Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Robert Hurst: "Is cycling dangerous? Yes, it is"


Dave Snyder has a featured soundbite in a front page story in yesterday's Chronicle (Some bicyclists hardheaded over bill that would require helmets):

Some cyclists — mostly those who wear a helmet anyway — said it was a fine idea. Others, including the head of a statewide cycling advocacy group, said it was a thorn in the side of their tires. “It’s the wrong way to go,” said Dave Snyder, head of the California Bicycle Coalition. “California needs to do everything it can to increase bicycling. A helmet law puts up a barrier. We think the main way to make the streets safer for everyone is to get more people on bicycles, not fewer. A mandatory helmet law would reduce the number of cyclists and the number of trips.” Over the past decade, Snyder said, biking has gotten safer. The number of bicycle trips has nearly doubled, but the number of accidents has increased about 10 percent.

How could a mandatory helmet law "reduce the number of cyclists"? Because it would accurately convey to would-be cyclists the reality that riding a bike can be dangerous. That's why even discussing helmets makes the bike lobby uncomfortable.

Robert Hurst, bike messenger and author, cuts through the special interest group crap to the "reality":

Is cycling dangerous? Yes. Yes, it is. Deadly, no, but definitely dangerous. This is actually a controversial thing to say. There are those who bristle at any suggestion that cycling is dangerous, because they fear it will scare noncyclists away from ever ditching their cars and trying a more healthy form of transport. This is a good point, but it doesn’t change the fact that cycling is dangerous. This is not some urban legend that needs to be debunked. It is reality, and we need to embrace it (The Art of Cycling, page 69).

Dave Snyder has made a career as a bike lobbyist, beginning as head of the SF Bicycle Coalition for 11 years before Leah Shahum's regime. Snyder on cars: "the most pernicious form of urban pressure: the automobile."

Snyder thinks we should make city streets safe enough for 8-year-olds to ride their bikes. Leah Shahum flanks him on the left, since she thinks we should make them safe enough for 6-year-olds

The bike zealots hate it when I point out that in fact riding a bike is one of the most dangerous things children can do. A post on the children-and-bikes issue back in 2010 got the most comments ever.

Snyder is also the Big Thinker who formulated the city's unsuccessful strategy to illegally push the Bicycle Plan through the process before our litigation.

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19 Comments:

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Humorous considering how bicyclists love painting drivers as crazed motorists with no regard for safety. Yet opposing a helmet law is basically like opposing seat belt laws.

 
At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Koto said...

Why in the world do you care so much Rob?

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

As long as we're resisting danger-reduction rules for cyclists, why not repeal the requirements that bicycles be equipped with a brake? And headlights and reflectors after dark? And the requirement that cyclists ride in the direction of traffic?

I am old enough to remember when auto makers resisted mandatory seat belts in cars. "Safety doesn't sell." How things have changed. Now they compete for whose vehicles have the most air bags and the best accomodations for child safety seats.

It's a mystery to me why so many bicyclists, unlike horseback riders, skateboarders, skydivers and moutaineers, insist on evangelizing their pastime (my pastime too) to the unconverted. But as long as evangelize they must, it's an even bigger mystery to me why they think riding helmetless is going to attract anybody from our current population of risk-averse anxiety addicts.

 
At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good ol Dave... I miss seeing him at Zeigeist smoking dope and drinking beer.

 
At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How could a mandatory helmet law "reduce the number of cyclists"?

Some latino riding to work in the Mission who can't afford a helmet and gets pulled over by the SFPD and issued a ticket he *really* can't afford will just have to walk.

In this case cycling will be dangerous - to his wallet.

 
At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's an even bigger mystery to me why they think riding helmetless is going to attract anybody from our current population of risk-averse anxiety addicts.

Someone who is risk-averse will wear a helmet. The helmet law is mostly a reaction to cyclists who do wear helmets, but will mostly impact those who can't afford them and use a bike as subsistence transport.

