Archive for category science
There’s this guy. You might know one too. He’s a lot like you or I. He rides his bike on the same streets. He gets overtaken by impatient F-150s. He’s a cyclist. There’s one major difference, though. Unlike you or I, he tends to get hit by cars; frequently. Most of the time, he comes away without any serious injuries (which is more than I can say for his bikes – carbon fiber, it turns out is the real victim here).
When I first started riding I thought maybe this guy spent more time on busy roads than I did. But slowly, I began to think there might be something else, something that didn’t have anything to do with where he was riding or what he was wearing (more garish colors than I). It was when he told me about his 4th crash involving a car that I began to wonder if, perhaps, it was the way he rode.
It turns out, I might have been on the right track. Last month the City of Minneapolis published a study that examined 2,973 bicycle-motorist crashes that took place over a 10 year period and one of the many interesting bits of data they uncovered was that the cyclist involved is, at least partially, at fault in 59% of all crashes (motorists were, at least partially, at fault in 63.9%*).
If you’d asked me a few weeks ago I’d probably have guessed that cyclists were at fault in about 30% of all accidents. I’ve seen a lot of motorists do a lot of dumb things (I’ll even admit to being a motorist doing a dumb thing once or twice) and it’s easy to assume, because they’re the more vulnerable of the two groups, cyclists are always the victims. But, you have to admit, it sort of makes sense.
I consider myself a careful cyclist 95% percent of the time. During my commute, I’m alert and cautious and often yield even when I have the right of way. I check driveways and think about how to react when the unexpected happens. These things don’t make me invincible, I know that. It is nice to know, perhaps, they do make me a little safer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming that guy who gets hit by a car once a year for everything. Some of it is bad luck and some if it is bad driving and, maybe, some of it is bad cycling. It is nice to know, as I’m riding my 25 pound bike next to a 2 ton truck, what I do makes a difference.
* Adds up to more than 100% as in some crashes both motorist and cyclist share fault.
On why steel seems to be lacking confidence:
As though the metal whose name stands for toughness would float away ethereally if we didn’t know how goddamn present and corporeal it is. Is Carbon mythological? Is Aluminium a fairy-tale? Is @titanium a fake account?
Not long after reading that Senator Barbara Boxer (D – CA) and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is trying to make it more difficult to ride your bike, GOOD pointed me to this study that was published by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study looked a the benefits of reducing car usage for short urban and suburban trips:
Reductions in PM2.5 related mortality across the Midwest are shown in Figure 2a, with the total impact across the 37,000 square mile region being 433 fewer deaths. Asthma exacerbations would decrease annually by over 2,000 cases. Also, there would be approximately 75 fewer COPD cases, while net respiratory symptoms, hospital admissions and ER visits would decrease by 93,607 cases annually. For cardiovascular disease, there would be approximately 660 fewer cases of non-fatal AMI and hospital admissions. Savings from reduced annual mortality would reach almost $3.5 billion.
Based on WHO HEAT, we estimated that completing 50% of short trips by bicycle would result in average annual savings over $2.5 billion for short suburban bicycle trips and nearly $1.25 billion for short urban trips (Table 3), for a total of approximately $3.8 billion in benefits across an estimated population of 2 million people, and a reduction in premature mortality of almost 700 deaths per year.
If you’re keeping track that’s $7 billion/year in savings just by replacing a car with a bike for half of all short trips.
In this context what kind of sense does legislation that makes it more difficult to ride a bike make sense? Perhaps we should make it more difficult to drive.
“It appears that motorists adjust their behaviour in the presence of increasing numbers of people bicycling because they expect or experience more people cycling,” says Sydney University’s Dr Chris Rissel, one of the authors of the 2008 study. “Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists.”