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Archive for the ‘risk’ Category

The idiotic Australian helmet law strikes again:

Melbourne police officers succeeded where scores of action movie villains have failed when they stopped Hollywood tough guy Arnold Schwarzenegger in his tracks on Monday.

The intervention began after photographs began circulating on social media of the American actor, bodybuilder and politician riding one of Melbourne’s blue share bikes. The Terminator and Predator star was wearing bike-matching blue shorts, but not a bicycle helmet.

“I saw a group of cyclists riding ahead of me and we just went up to do a routine intercept,” Senior Constable Gillson told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“Then we noticed that Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the crowd. “We spoke to him briefly and had a little chat with him about the reason why I pulled him over.”

The constable said he often chose to educate tourists from countries without helmet laws rather than fine them.

Someone needs educating, and it isn’t the tourists.

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If you thought Smart-Phones were bad for driver distraction, the Apple Smart-Watch could be even worse:

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in Wokingham, Berks showed that a driver reading a message on an Apple Watch would take 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency manoeuvre, whereas a driver talking to another passenger would react in 0.9 seconds. Reading on an Apple Watch was even found to be more distracting than using a handheld mobile

The problem with watches is the smaller screen. And it is right there on the wrist always in full view, providing a constant distraction. Automakers, however, see this as yet another marketing opportunity. BMW has reportedly developed apps to link the Apple Watch to the driver console.

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Valhalla

The 5 victims in the horrific Metro-North collision in Valhalla will be listed in the official statistics as train fatalities — even though it was an automobile that killed them. Each year, there are tens of thousands of automobile fatalities, but for some reason, the NTSB only investigates crashes involving trains or other mass transit.

Based on previous work by the NTSB, one can expect their report to focus on accident survivability, not accident avoidance. The key question isn’t what role the 3rd rail played, or the design of the road — but why the grade crossing was even there in the first place?

The Commerce St. grade crossing has little traffic, and is located just 1 mile away from grade-separated crossings in both north and south directions. Closing the crossing to motor vehicles is the obvious solution. It would greatly increase safety, with only minor time penalty for motorists.

Metro-North has such a large number of crossings similar to this one that it begs the question as to why they are left open to motor vehicles. A systematic approach to closing minor at-grade crossings that are in close proximity to grade-separated roadways would greatly increase safety, with only minor impact on motor vehicles. Note that crossings could still be left open to bikes/peds, avoiding the “Berlin-Wall” effect. The reason this has not been done is because small inconveniences for motorists takes precedence over the safety of train passengers. Hopefully this latest tragedy will lead to a change in priorities.

And it is not a problem unique to Metro-North. In the SF Bay Area, the Caltrain line has a number of minor at-grade crossings that should be closed to motor vehicles. It is just dumb luck that Caltrain has not experienced a mass casualty event. And when the agency starts using EMU’s, you can be sure the knives will come out if one of those “dangerous” non-compliant trains were involved in a fatal accident.

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Drunk Cyclists

The view according to the GHSA is that bicyclists are getting killed not from the lack of infrastructure — but because they are drunk and don’t wear helmets.

And while they are correct in stating 1 in 4 adult bicycle fatalities were alcohol-related, that is lower the overall rate of traffic fatalities. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 traffic fatalities are alcohol-related.

And I’m willing to bet that none of those drivers were wearing helmets.

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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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Congress Considers Crew Size Mandate

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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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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