Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

A proposed 76-mile bike path through the Everglades is currently under study. It would provide a safe alternative to highway 41 for bicyclists and pedestrians who wish to visit the park. That is why groups such as Adventure Cycling and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy are in support.

And, as usual, the Sierra Club strongly opposes the trail:

Miami-Dade County, the lead agency for the initial planning, expects to complete a feasibility study and master plan by November or December, said Mark Heinicke, project manager for the county’s parks and recreation department. The plan will identify possible routes, access points, environmental issues, public benefits and public interest in the project. He is currently going through 485 letters and emails filed as comments on the project.

Among them is a letter in opposition organized by the Sierra Club and signed by representatives of a wide variety of organizations that often find themselves on the opposite sides of environmental debates. Among the dozens of signers are representatives of hunting groups such as the Everglades Coordinating Council, Safari Club International, United Waterfowlers of Florida, the Collier Sportsmen and Conservation Club and the Florida Sportsmen’s Conservation Association.

The proposed alignment runs largely along the highway ROW. But the Sierra Club doesn’t care about the cars blasting through — just the bicycles and joggers.


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There are two popular ways for measuring the safety benefit of bicycle helmets. One method is to look at hospital admission records, comparing the relative number of helmeted and non-helmeted patients. The use of hospital records is an indirect measure, because researchers don’t have reliable data on the number of helmeted cyclists in the general population. Due to this limitation, researchers guesstimate risk exposure rates, which is difficult.

The other method is to study the effect of mandatory helmet laws. A time-series analysis of crash-data before and after implementation of a helmet law provides a direct measure of helmet effectiveness. This is the preferred method because it covers a much larger population in real-world conditions (without having to infer risk exposure rates). Time-series studies of helmet laws in Australia, Canada, and Spain have found no discernible impact on bicycle safety.

When direct measurements of helmet laws failed to find any safety benefit, that should have ended helmet debates. But like any zombie idea, the helmet issue shambles along. Why is that? Perhaps one reason is the hospital case-control studies that promised huge safety benefit from helmets (as high as 85%). But what is the reason for the huge discrepancy between direct and indirect measurements?

One reason for the discrepancy may be due to a methodological error in the hospital case-control studies. That is according to a new paper, Overestimation of the effectiveness of the bicycle helmet by the use of odds ratiosby Th. Zeegers. It was presented at the 2015 International Cycling Conference held last month in Hanover, Germany.

Zeegers argues that case-control studies overestimate the risk of cycling for the control (i.e. non-helmeted cyclists) thereby exaggerating the benefit of helmets. He then re-analyzed data from three popular helmet studies. After correcting for the error, he found that the supposed benefit of bike helmets completely vanished:

Due to lack of data on exposure rates, odds ratios of helmeted versus unhelmeted cyclists for head injury and other injuries on hospitalized victims are broadly used in case-control studies. A general necessary and sufficient condition can be formulated rigorously, for which odds ratios indeed equal risk ratios. However, this condition is not met in case-control studies on bicycle helmets. As a consequence, the real risk of cycling with a helmet can be underestimated by these studies and therefore the effectiveness of the bicycle helmet can be overestimated. The central point is that a wrong estimate of the risk for non-head injuries (the controls) paradoxically can lead to an overestimation of the usefulness of the helmet in protecting against head injuries.

Three cases could be found in the literature with sufficient data to assess both risk ratios and odds ratios: the Netherlands, Victoria (Australia) and Seattle (U.S.A). In all three cases, the problem of overestimation of the effectiveness of the helmet by using odds ratios did occur. The effect ranges from small (+ 8 % ) to extremely large ( > + 400 %). Contrary to the original claim of these studies, in two out of three cases the risk of getting a head injury proved not to be lower for helmeted cyclists. Moreover, in all three cases the risk of getting a non-head injury proved to be higher for cyclists with a helmet.

It must be concluded that any case-control study in which the control is formed by hospitalized bicyclists is unreliable and likely to overestimate the effectiveness of the bicycle helmet. As a direct consequence, also meta-analyses based on these case-control studies overestimate the effectiveness of the bicycle helmet. Claims on the effectiveness of the bicycle helmet can no longer be supported by these kind of studies. This might explain the discrepancy between case-control studies and other studies, such as time-analysis. It is recommended to use other methods to estimate the risk ratio for the bicycle helmet, along the lines described in this article.

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Justice is Blind

Here is another one of those outrageous cases, where a driver can hit and kill a cyclist without consequence:

The felony conviction for an attorney who killed a Chinese tourist in a hit-and-run crash in 2011 was reduced to a misdemeanor by an Alameda County judge on Friday over “strenuous objection” by prosecutors, according to the district attorney’s office.

Hayward Judge Michael Gaffey also changed the terms of the sentence he handed down to Spencer Freeman Smith just two weeks ago, much to the chagrin of an American friend of the man Smith killed.

“Obviously, I am not a judge or a lawyer but, for me, using common sense, it’s an outrageous decision,” said Dr. Arnold Owens of Oakland. “Everything has gone so much in favor of the defendant, it seems like some shenanigans are going on.”

