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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Germany pushes Greece towards fascism

From Paul Krugman's blog:

Austerity, it turns out, has devastated Greece just about as much as defeat in total war devastated imperial Germany. The idea of demanding that this economy triple the size of its primary surplus is...disturbingThis looks to me like an attempt to force Greece out of the euro, right now. German policy is objectively pro-Grexit.

It’s also, given the likely fallout, objectively pro-Golden Dawn.