newton looks at the over-the-top — and highly repetitive — media response.

………

On a related note, Pasadena public radio station KPCC responds to the study by asking for your help to map the area’s most dangerous intersections. It’s a great idea.

Although checking out the map Bikeside LA already put together would have been a nice place to start.

………

OC Bike lawyer David Huntsman forwards word of a road raging Dr. Thompson wannabe.

The Press-Enterprise reports that 38-year old Carl Albert Robbins of Temecula “accidently” hit a rider after intentionally swerving at four cyclists riding on Rainbow Canyon Road near Temecula around 8 am Monday. Robbins reportedly drove his car at the riders in the back, then swerved again at the lead rider, hitting the rider’s hand with the car’s mirror.

According to a Riverside Sheriff’s spokesperson, Robbins claimed the riders didn’t belong on the road, but he didn’t intend to actually hit one.

So let me get this straight.

If I try to fire a warning shot past your head, but miss and blow your ear off, it’s just an accident, right?

Evidently the authorities disagreed with Robbins, as well as the paper, booking him on $25,000 bond.

………

A full-time — and apparently very sarcastic — parking lieutenant for LADOT, among his many other jobs, is running for president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. Walk Eagle Rock sends word that he doesn’t seem to be exactly bike friendly; you’d think an LADOT parking enforcement official would know not to put a business sign in a bike lane.

And sarcastic or not, suggesting someone light up a joint seems a tad inappropriate for a city official. Let alone a potential NC president.

But maybe that’s just me.

………

My good friends at Altadenablog send word that Cher, the original singularly named recording and Hollywood star, apparently hates PCH cyclists.

Or maybe just cyclists in general.

But she swears, cross her heart, that she would never text from behind the wheel. Honest.

We can only encourage her to Cher the road.

Thanks to Century City cyclist and attorney Stanley E. Goldich for the heads-up, as well.

………

It’s been a busy few days in my inbox.

George Wolfberg forwards a link to this New York Times story of a lovely journey by bike through the French countryside.

And he send us another NY Times story from over the weekend saying cities need to lose the helmets to promote bicycling.

Or at least bike share programs.

But lets stop for a moment to consider the claim that Dutch cyclists don’t wear helmets.

Dutch cyclists enjoy some of the world’s best biking infrastructure, and ride relatively heavy, slow bikes that are easy to step off of in the event of a fall.

Most American’s don’t

American bikes tend to be faster, lighter machines that usually take the rider down with them when they go down. And American roads don’t begin to compare with Dutch bikeways, in either quality or separation from vehicular traffic.

Whether or not you wear a helmet is your choice.

Personally, I never ride without mine, bearing in mind that they’re not magic hats that prevent all harm to the wearer; you’re far better off avoiding a collision than counting on your helmet to save you from it.

But let’s stop using the Amsterdam experience to argue against helmet use here. Because it just doesn’t translate from the Dutch.

………

Cyclist Jim Lyle send news that Hermosa Beach has rejected a plan to put bike lanes on Aviation Blvd.

HB City council members claimed the 2 – 3 person Public Works Department had more pressing issues, and couldn’t afford the 10 to 20 hours a month it would take to save cyclists’ lives plan the bikeway.

“Once we pave our streets, let’s talk about bikes,” Mayor Pro Tem Kit Bobko said.

Although you’d think with such a small staff, they might know how many people actually work for them.

………

Finally, my adventure cycling, Iditarod dog sled racing brother Eric offers a heads-up about the 100-year old former French bike racer who set a new 100 kilometer age group speed record.

I plan to race him myself when I turn 100; my brother, not the Frenchman.

Of course, I may have an unfair advantage, since he’ll be 109.

14 comments

  1. [...] use of city-owned vehicles if public transit or Capital Bikeshare could serve as an alternative. Biking in LA wonders if New York and L.A. are really especially dangerous places for pedestrians, as a recent [...]

  2. I think there is a simpler explanation.
    if the rate of cyclists and pedestrians is higher in l.a. and NYC would that also skew the numbers?

    I have no doubt that L.A. is a dangerous city to ride an walk in. but nobody is served by these awful statistics that do not account for the fact that cycling rates have probably doubled or tripled in the last 10 years.

    I think KPCC is going to do reporting on this subject. you should contact them help debunk the study.

  3. Vic Cooper says:

    Me thinks motorist traffic death statistics in LA are skewed by the fact that so many of them are crawling though traffic at 3 MPH so much of the time. Hard to kill yourself at that speed.

  4. Alan Thompson says:

    Traffic speed is a possible answer. As cities urbanize, traffic speeds decrease which reduces,along with bumpers, crumple zones and airbags, the consequences of collisions to drivers and their passengers. Not slow enough for pedestrians, however.

    For instance,the likelihood of a driver being killed in a 35 MPH collision can be fairly small. The likelihood of a pedestrian or bicyclist being killed in that same collision is much higher.

