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Archive for the ‘risk’ Category

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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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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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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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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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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What the hell?

A judge sentenced a Hawaii man to one year of probation and a $200 fine for making his son walk a mile home from school as a form of discipline.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe called the punishment “old-school” and no longer appropriate, the Garden Island newspaper reported Thursday.

Robert Demond of Kilauea said he picked up his son from school and asked about a matter that had been brought to his attention. When the son didn’t respond, Demond made him walk home to think about his actions.

Demond was also ordered to attend a parenting class after being convicted of endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor. Demond pleaded no contest and said he would handle the situation differently now after the case went through two courts.

Demond told Watanabe in court on Wednesday that he didn’t think the punishment was morally wrong or criminal. He said it was a common form of punishment when he was growing up.

Watanabe said times are different today, given child predators and traffic.

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Things you did as a kid that your kids will never do” is the title of a posting to the SF-Moms blog today. Here is the main photo shown at the top:

sfmoms

And when I saw this, my first thought was this was going to be a nice story about how parents have become too paranoid about allowing kids to play with bikes out in the neighborhood.

Then I read the caption under the photo:

Ride a bike without a helmet tand do other dangerous things on your bike. Note: We’re glad kids are now wearing helmets. This is a good step forward.

Excuse me while I go slap my forehead…

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In California, a driver is only required to carry $15,000 in liability insurance coverage. That is the second lowest in the nation (only Florida is lower with $10,000). A car crash can cause well over $100,000 in medical expenses (not to mention lost wages). So if you are wondering why the amount is so ridiculously low, it is because the amount has not been raised in 40 years:

Enacted in 1974 when the average new car cost $4,440, California Vehicle Code 16056 dictated that drivers need to have insurance with $15,000 to cover bodily injury or death to one person in a motor vehicle accident, $30,000 to cover two or more people and $5,000 to cover property damage.

California is one of only seven states in the U.S. — the others are Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — with limits that low, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Only Florida has lower minimums, at $10,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. Alaska and Maine have the highest at $50,000, $100,000 and $25,000.

Adjusted for inflation, $15,000 in 1974 dollars is equivalent to $70,800 in today’s dollars.

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Fort Lee Shenanigans

In New Jersey, government officials have abused their authority — possibly even broken laws. The victims were ordinary residents of Fort Lee, just trying to travel along city streets.

Oh, did you think I was talking about Governor Christie and his staff?

No, I am referring to Fort Lee’s Police Chief. He decided to ticket “distracted” pedestrians — even though there is no law against it:

After trying pamphlets and brochures, he’s ordering his officers to ticket careless pedestrians on the spot. “They’re not alert and they’re not watching what they’re doing,” Police Chief Thomas Ripoli told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis.

Unlike careless driving, there’s no specific charge for being a careless pedestrian, but Chief Ripoli said his officers are watching, adding they’ll know it when they see it.

Fort Lee does have a problem with pedestrian fatalities. It averages one pedestrian collision per week. But it is crazy to blame cell phones instead of the fast-moving 2-ton vehicles.

The family of Jerry DeAngelis was particularly appalled by the Chief’s emphasis on “distracted” pedestrians. Jerry was struck and killed while crossing an intersection on the way to church. The family believes the driver was not paying attention. The DeAngelis family writes:

We all agree that pedestrians need to do their part and are often to blame in these accidents, but focusing your campaign almost exclusively on the pedestrians, while ignoring the issue of distracted and reckless driving, is both short-sighted and naïve.

We are not interested in publicity stunts and public relations campaigns. As Jerry’s family, our motivation is to see fewer families suffer the way we have.

We believe your campaign needs to be better researched and more comprehensive. We suggest you look at a number of methods to improve pedestrian safety, but most importantly, Fort Lee needs a significantly stepped up police presence.

Many residents express frustration that the town’s streets are unsafe and point to the lack of law enforcement presence and effective action as a major cause. The consensus seems to be that drivers in Fort Lee violate traffic laws with impunity. Research shows that a greater police presence will be the most effective means for gaining voluntary compliance with traffic laws – far more effective than handing out ice scrapers and florescent umbrellas.

Clearly, education initiatives are important but all safety campaigns must be accompanied by strict law enforcement measures and an acknowledgment of the increasing numbers of distracted drivers contributing to these accidents.

An effective pedestrian safety campaign should begin with a realistic assessment of the root causes of these accidents. A zero tolerance policy for motorists who put themselves, other motorists, and pedestrians at risk would go a long way toward reducing the number of accidents in Fort Lee.

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As reported by BikePortland, there were zero bike fatalities in 2013:

This isn’t a new feat for Portland: the city also avoided any bike-related fatalities in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010. That’s a safety record that’s nearly unmatched from coast to coast.

San Jose, by comparison, was a bloodbath:

This has been a particularly dangerous year on roadways throughout San Jose, with 26 traffic fatalities involving a pedestrian or bicyclist — the highest total since at least 1997 and the most of any city in the Bay Area.

And the death toll in New York was over 100 cyclists pedestrians and cyclists.

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