 
At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funniest thing about the article is that every picture that is shown with the article shows a tourist on a rental bike.

1) People who rarely if ever bike - if this law is supposed to be about "the cyclists", people like Dave Snyder who ride all the time - why does it really target tourists who ride once a decade on vacation?

2) I find it funny that Rob - who claims that tourists drive drive drive - links to an article of tourists riding bikes to Sausalito.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I bet those tourists never ride a bike at home. Most tourists drive when they get here, in taxis, rental cars, or their own cars. Cycling to Sausalito from SF is a pretty rigorous trip by people who aren't used to riding a bike.

 
At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Snyder appears to be spoiled. He wants everyone else to do the work, pay the bills so he can get everything for free.

SFMTA's 2015-16 bicycle budget is $65 million. No complaints there. But when it comes to spending for a helmet out of pocket, it's a hardship.

On KQED Forum Snyder said he wouldn't want the gov't to force him to wear a helmet going to the corner store on his bike. How lazy can you get when you can't walk to the corner store?

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's just bullshit that helmets are too expensive. In fact there's no point in paying a lot of money for a helmet, since there's little difference in how they perform.

 
At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cycling to Sausalito from SF is a pretty rigorous trip by people who aren't used to riding a bike."

"Upwards of 1,000 people would rent bikes in San Francisco, pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito before riding a ferry back to San Francisco, bikes in tow."

Source - Marin IJ



 
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But when it comes to spending for a helmet out of pocket, it's a hardship.

Probably not for David Snyder. But there are plenty of people at or near the poverty line in SF who use a bike to get to work - distances too far to walk, and a bike is cheaper than MUNI.

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Australian bike helmet laws have been a killer of bike-share systems there, making them even less financially sustainable than elsewhere.

Data has shown people on rental bikes have fewer accidents. A major reason could be that these bikes are less nimble and light than personal bikes, resulting in slower speeds and fewer daredevil maneuvers.

Lack of a helmet can support more responsible riding. People wearing protective gear often take more chances than those without. Bike advocates love Amsterdam, featuring images of lovely helmetless women casually riding low tech, low style, heavy bicycles. Cyclists there even obey traffic laws. Here a culture of extreme sports and racing produces riders going much faster than in Amsterdam with more accidents and severe injuries (eg. Bono had a "high-energy" crash with his high-tech bike in NYC's Central Park). Bicycle worshipers want Amsterdam road accommodations but not the safer behaviors of cyclists there.

A helmet law could reduce the number of casual riders, leaving a greater proportion of fanatics on the road behaving less responsibly and swaying public opinion more against cyclists.

 
At 3:58 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Upwards of 1,000 people would rent bikes in San Francisco, pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito before riding a ferry back to San Francisco, bikes in tow." Source - Marin IJ

Yes, a one-way trip is a lot more doable. But in what time period did those 1,000 trips happen? A link to the story with that quote would help.

 
At 4:04 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"But there are plenty of people at or near the poverty line in SF who use a bike to get to work---distances too far to walk, and a bike is cheaper than MUNI."

If you can afford a bike, you can afford a helmet, which you can get for $10.

 
At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, a one-way trip is a lot more doable. But in what time period did those 1,000 trips happen? A link to the story with that quote would help.

Daily. The Marin I-J has nuked the story but the quote can be found on Google. There are so many tourist riders making this trip that it is straining the ferry system.

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can afford a bike, you can afford a helmet, which you can get for $10.

I find it deliciously ironic that you indicate that someone can get a helmet for only $10 - from Amazon.com. Let me just whip out my handy dandy $600 iPhone and hook it up to my $90/month data plan so I can order my $10 helmet!

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Right. Poor people are stupid, techno-peasants who can't possibly figure out how to buy an affordable bike helmet.

 
At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...

We should probably repeal the child-safety deat law because child-safety seats cost more than poor drivers can afford.

 

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