Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Indoctrinating children in cycling as a "lifestyle"

In the comments this blog gets from cyclists, many claim that riding a bike is not in fact a dangerous way to get around the city. 

When you look at the numbers (American Association of Neurological Surgeons, below in italics), you can see that claim is untrue: 500,000 annual "bicycle-related" injuries overall in the US requiring visits to emergency rooms, including more than 65,000 head injuries, with 600 fatalities from those injuries. 

Cycling easily leads the list of all recreational activities that result in brain injury for both adults and children under 14 years old.

The latter fact makes it particularly irresponsible for the city to encourage cycling among children, which the Bicycle Plan does:
Bicycling and walking are the only independent transportation modes available to children. Bicycling allows children to explore their neighborhood, get exercise, and gain a valuable skill that is useful for a lifetime. Before the age of nine, most children do not have the maturity and developmental skills required to ride a bicycle in urban traffic situations...

In addition to technical skill and traffic laws, bicycle-safety education for children should promote bicycling as an enjoyable transportation method with positive lifestyle, health, and environmental benefits. Programs and practices that will make bicycling to school easier and safer, such as the Safe Routes to Schools Program, should also be promoted (page 5.7 and page 5.8, Framework Document, SF Bicycle Plan).
Once our kids are nine years old the city thinks they are ready to cruise city streets on their bikes along with trucks, Muni buses, and SUVs!

It evidently isn't stupid enough for city government to redesign our streets on behalf of this small minority with the dangerous hobby; it also wants to risk the lives of the city's children by encouraging them to ride bikes on city streets!

This gross irresponsibility is included in the volume of the Bicycle Plan the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to make part of the city's General Plan.

Cycling: Every year, more than 500,000 people visit emergency rooms in the United States with bicycle-related injuries. Of those, more than 65,000 were head injuries in 2006. There are about 600 deaths a year, with two-thirds being attributed to TBI[traumatic brain injury]. It is estimated that up to 85 percent of head injuries can be prevented through proper usage of SNELL, ANSI or ASTM-approved helmets. It is essential that the helmet fit properly so that it doesn’t fall off during a fall...
The top 10 head injury categories among children ages 14 and younger:

Cycling: 34,359
Football: 14,626
Baseball and Softball: 11,835
Basketball: 11,682
Skateboards/Scooters: 10,538
Water Sports: 7,836
Powered Recreational Vehicles: 7,652
Soccer: 6,494
Trampolines: 6,007
Winter Sports: 4,874

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At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob -

This is exactly the kind of post that proves your motivation in the lawsuit is a vendetta. The reason you get so much hate mail is because you don't have the balls to admit it. Instead you pretend to care about the legal standing of the EIC, but the truth is you finally found a legal loophole that you could use to screw with cyclists (and the city). You hate bikes. I dare you to publish this. I double dare you to admit that you just plain hate bikes and that your hatred is the reason behind your lawsuit.

Do you have the guts?

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

600 Fatalities? That's insanely nothing. There are over 35,000 deaths due to automobiles per year, google it.

Kids like to bike you fucking fag. Just because your father beat you and wouldn't let you have a bike doesn't mean you should take bikes from other kids.

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sound's like someone wasn't allowed to bike as a child! Boo Hoo.

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Oh Dave, where did we go wrong with our relationship? Actually, the reason I get hate mail is because, like you, some bike guys and gals are full of hate. And, also like you, they seem incapable of coming to grips with a factual argument. You still have shown no knowledge of either the Bicycle Plan or the litigation. If you morons want to risk your lives riding bikes, I have no objection at all; let the relentless Darwinian process to which we are all subject sort things out. What I object to is the idea that you crackpots should be allowed to redesign city streets in defiance of the 98% of city residents who have too much sense to use bikes as transportation. The real question is, Do you have the guts to even try to come to grips with anything I've written about your stupid hobby? The intellectual level you guys operate on is pathetic, but hey, thanks for the input, boys! You can unfurrow your pimply brows and go back to your Ipods and your videos now.

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fag - It's not a hobby, and it's not a political statement. You just hate it because you're a fucking jerk. I am full of hate for you because you pump hate out into the city. See you simple it is? The fact that you make outrageous statements like "I'm risking my life" proves you are a fucking asshole. Period.

I've read the fucking EIC and your lawsuit and I know as much about it as you do. I don't dispute the legality of your claim. I dispute the fact that it fucking matters. It's like giving tickets for jaywalking.

