Posted in bicycling, risk on October 16, 2014 |
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California (and many other states) have singled out children for mandatory bike legislation. The “logic” is that if kids need car seats in automobiles, then they also need helmets when riding on bikes.
But when looking at the actual data, this makes no sense. Young children have much lower fatality risk compared to other age groups. According to the NHTSA, the 14-and-under age group makes up 9% of bicycle fatalities. It is adult males who account for most bike fatalities.
(In France, incidentally, senior citizens are the ones most at risk from cycling fatalities. The French Cycling Federation argues that if any age group were to be singled out for mandatory helmet laws, it should be the elderly.)
Which brings us to today’s ridiculous story:
A man filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing San Francisco police officers of wrongfully arresting him and forcibly taking his infant son from him after stopping him for riding his bike with his child strapped to his chest in a Baby Bjorn carrier. Takuro Hashitaka said he and his then-10-month-old son, Moku, were riding in a bike lane on Eighth Street headed to a Trader Joe’s two blocks from his South of Market home on Dec. 13.
The infant was strapped to Hashitaka in a Baby Bjorn and “further secured by a sweatshirt that had been modified into a traditional baby carrier garment with a hole for Moku’s head,” said the federal civil rights suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Officers Anthony Bautista and Brendan Caraway came up behind them in the bike lane and “came close” to hitting them, the suit says.
Caraway asked over the patrol cruiser’s loudspeaker why the baby wasn’t wearing a helmet, and Hashitaka, “unaware of a requirement for a baby to wear a bike helmet,” asked the officer “what the authority was for this,” the suit says. The officers activated their lights and stopped Hashitaka at a gas station at Eighth and Harrison streets, the suit says.
The officers grabbed Hashitaka’s wrists, telling him he was being arrested and that Child Protective Services would take his son, according to the suit. Other officers arrived and took Hashitaka to the ground and choked him until he lost consciousness.
If officer Caraway were to ever visit Europe or Japan, the jails would fill up:
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Posted in risk on September 16, 2014 |
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HR 3040 (Safe Freight Act) and S2784 (Rail Safety Improvement Act) have been introduced in Congress. The legislation would require freight trains to be crewed by both a conductor and an engineer. The unions are obviously very much in favor of the bills, predicting a “safety disaster” should freight trains have just a single crew member:
Part of the excuse for single-person crews is the coming of yet another new technology, positive train control, which Congress is mandating the rail carriers all adopt by 2015. This automated system will track trains’ speed and position, and apply the brakes in certain situations. Railroaders call this tech advance a good thing—but as an additional boost to safety, not something you’d want to rely on to replace a human. “The railroad unions have been asking for PTC to be implemented as a safety overlay, not in place of a crew member,” Wright says.
Even as companies have been lobbying to delay PTC because of its cost, they’ve also been eyeing it as an opportunity to cut labor costs. They will save billions of dollars if they can implement one-person crews, says Kaminkow.
Contrary to the aims of the legislation, a two-man crew mandate could actually reduce the overall safety of the transportation system. That is because increasing costs for freight train operators makes them less competitive against trucking. The end result will be more cargo shipped by truck — a mode of transport orders of magnitude more deadly than trains.
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Posted in bicycling, risk on July 15, 2014 |
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Here is another bicycle scare article, this time in the Daily Mail. These bicycle health studies are so ridiculous:
Middle aged men who spend nine hours a week on their bike are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, new research suggests. A British study of 5,200 cyclists is the biggest research project ever conducted on the health impact of cycling.
It suggests that cyclists in in their 50s who bicycle for more than nine hours a week may be up to five times as likely to receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The team of scientists at University College London, found there was no link between cycling and infertility or erectile problems – an age-old health myth.
There were numerous problems with the study. Here is what the NHS website reports:
Despite these seemingly alarming results, regular cyclists do not need to panic – this type of study cannot prove increased cycling time leads to prostate cancer; it can only prove an association.
Also, the prostate cancer analyses were only carried out on fewer than 42 men, which is only a relatively small sample of men. With such a small sample, it increases the possibility that any association is the result of chance. Most experts would agree that the health benefits of frequent cycling outweigh the risks.
Even worse, the study “participants” self-reported through an online survey.
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Posted in risk, transit, tagged APTA, DHS, TSA on July 9, 2014 |
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There is probably no safer place than public transit stations and vehicles. Despite what you see in the movies and on TV, the incidence of crime is rare. But since the 9/11 attacks, the Dept. of Homeland Security has provided over $1 billion in grants to public transit agencies through the Transit Security Grant Program. A large chunk of that money has gone to visual surveillance systems.
For the 2015 budget, the DHS wants to eliminate dedicated public transit grants — though transit agencies could still apply for funding under a different National Preparedness Grant Program.
