Surgeons call for kinder, gentler mandatory helmet laws; and new OC wilderness park opens this weekend

The American College of Surgeons has once again called for the adoption of mandatory bike helmet laws for both children and adults.

However, the group also recognized the need for equitable and fair enforcement, after numerous reports of bike laws unfairly targeting people of color; Seattle dropped one of the nation’s few adult helmet laws last year due to enforcement targeting homeless and Black bicyclists.

According to the group,

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,000 people die and 350,000 people are treated in emergency departments each year due to bicycle injuries in the US. Bicycle crashes accounted for $5.4 billion in medical costs in 2020 and an additional $7.7 billion in lost lives, work, and productivity.

Helmet use has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of fatal and nonfatal head injuries. Estimates indicate that helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 48%, traumatic brain injury by 53%, facial injury by 23%, and fatal injury by 34%.1

However, they fail to mention that bike helmets are designed to protect against relatively slow speed falls, not the collisions implied in the first paragraph.

Or that a far better solution is to redesign motor vehicles to reduce injuries to people walking and biking, and reimagine streets to prevent collisions in the first place. Not to mention slowing cars to reduce their lethality.

But somehow, they don’t call for that.

Yes, bike helmets can significantly reduce injury and death. But they should always be seen as the last resort when all else fails, not the first line of defense for bike safety.

And they should never be required by law, which would only reduce ridership at a time when we need to get more people on bikes in the face of a climate emergency.

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The new Saddleback Wilderness park is opening this Saturday, offering 3.3 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails in the OC Parks’ Irvine Ranch Open Space near Silverado.

The wilderness park used to be the site of the country’s first off-road motorsports park, but nature was allowed to reclaim it after the park closed in 1984.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on rolling.

San Luis Obispo’s car-forward columnist is back with another screed complaining about the city’s “illogical transportation agenda,” which includes new protected bike lanes and bike boulevards, as well as promotion of ebikes, which he somehow considers motor vehicles.

No bias here. London’s Daily Mail seemingly applauds vigilante “freedom fighters” who torched planters blocking motor vehicles from “deeply unpopular” Low Traffic Neighborhoods — even though LTN supporters outnumber opponents three to one. Along with a driver who confronts “eco-zealots” trying to block her from illegally driving through an LTN in violation of a No Cars sign.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

A bicycle-riding purse snatcher knocked a 74-year old Florida woman to the ground after riding up from behind, then grabbing her purse and riding away — but all he got was a water bottle and her keys.

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Local 

A West Hollywood man complains that riding a scooter on the sidewalk resulted in a $37 ticket he can’t afford, but he’ll keep doing it because he doesn’t want to die riding in the street.

Your next ride along the San Gabriel River should be a little more pleasant, after the Army Corps of Engineers removed 144 tons — yes, tons — of trash from it.

Avril Lavigne is one of us, riding her throttle-controlled ped-assist ebike along the beach in a one-legged Superman pose.

 

State

An environmental website recommends seven “incredible” bike trails in the mountains and along the coast in San Diego.

San Diego State University received a $10 million grant to study how to make streets safer, more livable and more equitable for people biking and walking.

San Jose police arrested a 27-year old woman for killing a mother and a dog in a hit-and-run, as the victim was out walking the dog with her young daughter.

San Francisco Streetsblog calls on readers to join the fight for a Dutch-style protected bike lane on Valencia Street, rather than the center-lane bike lane the city has chosen.

Sad news from Stockton, where a 52-year old man riding a bicycle was killed when he was struck by the driver of a big rig truck.

 

National

A new federal study shows building protected bike lanes result in a gradual reduction in bicycling crashes. It also shows fewer bicycling crashes on streets with no parking in at least one direction.

Esquire says the author of Carmeggedon makes “an oddly compelling case to ditch your car.”

A writer for left-leaning magazine The Nation calls for “mass action and solidarity (to) force those in power to change our streets for the better,” arguing that people on bicycles deserve the right to free movement.

Streetsblog examines laws that restrict walking and biking, arguing that they are used to unfairly restrict the mobility of Black people.

Fed up with drivers parking in bike lanes, and the city’s inaction in dealing with the problem, a Seattle bike rider printed and posted his own No Parking signs; days later, one was missing and the other had been run over.

Illinois prosecutors have filed first degree murder and reckless homicide charges against an alleged DUI driver who killed a bike rider while driving under the influence of drugs.

