Morning Links: Governors’ safety group discovers rising bike fatality rates, but fails to provide necessary context

For the past few years, I’ve joined with a few others to wave the red flag warning about a dramatic increase in bicycling fatalities.

Now finally, a national organization has joined us in sounding the alarm.

A new study on bicycle safety from the Governors Highway Safety Administration cites a 16% increase in bicycling fatalities in just three years, from 2010 to 2012.

The Times’ Jerry Hirsch offers a detailed, yet easy to understand report on their findings.

The problem is, the study presents the bare stats without the necessary context for them to have any real meaning or usefulness.

For instance, they note that 69% of bicycling fatalities occur in urban areas, which correlates to a 62% increase in bike commuting since 2000. But fail to note that the 16% increase in overall bicycling fatalities no doubt corresponds to an increase in overall bicycling rates.

In fact, it’s entirely possible that bicycling is actually getting safer, since no one has any clue how much ridership has increased in that same three-year period, since virtually no one bothers to count it.

Though there are a few exceptions.

They also say that California has the highest number of bicycling fatalities, with Florida coming in second. However, they fail to mention that California has the largest population of any state, so it could be reasonably expected to have the most fatalities.

They repeat the same mistake in observing that six states — California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas — represent 54% of all bicycling fatalities. Yet don’t bother to point out that those are also the five most populated states, with Michigan coming in at a close ninth, representing over a third of the US population and most of the major urban centers.

Far more meaningful is the fact that bicycling deaths represent just over 4% of all traffic fatalities in California, twice the national average. At least that figure is in context, and clearly sends a message that far too many bike riders are dying here in the late, great Golden State.

Now that’s something we can work with to demand safer streets.

Unfortunately, it goes on.

The study observes that two-thirds of fatally injured bike riders weren’t wearing helmets in 2012. Which sounds significant, until you consider that nowhere do they attempt to determine how many of those fatal injuries resulted from head wounds.

Helmets are useful items — I never ride without mine — but they are designed to protect against relatively slow speed impacts, not high speed traffic collisions. And they don’t do anything to protect against internal injuries or bleeding.

It is worth nothing that 28% of the bike riders over the age of 16 that were killed in 2012 were over the legal limit for drunk driving. A clear indication that booze and bikes don’t mix, since it impairs your judgment and slows your reflexes — exactly the opposite of the skills you need to survive on the streets.

On the other hand, I would much rather see drunks ride their bikes, where they are a danger primarily to themselves, than get behind the wheel of a car and pose a danger to everyone around them.

Finally, the study correctly notes that our current roadway system was not designed with bicyclists and pedestrians in mind, and that integrating the streets poses challenges. They conclude that cyclists are safest on separated cycle paths, but note that such separated facilities are rarely feasible.

That’s true.

But only because our current leadership doesn’t have the courage or political will to make it happen.

It hasn’t proven to be a problem in places with strong leaders committed to improving safety on our streets, like New York and Chicago, which have somehow found a way to shoehorn those “infeasible” bikeways onto the streets, for the benefit of everyone — cyclists and drivers alike.

I’m not saying the study has no value. It clearly points out that too many of us are dying on American — and Californian — streets.

Then again, one is one too many.

And it’s long past time we did something about it.

……..

A new PSA gets people across LA to promise not to text and drive. Or at least to lie about it, anyway.

……..

Local

LA Bike Trains helps Los Angeles bike riders get to work safely while inspiring similar programs around the country.

The LAPD and USC’s DPS take victim blaming to a new level, attempting to protect bike riders and pedestrians by — wait for it — ticketing bike riders and pedestrians, rather than the people in the big, dangerous machines. And bizarrely, they ticket a cyclist for entering an intersection while the red Don’t Walk hand is flashing, which is just as legal for bicyclists as it is for motorists.

A new UCLA study points out the many public health and economic benefits of pathways along LA’s rivers; improving health and fitness is a lot cheaper than treating diseases like obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

A Vancouverite goes bicycling on some of the best bikeways the City of Angels has to offer, and not surprisingly, finds it not to her liking.

Calbike invites you to party with them at the Queen Mary next Monday.

 

State

Good news, as San Diego’s recent Ocean Beach hit-and-run victim is making a remarkable recovery from a major traumatic brain injury.

A Stockton teen has his bike stolen in a strong arm robbery.

San Francisco’s blast to the auto-centric past Prop L is called a right-wing attack on bicycling and safe streets.

A San Francisco bike rider gets shot in the foot.

Sad news, as a Cupertino teen is killed by a big-rig gravel truck while riding to school Monday morning.

 

National

Scary news, as a writer for City Lab says your U-lock is pretty much useless.

New York cuts speed limits to 25 mph in all five boroughs to improve safety; needless to say, not everyone approves. If LA’s leaders had the courage to do that and actually enforce it — which they don’t — it would not only improve safety but most likely, traffic flow as well.

Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber ride through New York on their family-sized Dutch bike.

Bicyclists have to invent devices to overcome bad road planning.

In an OpEd piece for the Washington Post, a cyclist asks why people who don’t drive have to subsidize parking for those who do. Maybe we deserve a discount on rent and shopping.

Russell Crowe rides a bike to the set of his new movie in Atlanta.

 

International

The Guardian asks if it’s possible to look stylish while riding to work; not to spoil the surprise, but it would be a very short story if the answer was no.

Once again, saying they just didn’t see a cyclist proves to be the universal Get Out of Jail Free card, as not one, but two Brit drivers get off after claiming the sun was in their eyes.

Caught on video: A rare double — and possibly triple — bird, as a UK cyclist and motorist flip each other off after the later drives right at the former.

Caught on video: In case you’ve been wondering how the new Fly6 rear facing bike cam and tail light works, a Sydney cyclist catches a rear view of a major flip following a collision; he wasn’t badly hurt but his bike is a goner.

Two years after a Kiwi cyclist warned about the installation of bollards on a bike path, they’re being removed after his wife was seriously injured falling on them.

 

Finally…

A simple 25 question quiz to determine if you’re overly obsessed with cycling; looks like I’m only mildly obsessed. Halloween costumes for you and your bike. And a new bike tire promises to never go flat because it doesn’t have any air in it.

 

4 comments

  1. That video of the wreck in Oz you can clearly see the driver is running a red light if you slow the replay down. Even without slowing it down you can seen the cyclist was about 2 seconds behind the car that preceded him through the intersection.

  2. PatrickGSR94 says:

    Nice graph comparing nationwide bike fatality numbers, total vehicle fatality numbers, and vehicle miles traveled. Sure there’s been an up-tick in the past few years, but the overall average is decreasing. These types of articles really irk me. The stats can be manipulated to show pretty much anything, and they rarely tell the whole story.

    Also notice how total vehicle fatalities are also down, and the VMT/year has pretty much stalled out. So there are fewer deaths for the same number of miles traveled.

    https://scontent-b-dfw.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xap1/t31.0-8/10704240_10204294551355293_3727990485083461811_o.jpg

  3. Using Census Bureau American Community Survey results, using a bicycle as the primary means of travel to work rose 18% from 2010 to 2012. If the number of fatalities for commuting by bicycle rose 16% in that time period, then the risk of getting killed while riding a bicycle to work was lowered.

    • PatrickGSR94 says:

      But that 16% increase in fatalities is for all cyclists, not just commuters. You would have to compare that to the number of miles traveled for all cyclists, which is fairly difficult to estimate with any sort of accuracy.

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