Thursday, February 19, 2015

More on the helmet issue

Paul Chinn photo

The Chronicle gets almost everything wrong in its editorial ("Go slow with this legislation," Feb. 18) on the proposed bike helmet legislation.

At least the editorial writer read State Senator Liu's press release on the bill, since the editorial cites the same accident numbers, except for the not-wearing-helmets fatality percentage. From that press release:

Bicycle rider injuries in traffic accidents have increased steadily in California. Nearly 14,000 bicyclists were hurt in crashes in 2012, up from 11,760 in 2008, according to the California Highway Patrol. Bicyclists who don’t wear helmets are far more likely to be hurt or killed in accidents. Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly were not wearing helmets, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported.

The Chronicle plays the class struggle card:

In addition to all of the usual nanny-state finger pointing, additional laws about gear could put bicycling out of reach for California's massive low-income population. Bicycle shouldn't be an elite activity.

Bullshit. You can get a bike helmet for $10 to $20, and there's apparently no relationship between price and effectiveness. Besides, cycling already is---and always will be---"an elite activity," since it's mostly about well-off white men (see this and this).

The Chronicle toes the party line as per City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition: safety on city streets is really about those wicked motor vehicles:

Over the years, vehicle fatalities have plummeted as car manufacturers have added safety features like seat belts, air bags, and anti-lock brakes. But drivers aren't extending that extra safety to pedestrians and bicyclists---San Francisco had a total of 29 traffic deaths in 2014, of which 17 were pedestrians and three were cyclists.

As the SFPD study on 2014 traffic fatalities in the city found, reported about in the Chronicle last month, it's bad behavior by everyone on city streets, not just motorists, that leads to accidents and death. Those three cyclists died because of their own recklessness, and nine of those 17 pedestrians were also responsible for their own deaths.

Of the other fatalities last year, one motorist died when he crashed in a stolen car while being chased by police, as did a motorcyclist. Another man climbed on top of a tanker truck, fell into traffic and was killed. Two motorcyclists were shot and killed by a motorist and two other motorcyclists died due to their own negligence.

That makes a total of 18 of the 29 city traffic fatalities that had nothing to do with motorists not "extending safety" to pedestrians and cyclists.

But one wonders about the accuracy of the SFPD's fatality count, since this accident wasn't in Commander Ali's report.

But here's some important perspective: If the city's numbers are to be trusted---and they probably should be, since it's easier to count fatalities than accidents overall---the 2006 Collisions Report (page 4) says that 53 people died on our streets in 1998, and there's been a steady decline in deaths since then.

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10 Comments:

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Vince said...

Interesting response to Streetsblog's Phil Matier article:

Cynic13

I’m in the middle of $11,000 in dental work (all coming out of my own pocket) occasioned by a bicycle spill. Although I am a committed bicycle commuter, I am under no illusions: bicycling is dangerous and a net social loss. I strongly believe that we should ban bicycles on public roads, and get around by car, jitney, or bus — eventually driverless vehicles. Exercise in a gym – not in traffic.

I’m OK with people not wearing helmets – but they must be responsible for their own medical expenses and lifetime care if they’re crippled. If they expect the rest of us to pay their bills, then a helmet law makes perfect sense.

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This comment by Cynic13 is pure bullshit by a troll.

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Vince said...

I thought it was a good example of being addled by a helmetless fall.

 
At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob - that isn't the first time I've agreed with you, but it's one of the few.

But seriously - pointing out that you can get a $10 helmet online? If someone can't scrape up $40 to buy one at a bike shop, how exactly do they have an internet connection? Or the knowledge of how to use one? Or even know the internet exists?

 
At 11:16 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The point is that bike helmets aren't too expensive for a low-wage worker. It's just bullshit to use that as an argument against the mandatory helmet law, which, by the way, I don't necessarily support. I just think any cyclist with any sense of reality would wear a helmet, and most cyclists do in fact wear helmets.

 
At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

Love how your bias clearly shows through on your articles. One one hand you have pedestrians and cyclists that should be responsible for their own safety, and yet you never bring to light the larger responsibility that someone driving a 2 ton vehicle at high velocity has in a pedestrian dense city should have. You never make even the slight indication that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't have as many cars in this kind of environment. The helmet issue is just a small part of a larger conversation that you've never had to balls to tackle. Keep fighting the good fight against those cyclists! At least before you become to old and feeble and become the most vulnerable street user.

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The "larger issue" being those wicked motor vehicles? This post is about the proposed mandatory helmet law, not the tired Cars versus Everyone Else issue. As that SFPD report I wrote about the other day shows, all the cyclists who died on city streets last year and half of the pedestrian fatalities were due to their own reckless behavior.

Cars, buses, and trucks---all our goods are delivered by trucks---are here to stay. Given the ongoing gentrification of the city, there are likely to be even more cars on city streets in the future.

I'm already old, though not feeble. We all supposedly learned as children to be careful when crossing the street. Some people have apparently forgotten that advice.

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

by the way Inconvenient conclusion: car helmets would save far more lives than bicycle helmets, given CDC data

http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/

The top three causes are: car accident, firearms and falls.

http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/understanding-tbi/what-are-the-causes-of-tbi/

I expect your next blog to inform your readers to wear a helmet next time they are in their car.

 
At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

You do realize we don't live in a sprawling suburb right? We live in a condensed pedestrian heavy environment where people could conceivably drive a bike without being killed. So let me get this straight:

You don't advocate any improvements with buses, or dedicating lanes.

You oppose any changes to bus infrastructure. You don't believe in Vision Zero.

You don't believe that laws should be in favor of the people who only harm themselves and not others.

You believe in laws that have been created to absolve people driving cars from any meaningful punishment.

How do you expect anyone to believe you're nothing but a crackpot when you subversively advocate the death of pedestrians and cyclists.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This is stupid stuff.

"You don't advocate any improvements with buses, or dedicating lanes.You oppose any changes to bus infrastructure."

I don't own a car and rely on Muni to get around the city, so of course I support providing the system with enough money to function properly. Muni is in fact the only realistic alternative to driving for people like me and others who can't afford a car---or just don't want to own one.

"You don't believe in Vision Zero."

No, I don't because it's just a slogan, not a program or project. Given human nature, it's impossible to have no fatalities on the streets of a major US city regardless of how well-designed those streets are. In SF Vision Zero is just being used by the Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF, and the MTA to continue doing what they've been doing for the last ten years: make it unnecessarily harder and more expensive to drive in the city even as the city preys on motorists with the most expensive parking tickets in the country.

"You believe in laws that have been created to absolve people driving cars from any meaningful punishment."

Nope. Not sure what you're referring to here and neither are you. Go back to Streetsblog to clarify the party line and report back here.

 

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