Morning Links: Governors Highway Safety Assoc. study looks at bike safety — and gets it right for a change

Last week, we mentioned a study from the Governors Highway Safety Association indicating that bicycling fatalities had spiked 12.2% in 2015.

Now the Governors group has released their full report on bicycle safety.

The new study, A Right to the Road: Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety, offers an in-depth examination of both the causes and possible solutions to the problems facing bike riders in the US.

And for the most part, seems to get it right.

Starting with a title that establishes our unquestioned right to the road right off the bat.

Admittedly, I haven’t gotten very far into the Governors study yet, making it only through only about a third of the report’s 75 pages.

But unlike some of their previous efforts, the GHSA attempts to put the facts — or at least, more of the facts — in context, noting that the jump in fatalities could be due in part to an increase in ridership.

Why hasn’t the percentage of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways decreased? The simplest explanation may be the lack of protection afforded to bicyclists and the difference in mass when they collide with a motor vehicle. This results in asymmetric risk – bicyclists are likely to sustain a serious injury; the vehicle occupants are not (Ragland as cited in Williams, 2014). Also, noteworthy is the impact weather can have on bicycling. A mild winter, for example, can change bicycling patterns, resulting in increased exposure risk from motor vehicle crashes. Another factor is the economy – more traffic fatalities tend to occur with low unemployment and low gas prices (NHTSA, 2016).

Changes in exposure may also be due to the increase in popularity of bicycling because of its health and environmental benefits. It is estimated that 34 percent of Americans (103.7 million) three years of age and older rode a bicycle in the past year (Breakaway Research Group, 2015). While most rode for recreational purposes, bicycle commuting is also increasing, although the U.S. continues to lag behind other countries in the percentage of people who commute by bike (McKenzie as cited in Williams, 2014). Even so, according to the latest U.S. bicycling and walking benchmarking report, the percentage of adults biking to work has increased from 0.4% in 2005 to in 0.6% in 2013. The increase is more significant in large cities, which saw commuting by bicycle increase from 0.7% to 1.2% during this same time period (Alliance for Biking & Walking [ABW], 2016).

Bike share programs are also helping to spur the growth in U.S. cycling, as the number of systems has increased from four in 2010 to 55 in 2016, with users logging 88 million trips over the past six years. In 2016 alone, bike share riders took over 28 million trips; that is equivalent to Amtrak’s annual ridership and tops visits in a single year to Walt Disney World (National Association of City Transportation Officials [NACTO], 2016a). Despite this unprecedented growth, it is important to note that there have been only two deaths associated with bike share programs.

Although I once again have to object to their lack of nuance regarding helmet use, which fails to take into account the limitations of bike helmets, or whether collisions that resulted in head injuries could have been survivable with one.

Or that the best way to protect yourself is to avoid crashes and falls to begin with.*

The value of wearing a bicycle helmet cannot be overstated, since in a majority of bicyclist deaths the most serious injuries are head- related (Sacks et al., as cited in IIHS, 2016). Helmets are estimated to reduce the risk of head injury by 50 percent, and head, face or neck injury by slightly more than 33 percent (Sacks et. al, as cited in IIHS, 2016). However, a 2012 national survey of adults found that slightly more than half reported never wearing a helmet (Schroeder & Wilbur, 2013).

It’s also surprisingly progressive in places, like this section on where to ride.

Where a bicyclist may ride has been debated by roadway users and elected officials for decades. Where to ride laws generally tell bicyclists where they should position themselves on the road, which in most states is typically as far to the right as practicable.

The challenge comes with defining practicable, which likely means different things to a cyclist, a motorist and a law enforcement official. The LAB notes that “what is practicable is often context sensitive based upon road and traffic conditions” and therefore “recommends that cyclists ride in the right third of the lane with traffic” (2017).

Safety should be the primary focus when it comes to where a bicyclist rides in the roadway. To that end, Colorado’s law states that a bicyclist should ride “far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of…overtaking vehicles” (LAB, 2017). The language strikes a balance between a cyclist’s safety and the efficient movement of traffic.

That progressiveness continues into their their recommended action steps for state officials, ranging from educating policy makers about Complete Streets to developing ebike policies and legalizing speed and red light cameras.

We could all benefit if most, if not all, of the Governors recommendations are carried out. Whether you choose to travel by two feet, two wheels or four.

Let’s just hope the people responsible for making those decisions read it, too.

*Just to be clear, I always wear a helmet when I ride. But they should always be considered the last line of defense when all else fails.

………

Once again, the rain in Spain failed to remain on the plain, as riders slogged through the 11th stage of the Vuelta; Cycling Weekly offers video highlights of the race.

How to change your shoe mid-race.

……….

Local

KCRW’s Design and Architecture program discusses the over-the-top rage over the lane reductions in Playa del Rey, while saying they only saw three bicyclists using the bike lanes over a one hour period. However, it would have been nice if someone had pointed out that the lanes were removed to slow traffic, not make room for bike lanes; it shouldn’t be up to us to make LADOT’s arguments for them.

Bike SGV will be providing a free bike valet at UCLA’s season opener at the Rose Bowl this weekend.

The recently closed Coates Cyclery in Pomona is officially no more, as its landmark sign was replaced with one for the pet hotel that’s taken its place. Thanks to Erik Griswold for the heads-up.

