Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mixed messages on bicycle safety

Riding a bike is dangerous for children

When it comes to the cycling fad, the NY Times is schizophrenic: As a liberal publication, it wants to be fashionable and join other libs in encouraging cycling.

On the other hand, it publishes responsible articles on the actual dangers of riding a bike, like riding without a helmet ("Grown-Up Cyclists Need Helmets, Too"):

Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 88 percent and facial injuries by 65 percent, according to a Cochrane Database Systemic Review published in 2000. Bike riders who play against those odds do not fare well in accidents. More than 90 percent of the 714 bicyclists killed in 2008 were not wearing helmets, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Last month the Times backtracked on helmets ("To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets"):

In the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God’s truth. Un-helmeted cyclists are regarded as irresponsible, like people who smoke. Cities are aggressive in helmet promotion. But many European health experts have taken a very different view: Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury. But such falls off bikes are rare---exceedingly so in mature urban cycling systems. On the other hand, many researchers say, if you force or pressure people to wear helmets, you discourage them from riding bicycles.

Of course no one is talking seriously about forcing adult cyclists to wear helmets. But how about just providing would-be cyclists with a realistic sense of the dangers involved? That's what's lacking from the bike zealots, including those here in Progressive Land.

Career bike messenger and author Robert Hurst recognized how irresponsible it is to downplay the real dangers of cycling:

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 (page 69, The Art of Cycling).

Turns out that riding a bike in New York is increasingly deadly, since the Times reports that fatalities for cyclists in that city are at an all-time high. The more people ride bikes the more injuries there will be, which is what's happening in San Francisco, too (see the 2010-2011 San Francisco Collisions Report, August 28, 2012, pages 21, 22).

But the most irresponsible thing the bike lobby in the city is doing is pushing people to let their children ride bikes on city streets. Hurst takes a dim view of that:

While [John]Forester claimed that even children could ride safely on busy streets using the vehicular-cycling principle, our way is unquestionably for adults…The streets demand from us an awareness and maturity that would be very rare in a child (page 66, The Art of Cycling).

The Bicycle Coalition still hasn't been able to convince many women that riding a bike is safe. Why is that?

The NY Times wrote about the above health hazard---you won't read about it on Streetsblog---for cyclists back in 2005.

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Central Valley takes high-speed rail to court

Drawing by Monte Wolverton

Mark Powell details the issues in the Central Valley litigation against the state's high-speed rail project:

Following the appropriation of rail bonds by the state legislature this past July, the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) began adding highly paid executives to its staff and embarked on a spending spree to advance the rail project. Against the formidable forces of the state stand two Kings County farmers, their lawyer, and the Law.
CHSRA was chartered in 1996 and tasked with "preparation of a high-speed intercity rail plan similar to California’s former freeway plan and designate an entity with stable and predictable funding sources to implement the plan" [emphasis added]. In spite of failing at this task for 16 years, the Authority now seeks to begin construction early next year in what the farmers’ lawsuit contends is in violation of the voter approved Proposition 1A ( “the Law”).
The farmers’ lawsuit, moving forward in the Superior Court of Sacramento with a trial scheduled for mid-2013, contends CHSRA, Governor Brown, and other state officials have acted lawlessly in their actions leading up to the appropriation of the rail bonds this past July and seeks to constrain the state and its officers to acting within the law when they write the required updated funding plan prior to actual release of the rail bonds.
The gist of the farmers lawsuit is that Proposition 1A requires (1) the high speed rail system be built in usable high speed rail segments “suitable and ready for high speed train operation," and (2) a certified funding plan be written showing commitments for all funds needed to complete the usable segment and a schedule for receipt of those funds. Furthermore, Proposition 1A makes no provision for funding the partial construction of a usable segment. Yet that is exactly what the state and its agencies are planning to do in the Central Valley...
Read the rest here.
Read about the Peninsula's litigation against the project here.