    • Opus the Poet says:

      Actually from what I read about car crash standards, @ 35 MPH you can run into a steel faced concrete wall with the gas floored and be able to open the doors and walk away from the wreck. The crash standards have gone way up in the last decade, There used to be a video on You Tube of a 2009 Impala going head on with the 1959 version. The front bumper of the 2009 ended up in the back seat of the 1959, and the driver of the 2009 would have been able to walk away from the wreck. It took them a couple of hours to find all the pieces of the crash-test dummy in the driver’s seat of the 1959 since some were under the hood of the 2009.

  5. [...] activist Ted Rogers has a similar critique. 0 Tweet Written by Hillel Aron Posted in Times and Misdemeanors [...]

  6. Hi all, I recommend that you check out page 17 of this report put out by UCLA and the LA County Department of Public Health. I helped work on this. We tried to get at the question of how much biking and walking is happening, which as others have mentioned here is necessary if you want to understand how dangerous they are. Our analysis (with the limited data available) does show that bicyclists and pedestrians suffer crash rates disproportionate to their mode share in the greater LA area. We also looked at the per capita data that Ted mentioned and found that LA had more collisions per capita than both the US and California as a whole.

    Of course, this data isn’t the perfect exposure data you’d really want for an analysis like this. What you’d really want to understand risk would be some knowledge of how many miles are being traveled by foot or bike, and the crash and fatality incidence per mile. But we did the best we could with the best data available.

    Go to
    http://lewis.ucla.edu/content/completestreets-publications

    and click on “Performance Metrics for the City of Los Angeles,” then check out page 17.

  7. [...] In LA digs a little deeper into the Los Angeles Times claim that Los Angeles is one of the most dangerous places to ride a [...]

  8. boyonabike says:

    Thanks to Jerry Brown, at least Mr. Robbins won’t also be charged with a “silly” 3-foot violation.

  9. WIth sadness Ihave to report that wordpress is presenting it’s first ad on your site to me with this post. I watched it thinking it was somehow relevent adn one of your video’s. The info seems to indicate that yoru not getting any of that money so I suggest you move yoru blog to at least share the loot. My eyes are killing me so I’m going to paste my own indirect comments in asecond. I opened up thsi window before writing all over the old and not blogs at a123.

    It seems though that what makes the new is what’s inexcusable- and so you have not included any variables for that and obviously if you did as Mark Elliot has so infamously noted we would still take the cake and NO OTHER PLACE ON THE PLANET IS EVEN IN OUR LEAGUE.

    We literally are the home of the daily chopper commute for all the VIP’s who matter. I don’t think NYC has ordinary ceo’s getting a lift ever yday from there rootops downtown- or jewels being delivered so routinely it goes without saying you can see the pad from persing sqaureu as it’s perhaps the greatest architectrual feature on this continent.

    THe number of fatalites as adusted for per capital income or housing cost or amount spent on commuting or roads or transit or….

    the amount of resources in our land- the gold and the strawberries and t he interhcanges and t he hydrogen powered sedans the hybrfid soda truck sthe special emissions standards not being met with enhanced safetly- only fewer deaths per resident? Are you serious??

    The point of statistics is to point out a need for a reason- or in failing to find excuse address.

    Undocumented people die on the highway because to make crossing it safer would have more die in the desert. But the counted fatailits are insignificant compared to those lives lost from thos e minds destroyed by astha from the pollution not being availabe to help me further my insights as below:

    (our discussions need to be about the concepts and pointing out technical errors that don’t change the conclusion is not as constructive as we should aspire to be)

    Energy Storage and the Solar Power Integration Dilemma
    Posted by Charlie Vartanian on Fri, Feb 24, 2012
    While next week’s Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit in San Diego will address a number of important issues, one of the most critical will be the focus of a full-day workshop on Monday—transmission and grid integration for solar generation resources.

    As the cost of photovoltaic (PV) technologies continues to fall, solar energy moves closer to grid parity. But as the editors of Renewable Energy World succinctly point out, “Photovoltaics and wind power have historically shown that a large proportion of cost reductions have come from experience and economies of scale associated with large-scale global deployment— not just improvements in technical efficiency.”

    The challenge, however, is that solar is an inherently variable source of energy, which makes output unpredictable and large-scale deployment difficult to achieve. This variability—and the accompanying difficulty this causes when trying to interconnect these resources to the grid—must be addressed to reach the economies of scale required to sustain cost parity with fossil fuels and meet national or state renewable portfolio standards (RPS).

    One option being discussed is adding additional gas turbines to make the power output more consistent, but this is an imperfect solution given that it essentially counteracts the benefits and purpose of deploying renewable sources. Some solution approaches diminish renewable energy output to manage variable output ramp rates, which is another imperfect solution.