Tragic news from Pittsburgh, where a transportation planner and former city intern was fatally shot in the head as he was riding his bike to baseball practice; police arrested a suspect but didn’t have a motive for the shooting.

Pennsylvania school bus drivers are selling 150 donated bicycles to help people in need. Then again, they could probably help them more by giving the bikes to people in need to provide cheap and efficient transportation.

A Chattanooga, Tennessee letter writer says bike safety is horrendous in the city, and city officials don’t care.

Dashcam video captured a Florida hit-and-run, as a driver went through a red light and clipped the front wheel of a 65-year old woman as she rode her bike in the crosswalk; she ended up with numerous cuts and scrapes, and may lose vision in one eye.

 

International

A Scottish physician and “keen cyclist” calls for something to be done about poorly paid and poorly trained workers delivering often unhealthy junk food on ebikes in an unsafe way to people sitting on their sofas.

A new documentary tells the story of a French man with no legs who used a handcycle to finish the Race Across America, aka RAAM, in just 12 days.

An Aussie council considers banning ebikes from an oceanfront pathway along the sea wall, where all bikes were banned until 1995.

 

Competitive Cycling

Cycling Weekly says Belgian cycling star Wout van Aert allowed top lieutenant Christophe Laporte to win at Gent-Wevelgem, ensuring his support for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. Then again, that should have been a given from his teammate, anyway.

SoCal Cycling reports on the Victorville Stage Race, written by the winner of the U23 jersey.

Belgian ultra endurance cyclist Matthieu Bonne set a new Guinness world record for total distance ridden in a single week, riding over 2,248 miles in and around the Phoenix area.

A new Montana study used isotope tracers to examine calorie usage and physiology in a 24-hour mountain bike race.

 

Finally…

Kitsbow may be going out of business, but you can still buy their clothing if you don’t mind used bikewear. That feeling when the dance club is a bike.

And a look at the science behind why you don’t fall over on your bike.

Unless maybe you do, of course.

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Ramadan Mubarak to all observing the Islamic holy month. 

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Oh, and fuck Putin, too.

One comment

  1. The ACS points out that more than 1,000 people die and 350,000 are seen in emergency departments annually due to bicycle injuries in the US.

    Pretty close with their 1000 deaths but ignoring the fact that in the 1990s, before mandatory and voluntary helmet wearing were entrenched, the annual fatality rate was less than 800.

    The death toll increased in tandem with the proportion of US cyclists wearing helmets.

    350,000 cyclists in ED? It was actually just 318,243 in 2020, and that’s an improvement on 430,254 in 2001.

    Unfortunately, there were 60,172 cyclist head injury presentations to ED in 2001 and 66,161 in 2020 (up 10%). Traumatic brain injury for cyclists in ED … 34,879 in 2020 and 53,778 in 2020 (up 54.2%).

    That’s emergency departments. For actual hospital admissions of cyclists, there were 21,024 in 2001 and 51,530 in 2020 (up 145.1%), with hospitalised cyclist head injuries at 6,873 in 2001 and 13,861 in 2020 (up 101.7%), and hospitalised cyclist TBI at 4,998 in 2001 and 12,432 in 2020 (up 148.7%).

    Helmet advocates might choose to ignore that and proudly point out the ED overall injury drop from 430,254 in 2001 to 318,243 in 2020 – a 26.0% reduction they’ll attribute to mostly mandatory helmets among youth and a big voluntary uptake by adults.

    Unfortunately, US Census Bureau data suggest a 42.5% decline in 7-17yo cycling participation from 1995 to 2009. Sports industry surveys show 17.6 million Americans aged 7-17yo cycled at least once a year in 2000 and 10.1 million in 2014 – a 42.6% reduction. 18y+ cycling was static at 25.5 million in 2000 and in 2014.

    National Household Travel Survey bicycle trip estimates show 41,029 cyclists per 100,000 population aged 5-15yo in 2001 and 16,398 per 100,000 population in 2017 (down 60%), with 6,614 cyclists per 100,000 population aged 16yo+ in 2001 and 10,865 per 100,000 population in 2017 (up 64.3%).

    Overall ED presentation have declined because helmets have dissuaded huge numbers of kids from cycling, with sombre implications for future public health in a country already boasting the highest obesity rate in the developed world.

    Doctors support the popular myth that you’ll be dead or disabled without a bike helmet, but the statistics suggest otherwise.

    Nitty gritty detail at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.02.12.23285812v1.full.pdf