At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jowells - cool it brother, you're just feeding the troll. I do agree, however, that kids should be encouraged to bike. I'm just not sure San Francisco is ideal for it, unfortunately, but certainly in the parks it's a great option.

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, there is some factor of risk in bicycling. But I have trouble with your solution. Instead of removing this activity and discouraging people from cycling altogether, why not try and MAKE IT SAFER. We could make our streets safer and calmer, and bicycling on small neighborhood streets WOULD be something people would feel comfortable letting children do. Do you deny this possibility? Has your pessimism prohibited you from dreaming of better streets and neighborhoods? I know there is a long way to go, but let's GO THERE instead of sighing and saying, "no it can't be done."

And what about all the negative health effects of children NOT getting enough physical activity? Surely the alarming rise of diabetes and obesity in our kids is a problem. I'm not saying the biking is the win-all solution to that, but it is a part of it. What is wrong with encouraging children to get physical activity?

Or, instead, let's outlaw biking because it's so unsafe. Then all those injuries and accidents will go away. And then move on to getting rid of football because that's the number 2 injury-causer, and then let's just keep going down the list till everyone is just fat and sitting inside playing nintendo. does that sound good??

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...


At least you admit that there is "some factor of risk" in cycling, unlike many of your comrades, who are in complete denial of the dangers. These risk factors will always deter most people from using a bike as a serious means of transportation. Cycling as a recreational activity, of course, is a different thing. The problem with your comment, Anon, is that you evidently haven't read any of my many posts on cycling on this blog. You've constructed nothing but a straw man here. I don't in fact object to making cycling in the city safer. The issue is---and always has been for me---the means by which the city has been going about doing that, that is, taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes without doing any environmental study beforehand---and not providing city residents and businesses with proper notice before doing so. That was the issue in our successful litigation against the city, which had nothing at all to do with bicycle safety per se---or even anything to do with the contents of the Bicycle Plan itself.

And, like other commenters, you assume that whatever the city and the SF Bicycle Coalition want to do to our streets is by definition going to make our streets and neighborhoods "better." Last year the city took away most of the metered parking spaces between Van Ness and Octavia, in spite of vigorous opposition from the businesses and operations---including a cancer clinic---in that area to make bike lanes. Did that make that neighborhood "better"? Only if you think creating bike lanes, regardless of the consequences to those living and working in the area, is always a Good Thing. This is only one reason why it was absolutely essential that the city do a complete EIR on the Bicycle Plan---to alert the neighborhoods to what the city planned to do to their streets.

As someone who had an active childhood, I do in fact think physical activity is a healthy thing. Since I grew up in a neighborhood that was on a hill, my siblings and I never found owning a bike particularly practical or desirable. We never felt deprived because of that. We simply used our legs to get around.

As the post to which you're responding points out, cycling obviously carries some special risks for children, particularly on our busy streets. It's just stupid and irresponsible of the city to encourage cycling---especially by children---on the streets of SF given the present level of traffic hazards.

No one is talking about "outlawing" anything, but let's at least admit to the real dangers of cycling to both children and adults.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Dustin said...

Citing bicycling as dangerous is a pretty common argument for folks who want to get cyclists off of "their" roads. Unfortunately, it has little factual basis. The numbers and the study you cite have no information on exposure - they are simply raw numbers. If discussing raw numbers, one should note that according to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States for all age groups. Motor vehicle crashes are THE LEADING cause of death (including both injury and non-injury deaths) for people aged 1-34 in the US. Year after year, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the US.

If you consider the relative safety of various activities in terms of deaths per hours of exposure, cycling is safer than even living. Here are some estimated deaths per million hours exposure from Failure Analysis Associates:

On-road motorcycling: 8.8
Living (all causes of death): 1.5
Passenger cars: 0.5
Bicycling: 0.3
Flying (scheduled domestic airlines): 0.2

Riding a bicycle, assuming one is sober, is actually quite safe. When trained in safe cycling techniques, cycling is remarkably safe.

The City promotes safe cycling through advertising campaigns, and by offering free cycling skills clinics, with special classes targeted to children, and has also given away safety equipment such as helmets and lights.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shall we stop for a second to think things through? The thing that makes cycling deadly, instead of just "dangerous" is the automobiles on the road. Every time someone takes a bike trip in the city instead of a car trip, the streets become SAFER.