    Alternatively, advanced energy storage can be deployed to mitigate the effects of increased amounts of variable generation being added to the grid. Energy storage systems, including advanced batteries, have operating characteristics that greatly exceed the performance of traditional storage options, including the 20,000MW of pumped storage currently installed in the U.S.

    Fast, flexible and scalable advanced energy storage solutions can expand the effective capacity of traditional grid infrastructure to enable the integration and delivery of renewable generation. Short-term, fast-response storage is already being used to manage grid imbalances and volatility for wind power integration, and some utilities and merchant developers are starting to deploy storage systems to accompany PV arrays. The chart below profiles an example renewable energy project supported by a battery energy storage system. Because the output from the renewable sources can occasionally exceed the available transmission capacity, advanced storage can shape and shift energy to maximize the output from renewable sources using existing transmission.

    Technology is no longer a barrier, and advanced storage is most decidedly moving out of the labs and onto the power grid at multi-MW scale. This is driven in large part by the pressing need to effectively address the variability of wind and solar power generation.

    And while cost is also not a barrier, it does limit opportunities. Fortunately, the most robust energy storage solutions are similar to a Swiss Army knife ion their ability to perform a number of grid services, which significantly improves the economics for deploying storage. For example, a single storage system can be used for both renewable integration and frequency regulation, creating the potential for multiple revenue streams and improving the economic benefits of advanced energy storage for renewable integration.

    Storage is by no means a silver bullet, though, and there are additional hurdles that must be addressed before advanced storage can become a standard component to renewable energy deployments. However, progress continues to be made on both the technology and storage-related policy, creating a significant opportunity for advanced storage for renewable integration going forward.

    If you are attending the Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit next week and are interested in these issues, we encourage you to sit in on the panel discussion entitled “Stranded Resources and Transmission – How To Solve The Problem of Getting Remote Solar and other Renewable Resources to Market” at 11 a.m. PT on Monday. This session and the rest of the conference should be good measuring stick for determining just how well solar developers and financiers truly understand the value of adding storage to their projects.

    Share

    Tags: Renewable Energy Integration, Grid Energy Storage, Grid Energy Storage Policy
    Comments
    Is wind power more advantageous than solar given the unusual wind characteristics and you can discharge/charge 24/7??? Or, given the need for daytime higher electricity usage, is solar more valuable???
    Posted @ Sunday, February 26, 2012 7:21 AM by Keith Bare
    appellat judges love such hype- when they see it or worse hear it in oral argument they just let the other side win- same with the actual markets… re “most decidedly …..”

    [‘oops’ I just suffered an scheduling error as I didn’t back up the posted version after s ubmitting it to facebook and letting it do it’s thing inthe background with the after paste addition (a multiminute java meltdown consistently ensues when you dothat) SO whatever Ijust said might be lsot forever- oh welll…)

    My point friend is that when dealing with utility scale anything less then twenty percent is just noise- you’ll have some meaninful indicator of success when japan prices there surplus steam generators at under a nickel on the dollar invested enabling them to be put into 24×7 service making ice or hydrgen or whatever offshore even if on not “ellis” island but whoeover’s that bastard supposedly bought for I hope no less ambition. THe lava show on PBS last night did not inspire only confirm- merely 3,000 degrees is a cakewalk to plumb. The ocean shows how to do it- you contain the flow in a wave of directed water jets- at the base of a dam say you allow them to be released- adn we will look back at the day that we let dams waste there high pressure water- water capable of containing lava! by simplyy harvestnig hte potential energy in it’s pressure instead of using it catalytically to blow it into vapor with all hte extra pressure and volume that offers the turbines. BY using the water so much more efficiently far more of it can be released to restore the river as well of course. Can you feel how insane it is to waste that pressured water without heating it? My god given all the free cooling at the base of t he dam combined with th e pressure you can only release the pressure from the condensate if you want! THe thermal energy inthe lava allows you to condense the vapor after its free ride back ot the top o f the dam as it’s lighter then air until cooled/compressed back into aliquid!!! We probably have enough dam capacity already built on this continet to provide the entire world with all the hydrogen it needs and in the worst case fission would be only slioghtly cheaper then lava.

    Who said saving the world is complicated- it’s only as hard as the concept is unwelcome.
    Posted @ Thursday, October 04, 2012 4:28 PM by karl

  10. [...] In LA digs a little deeper into the Los Angeles Times claim that Los Angeles is one of the most dangerous places to ride a [...]

  11. [...] the rest here: It ain't necessarily so — new study proclaims L.A. one of the nation's … This entry was posted in Blog Search and tagged bicycling, bike, cities, claim, dutch, lose, [...]

  12. [...] blog.” I did not find such a quote in the blog in the last six months, but there is a blog post from October 2012 in which Rogers cautions against using statistics without context, as was done in [...]

  13. [...] Diego is, embarrassingly, more dangerous to ride in than our sister to the north, Los Angeles. And Los Angeles isn’t stopping as they are going full throttle in ensuring that their city becomes [...]

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