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Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

I was hoping to avoid comment on Senator Liu’s mandatory bike helmet law. It is a zombie idea that pops up every so often in the US. The California legislature last considered the idea in the early 1990’s. That was during the height of bike helmet hysteria, and even then Legislators thought it was a bad idea. Two decades later, the idea has even less traction now that we can look at the experience of nearly a dozen places that tried it. Senator Liu has yet to explain why it would work in California when it failed miserably in Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and Seattle.

One argument frequently heard is that mandatory helmet laws are just like mandatory seatbelt laws. There is actually a lot of validity to that argument: Both are feel-good measures and yet counter-productive for safety.

Now you are probably thinking that seatbelt laws have saved tens of thousands of lives. You are also thinking that automobile fatalities have been on a long decline, and that seatbelts are largely responsible. You may also have watched slow-motion videos of crash-test dummies. But the inconvenient truth is that while seatbelts are good to have in an accident, there is no evidence that mandatory seatbelt laws improved safety:

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That figure comes from work done by Dr. John Adams. It covered 80% of the world’s car population at the time of publication. If you have not heard of the name and believe he is some crank, it is quite the opposite. Dr. Adams literally wrote the book on modern risk analysis.

Here is another figure, showing how fatalities and injuries increased when the UK passed its mandatory rear seatbelt law:

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And here is what happened when Australia implemented the law. Note again how fatalities went back up:

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It is worth considering why mandatory seatbelt laws have negative consequences. One reason has to do with the idea of risk compensation:

Risk compensation is a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behavior in response to the perceived level of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected. Although usually small in comparison to the fundamental benefits of safety interventions, it may result in a lower net benefit than expected.  By way of example, it has been observed that motorists drove faster when wearing seatbelts and closer to the vehicle in front when the vehicles were fitted with anti-lock brakes.

A consequence of risk compensation is that motorists drive faster, causing increased risk for pedestrians and cyclists. It is a major reason why pedestrian and bicycle fatalities have not declined.

Another reason why seatbelt laws didn’t work is because they were implemented instead of making changes in the infrastructure. It is a similar problem to bike helmet laws, which legislators also prefer to implement over more costly infrastructure improvements.

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A good first step, but this really needs to be implemented nationally as a Federal safety mandate:

At least 200 municipal trucks will be outfitted with side guards this year as city officials try to cut down on pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. The side guards — actually rails — to be installed between the trucks front and rear wheels help keep people involved in a collision with a truck from being dragged underneath, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said in a news release.

While trucks make up less than 4 percent of vehicles on city roads, collisions with trucks account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of bicyclist fatalities, city officials said.

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I have a hard time believing drivers in Honolulu are as dumb as merchants make them out to be:

The owner of Brian’s Fishing Supply has had a drop-off in drop-in customers. He blames the bike lane moving metered stalls farther from the sidewalk.

“It almost appears as if your vehicle is sitting in first lane of outside traffic,” Brian Kimata said. “A lot of people are hesitant to park there because they feel like their car is going to get rear-ended.”

Kevin Key works at the King Street Apartment Hotel. A handful of small businesses lease space fronting King St. “Businesses are losing money,” he said. “Even for the vendors who are coming, basically they don’t know where to park or don’t have anywhere to park.”

The city said there’s been no change in the number of parking spaces.

Shop owners also said drivers continue to get stuck behind parked cars. When they see it happen workers in a hair salon now hold up a cardboard sign that reads, “You’re behind a parked car! Yes…it’s parking ahead.”

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Just Why?

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ht: reddit CrappyDesign forum

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NHTSA Punts on Truck Sideguards

Trucks are one of the greatest hazards for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem not just the poor visibility, but also the lack of protection around the wheels. Sideguards would greatly reduce that vulnerability, by deflecting bikes and peds away from the truck in a collision. Most trucks in Europe and Japan are required to have sideguards, but no such regulation exists in the United States.

In April 2014, the NTSB issued a recommendation for sideguard regulation. The NTSB is only an advisory body, however, so any regulation must be implemented by the NHTSA. On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA published its response to the NTSB recommendation:

NHTSA is planning on issuing two separate notices—an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the Petitioners’ request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

When the NHTSA says it needs more time to study a problem, it usually means the agency will not take action. In this case, I would be happy to be proven wrong, but it does not appear that the NHTSA is interested in the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.

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Think of the Children

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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Things didn’t exactly go as planned for Opening Day at the new Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. VTA light rail and Caltrain can not accommodate the crowds (even though a measly 9000 people rode transit to the stadium). The roads, of course, were total gridlock.

But at least you could bike there, right? One of the selling points of the location was the nearby San Tomas Aquino bike path. Stadium planners had boasted that cyclists could ride straight to the front door of the stadium. So I was stunned to read Richard Masoner’s blog posting that the trail actually gets closed for stadium events. How fucked up is that?

The reason is the TSA-style security perimeter. Here is how it was explained to the Santa Clara Bicycle Advisory Committee:

There apparently was some early thought given to making stadium access via raised and covered bridges to separate trail traffic from stadium traffic, but no need to worry about that, the trail will be fine. Besides, that would cost the stadium project a bunch of money and since it wasn’t going to be a problem, why spend the money?

Fast forward to today, and with the post Boston bombing, there will be row after row of metal detectors along the main Great America parking lot (like the whole length of that huge parking lot according to the photo they showed) to screen all the game attendees prior to entering the “sterile (i.e. secure) zone” of the stadium.

Oops, the bike trail passes right through the middle of the sterile zone. So it looks like either the trail will be closed basically all day long on big event days; 4-8 hours before the game until 4-8 hours after the game. Or trail users may be allowed to pass (on foot only), but only after going through security screening. Sounds fine in theory, but realize you’ll be trying to cross a stream of 70,000 tail gating fans pushing and shoving to get into the stadium while pushing your bike along in clip-less shoes for about a mile!

Apparently there is a grant application in the process for the city to get funding to modify the creek trail along the stadium area to run it under the existing and new foot bridges. Now the question remains as to why do we, the tax payers, have to foot the bill to fix the trail that we, the tax payers, paid to build because the stadium folks did not want to pay to put their foot bridges over the trail, that was already there, in the first place. Suffice it to say, the two guys from the stadium project got an earful and high tailed it out of the meeting once their presentation was over. And the high muckety-muck from the stadium project that was supposed to be there as well was suddenly called out of town the day of the BAC meeting that is scheduled 2 months ahead of time?

Still makes you think how cyclists rank in the grand scheme of things. If the stadium guys came along and said OK, we are going to need to close down a mile of Hwy. 101 for a year while we build the stadium, oh and we’ll be closing it down about 15 days a year during events; heads would be rolling. But, it is just a bike path, nobody will care.

And if you want to ride there on Tasman, good luck with that. The VTA removed the Tasman bike lanes to make room for the light rail.

 

 

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