90% of cycling fatalities involve collisions with motor vehicles. You take the car out of the equation and most of those accidents would probably be injuries instead of fatalities.

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

after Portland, OR instituted bicycle-friendly policies and its cycling went up by 300% over the course of a few years, the cycling accident rate did not grow by the corresponding 300%. It stayed level.

This would suggest that in Portland cycling actually got safer as more people did it.

I can anticipate your counter-argument; watch this:

Rob Says,

"This aint Portland"

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your 2% figure refers to bicycle commuters, but the accident data is over-represented by children under 16, who are not trained road-users.

This is not a fair comparison.

If you want to talk about cycling on city streets as a form of transportation, then you cannot include a bunch of statistics of four-year-olds who got run over coming out of their suburban driveway.

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IF a street is too dangerous to allow a child to bicycle on, that street is ruined and needs to be redesigned.

Are we afraid that a giant rat is going to attack the child? No. We're afraind that he'll be struck by a car.

Seems like the car here is the dangerous thing, not the bike kid.

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

DXW's comment demonstrates that crackpots are making city traffic policy. DXW, who works for MTA, claims that I want to get cyclists off the roads, though I've said many times on this blog and on local chatboards that that is not the case. I think riding a bike is a dangerous and stupid means of transportation, but we can't always protect people from their own bad judgment.

My actual objections are two-fold: First, the city must do some serious environmental and traffic studies before it implements all the Bicycle Plan "improvements." The court agreed with us on that point, which is why the city is now doing an EIR on the Bicycle Plan.

And then there's the whole delusional BikeThink perspective that insists that somehow bikes have an important role to play in our transportation system. This delusional belief is the main premise underlying the Bicycle Plan---that we should redesign our streets to accommodate what's essentially a crackpot political belief.

That an MTA employee thinks it's a sensible idea to encourage children as young as nine years old to ride bikes in SF and to accept cycling as a "lifestyle" (see chapter five in the Framework Document of the Bicycle Plan) shows how far down the crackpot road the city has gone.

DXW is probably one of those folks who tows his children in those little canvas trailers behind his bike on city streets, a shocking bit of child endangerment that's further evidence of the triumph of ideology over reality among the city's bike people.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to your own source, just one safe cycling precaution, namely a bicycle helmet, will eliminate 85% of the injuries from cycling, making it safer (again, according to the source you quote) than football, basketball, and soccer. Do you plan to ban those sports?

Physical inactivity does far more damage, to the body and mind, than sensible physical activity such as cycling for recreation or transportation. Given the known toll of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, children who learn to cycle safely will, on average, live longer with a higher quality of life than those who do not.

Again, talking about bike "nuts" simply doesn't constitute an argument.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Physical activity is a Good Thing in general, but why encourage children---the Bicycle Plan puts the age of indoctrination of cycling as a "lifestyle" at nine years old!---to engage in an intrinsically dangerous activity? Why not encourage them instead to walk in our beautiful, wakable city? Helmets---assuming people wear them---help prevent head injuries, but what about all the other, non-head injuries to cyclists? The reality is that the city doesn't really know how many cyclists are injured on its streets. I suspect the SF Bicycle Coalition doesn't really want us to know that number, which would show how really dangerous their hobby is.

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Rob,

Have you heard about the sidewalk nuts? It's totally crazy. There's a small group of people, like 4 or 5% of the population who think everyone should WALK in San Francisco!!!

Not only that, but they've taken a huge swath of the city away from cars that could be used for parking. If we got rid of sidewalks we could DOUBLE the amount of parking in San Francisco.

These crazy bastards think our kids should walk too - and get killed most likely.

As an American, I know it's my duty to drive a well protected truck at all times. What kind of city takes away my right and gives it to these crazy "Walkers" ???

Man, I also heard that in San Francisco, "parks" are actually places full of grass and trees and not "parking lots" as the name implies. What a crazy waste!!!

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

May: Pretty heavy-handed attempt at humor, May, but nice try. I do think walking is a more sensible way of getting around than bicycles, as is Muni for longer distances. City parks are full of grass and trees---and, in many instances, dogshit and the homeless.

At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Best Baby Geek said...

If you want to talk about cycling on city streets as a form of transportation, then you cannot include a bunch of statistics of four-year-olds who got run over coming out of their suburban driveway.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Where do you see "a bunch of statistics of four-year-olds who got run over coming out of their suburban driveway"?

Nothing like that in this short blog post.


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