The American Public Transit Assoc (APTA) has come out against this idea. In fact, APTA wants another $6 billion:
We are well aware of the many pressures on our nation’s budget and the importance of addressing other national funding priorities; however, the current level of transit security funding is woefully inadequate as the Transit Security Grant Program is the primary source of funding for security needs of public transportation agencies. To put the current level of investment in transit security into greater perspective, we note that a 2010 APTA survey of its members found security investment needs in excess of $6.4 billion nationwide. APTA urges Congress to acknowledge the risk that our citizens and transit systems continue to face, and restore appropriations for the Transit Security Grant Program in this and subsequent appropriation bills to levels closer to those authorized under the 9/11 Commission Act.
When transit agencies receive the DHS funding, they don’t pretend it has anything to do with terrorism. Trimet (to use one example) spent $5 million for 4,400 cameras, with an additional $7.5 million in the pipeline. The cameras were useful for catching vandals and gropers. That kind of criminal certainly deserves to be punished, but they are hardly Al Qaeda.
The sad thing is that there is one very significant part of the transportation system that could benefit from surveillance cameras: our roads and highways. Speed cameras are proven effective in reducing crashes and injuries. Just imagine if $1+ billion had been spent on that.
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Posted in bicycling, risk, tagged helmets on June 17, 2014 |
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In December 2012, Dr. Fred Rivara gave an alarming TED Talk about the spread of bikeshare programs across the nation. This was a big problem, he argued, because bikeshare riders generally do not wear helmets. He predicted mass carnage as a result, and published a paper that purported to show a 14% increased risk of head injuries as a result of bikeshare.
But when the data in the paper was examined, it was clear that bikeshare had the opposite effect. Cities with bikeshare programs saw a substantial reduction in head injuries.
It is not the first time Dr. Rivara has cried wolf.
Beginning in 1989, he published a series of papers claiming that bike helmets reduce the risk of head injury by a whopping 85%. He is the original bike helmet alarmist. And while his papers were heavily criticized for their methods and conclusions, that did not prevent legislators from passing mandatory helmet laws.
But following passage of the helmet laws, a funny thing happened: There was no change in the rate of bicyclist injuries or fatalities. For example, a study of Canadian helmet legislation in the BMJ states: “we were unable to detect an independent effect of legislation on the rate of hospital admissions for cycling related head injuries.” A study of Australia helmet legislation (“No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets”) made the same conclusion. Australia, by the way, is the most perfect laboratory for bike helmet effectiveness, because the entire country overnight instituted strict helmet laws. The fact that no effect was detected is astonishing, given Rivara’s claim that helmets are 65% effective against motor vehicle collisions.
When real world experimental data fails to validate a theoretical model, it means the model is wrong. Twice now, Dr. Rivara’s theory has failed in dramatic fashion. The fact that he refuses to give up his theory means he is nothing more than a crackpot.
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Posted in risk on June 13, 2014 |
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NPR and many other news outlets are reporting that brain injury rates have increased in cities with bike-share programs. The implication is that these bikeshare riders are not riding with helmets, and getting brained. That is the conclusion of a paper published by Dr. Janessa Graves of Washington State University.
And yet the data in the paper showed the exact opposite. Total number of head injuries in cities with bikeshare declined significantly — despite an increasing number of bicyclists. All that changed was that there was a marginal increase in the proportion of injuries that were head related. However, the paper can’t ascertain whether those head injuries had anything to do with bikeshare, or even whether those injured were wearing helmets.
This is the worst kind of junk science. While it is understandable that journalists could be fooled by this bullshit, how did this paper ever pass peer review?
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Posted in risk, transit, tagged FRA on June 12, 2014 |
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Over at Railway Age, Frank Wilner has some scathing criticism of the FRA’s proposed two-person crew mandate. According to Wilner, there is no factual basis for two-man crews, which leads to the suspicion that the purpose is union featherbedding:
In 2009, the FRA said it had “no factual evidence to support [a] prohibition against one-person crew operations.” The California Public Utilities Commission concluded a two-person crew “could aggravate engineer distraction,” while the National Transportation Safety Board does not oppose phasing out two-person crews as other safety enhancements, such as PTC, are implemented.
Yet in April, the FRA, at the urging of labor, said it would promulgate a rule requiring two-person crews. Privately, some at FRA disparage the agency’s effort as “the Book of Mormon,” saying FRA lacks data, and its arguments are ubiquitous with the term, “we believe.”
Regulatory actions should be data driven. Yet when a carrier official suggested a data-driven approach, an FRA official responded—according to FRA-prepared meeting minutes—“What would be the objective of this exercise?” That the FRA administrator is a former union officer legitimately adds to anxieties.
Congressional oversight may soon probe what really is going on, and surely if the FRA proceeds, a federal court challenge, accompanied by extensive pre-trial discovery, will focus sunlight. Clearly not the FRA’s finest hour, this may well be its nadir.
The FRA has never been data-driven. It is all hocus pocus and pseudo-science.
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