Saturday, December 07, 2013

New York Times and cycling safety

CBS 5 photo

Though the New York Times is probably the best newspaper in the country, its stories can be biased. A good example is its recent story on the UC study finding that cycling accidents in San Francisco are under-reported. From that story:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps statistics on deaths and emergency room visits resulting from bicycle accidents. The yearly death rate has ranged from 0.26 to 0.35 per 100,000 population, with no particular pattern; in 2010, the agency says, there were 800 bicycle fatalities, about one-fortieth of all road deaths. “There is no trend,” said Linda Degutis, the director of the agency’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, who added that bicycling seemed no more dangerous than other sports.

"No trend"? Click on the CDC link provided in the paragraph above, and you find this:

While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do. In 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries. Data from 2005 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $5 billion.

After trying to match the cycling accidents between 2000 and 2009 reported by the SF Police Department with those recorded at San Francisco General Hospital, the city's primary trauma center, the study found that 2,583 cycling accidents were not reported by the SFPD[Later: Wrong! The study actually found that 55% of these accidents weren't matched by a police report, which is a total of 1,377 accidents not reported].

It's fair to say that riding a bike in San Francisco is a lot more dangerous than the city has been reporting.

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At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for staying on this issue Rob. The families and friends of all the dead victims killed after getting hit by trucks, cars, and buses are grateful for the light you're shedding on this critical issue.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The moral of the story: don't ride a bike. It's too dangerous---in San Francisco and everywhere else.

The authors of the UC study were shocked to learn that cyclists injured in a "cyclist-only" accident that had nothing to do with another vehicle, were just as badly injured as those hit by trucks, cars, and buses.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crazy. How many of the fatalities have been solo falls?

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Okay, I'll bite. How many?

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, I was asking you because you seem to know these statistics and have a copy of the report, yeah?

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Okay, sorry to be dismissive. Actually, that's a good question. Since the city has been systematically under-counting cycling accidents, has it also been under-counting fatalities? The UC study is murky on that issue. I've sent an email message to Dr. Dicker asking her to clarify this. If she responds, I'll post it.

In the meantime, it's fair to say that cycling fatalities are relatively rare, with an average of 1.7 deaths a year in San Francisco. See page 23 of the city's latest Collision Report.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And how many drivers are injured every year Rob? And how many of those are solo crashes?

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Dr. Dicker didn't condescend to respond to my inquiry, even though she works for a public hospital and her study was paid for with taxpayers' money. Putting the study behind a paywall is also insulting.

The people of San Francisco should have to pay to read an important study about the safety of city streets they paid for?


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