Santa Clarita deputies ticketed 45 drivers in Wednesday’s bike and pedestrian safety enforcement operation; no bicyclists or pedestrians received tickets.

After a decade of discussion, Long Beach is moving forward with planes for a 9.5 mile bicycle boulevard connecting North Long Beach with downtown and the shore.

 

State

Caltrans hired Jeanie Ward Waller, the former Calbike policy director, to head its new Sustainability Program. Which seems like a contradiction in terms for the department responsible for California’s unsustainable highway system.

A new bike and pedestrian safety project designed to improve safety for San Clemente students promises to make things a lot worse before they get better.

San Diego opened a one-mile protected bike lane connecting the Mission Valley and Mid-City neighborhoods.

Police in San Diego are looking for a bank robber who fled the scene by bicycle.

A Thousand Oaks resident says wait just a minute to plans for a bike lane through Potrero Valley, insisting it’s too high a cost for something that will only be used by recreational cyclists. Which is a common argument against bike lanes, based on nothing more than the writer’s own groundless prejudices.

Sad news from San Luis Obispo, where a 22-year old student at Cal Poly was killed in a hit-and-run while riding near his home; a 17-year old girl was arrested later, admitting to police she’d been drinking before the crash.

The hit-and-run driver accused of killing the top lawyer for UC Berkeley as he paused on a bike ride has a reputation for public drunkenness, though too much time had passed before his arrest to test him following the crash.

 

National

Slate says security bollards are the best defense against using motor vehicles as weapons, while helping to make cities more livable; an Op-Ed in the New York Times says expanded, smartly designed pedestrian areas will help reduce the danger, as well. Both could help improve safety on Hollywood Blvd and the area around the Chinese Theater and the Hollywood & Highland shopping plaza, which remain dangerously vulnerable to an automotive terrorist attack.

Good question. Streetsblog asks why automakers are allowed to sell cars that can go faster than 100 mph, exceeding the speed limit anywhere in the US. Judging by their ads, car makers go far beyond enabling speeding to actually encouraging dangerously aggressive driving.

A Bicycle Times Op-Ed says don’t be part of the problem by breaking the law on your bike, because everyone is watching. And judging.

A HuffPo writer heads to her local bike shop to ride a bicycle for the first time in 55 years.

Portland residents hang banners and signs urging drivers to slow down after a woman was killed riding her bike. Meanwhile, Portland’s bikeshare system now offers $3 a month memberships for anyone with a food stamp card.

A Bloomberg editorial in an Idaho paper says speed cameras save lives, and we need them everywhere. Nowhere more than California, where speed limits are mere suggestions, and speed cameras are currently illegal.

Montana residents will get their wish and get their parking back, after the Missoula city council votes to remove bike lanes that people continued to park in anyway.

Denver Streetsblog says glowing balloons aren’t the answer to keeping people safe on the city’s streets.

A teenaged Rhode Island bike rider escaped serious injury when he was collateral damage in a road rage dispute between two drivers who chased each other around a Burger King parking lot.

The company behind New York’s Citi Bike bikeshare is developing a dockless bikeshare bike that would also be compatible with existing docks.

New York City is installing free bike pumps in a trio of popular riding locations.

Philadelphia’s bikeshare bikes will sport fine art from Van Gogh and other artists.

 

International

Cycling Tips offers advice on how to keep riding once you have kids.

A British boy gets his bike back after it was stolen while he helped rescue a two-year old who had fallen into a pond, albeit much worse for wear.

Irish bike riders have been fined 1,660 times since on-the-spot fees for bicycling violations took effect two years ago; bike advocates just wish drivers would receive the same treatment.

French bike couriers say not so fast to plans from the country’s new president to relax labor laws.

A road raging Aussie bike rider has turned himself in for punching a bus driver after confronting him at a nearby bus depot. Note to Daily Mail: Of course he was still in his riding gear; was he supposed to strip naked first?

 

Finally…

Nothing like a bikeshare idea whose time has come 40 years later. Don’t believe everything your GPS tells you.

And you know you’ve got a problem when the people being paid to build a bikeway aren’t allowed ride their bikes, on or off it.

 

4 comments

  1. David says:

    “Good question. Streetsblog asks why automakers are allowed to sell cars that can go faster than 100 mph, exceeding the speed limit anywhere in the US. Judging by their ads, car makers go far beyond enabling speeding to actually encouraging dangerously aggressive driving.”

    The National Highway Transportation agency could impose safety rules on Manufactures that a computer enabled governor must be installed on vehicles that limits the speed to 100 MPH–that would be easy. All they would need to do is reprogram the computer that comes on all cars today that regulates the engine. Really 85 MPH because no state has a limit above that.

    • bikinginla says:

      When my dad carried mail, his truck had a mechanical governor that limited its max speed to 35 mph.

      It would be hard to get something like that passed now, though; public safety usually takes a back seat to personal freedom, even when it comes to breaking the law.

    • I’ve read many car reviews that say the car’s top speed is limited electronically to a certain speed. Of course, that speed may be at the engine redline, and the speed is always well north of 100 mph.

  2. Ralph says:

    GPS tied to speed limit data tied to cars speedometer. Problem solved.

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