Smith, 36, was living in San Ramon working as a San Francisco labor attorney on March 12, 2012 when, after a night of drinking with a paralegal from his firm, he fatally struck 57-year-old Chinese financial adviser Bo Hu on Dougherty Road in Dublin, prosecutors say. Hu was in the country for his fiancee’s relative’s graduation and was killed while he was walking a bicycle.

Smith did not stop or even brake at the scene and was apprehended by Dublin police investigators after they matched broken vehicle parts left at the scene to his brand new Mercedes-Benz sedan.

Oh, did I mention that the driver is blind in one eye? Incredibly, that fact worked in his favor:

“Anyone driving down that dark roadway could have hit Mr. Hu; it just happened to be Mr. Smith,” he said. “The judge recognized that this was a tragic accident and Mr. Smith was in a more vulnerable situation because he is blind in his right eye.”

The Judge did not even take away Smith’s driving license. Though I suppose the real question is why the California DMV gives out driving licenses to people blind in one eye.

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Tricycles: threat or menace?

The helmet fear-mongers go full-retard:

For the past decade, we’ve drilled into children that when they ride a bike, they need to wear a helmet. Now scientists say it may be too late: Tricycle riders should be wearing them, too.

Using data collected from 100 emergency rooms for the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers found that boys are more likely than girls to turn up in the emergency room. Two-year-olds seem to have the most accidents, although there were tricycle injuries for children up to age 7. The most common broken bone was the elbow and the most common injury overall was a cut to the face.

In addition to helmets, the authors suggest kids wear elbow pads, and that parents supervise their children while they ride.

Even better, just make them wear bubble-wrap.


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Plans for a comprehensive system of bike trails in the East Bay have long been stymied by the EBMUD (the East Bay municipal water district). That is because EBMUD has an absolute ban on bike riding on its trails. For the past 50 years, only hikers and equestrians have been permitted on the trails. There are huge gaps in the bike network as a result.

But now the water agency is reconsidering the ban. Last month, it held a public hearing — and as usual, the Sierra Club is vehemently opposed:

A total of approximately 45 people spoke. The Sierra Club came out very quickly against making any changes at all through Stormin’ Norman Laforce. If it weren’t for the fact that we needed to listen respectfully and smile we would have laughed him off the stage. He is thoroughly ridiculous. The lady that followed him from the Sierra Club, a former director of EBMUD, Ms.Burke, was equally ridiculous. They have no idea at all.

By and large even the people who would not have supported access to cycling suggested that absolute closure was unreasonable. They were simply concerned against all of the usual horror stories about mountain bikers, the need for enforcement, and the challenges that these created. I think that these were all fair criticisms.

Mary Selkirk, a former director who voted to exclude mountain bikers in 1996, spoke of regretting her decision as patently unfair. This was huge. She had real gravitas.

However the greatest proportion of people who spoke suggested the value of mountain biking especially in terms of generating good health and good trail use practices in our youth. The contact with nature and our tendency to be stewards, the need for unblocking closures that inhibit the entirety of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. People spoke in terms of hoping for flexibility and the potentials for evaluating as things unfolded.

The ossified leadership within East Bay Sierra Club chapters has grown increasingly bizarre in its policy positions. They have opposed bike lanes and transit-oriented development. They have even endorsed anti-BRT candidates for Berkeley City Council.

Their actions are completely at odds with policies adopted by the Sierra Club’s National Board of Directors. Indeed, the “official” Sierra Club policy specifically encourages bike access on trails where safety and environmental quality are not compromised. When will the National organization start requiring local chapters to comply with Sierra Club policy?

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It is amazing how the highway lobby gets their hands on all the money. When a BART extension project took tracks over Mission Blvd in Fremont, the highway lobby used the opportunity for a massive $150 million road widening:


This monster freeway interchange lies just south of the new Warm Springs BART station. The entire station area has been surrounded by a moat of highways and freeway interchanges.

Even though there have been various bike plans for the south Fremont area, none of it has been built (unless you count riding on the shoulder of a high speed arterial). So good luck using the new BART station to generate walkable, bikeable TOD development that was promised. And anyone dumb enough to try biking through there will suffer the consequences.

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This legislative session has already seen bills that would mandate helmets and orange safety vests. A ban on headphones can also be added to the list: SB 491 would prohibit the use of ear buds while riding a bicycle.

The Legislative Analyst summary describes this change as “non-controversial” because existing law already prohibits the use of full ear-covering headsets. Well, one wonders whether the analyst gets out much. Whereas there are hardly any cyclists out there riding around with studio headphones, iPhone-style ear buds are extremely popular. This bill would criminalize a very common behavior among cyclists.

Like the helmet legislation, an ear bud ban sounds sounds great in theory (no pun intended), but lacks any studies or data to back it up. It is unlikely to improve safety, or even change cyclist behavior. But it will almost certainly serve as a pretext for police to harass minorities.

And given the way “distracted walking” has become a thing, then it is not inconceivable that pedestrians will one day get the same treatment.

Cyclist wearing headphones in Copenhagen (www.copenhagenize.com)

Cyclist wearing headphones in Copenhagen (Copenhagenize)

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