Me on the John Allen on the Monsere and Dill Study

NOTE: John Allen did not write this post.

“To begin with a platitude: traffic accidents are rare events. The totals are large only because the overall volumes of exposure are huge.”

All ready this made no sense as it seemed contradictory. Something that happens a lot is not a rare event. The fact that there is a lot of exposure is meaningless when we choose to expose ourselves so much. It’s like saying lung cancer is rare because everyone smokes.

Um, no. We actually reduced the people smoking. Bicycle infrastructure is doing the exact same thing in cities which don’t have John Allen types to poke their noses into well designed projects. More people are cycling and safety is up.

“Therefore, if considering safety in terms of outcomes rather than the underlying mechanisms of operation, any facility, no matter how poorly designed, will appear safe if examined over a short period of time.”

Taken to the logical extreme this is true, but I don’t think that it’s true in terms of this study. This is especially true considering what outlandish claims that some of the more vitriolic VCers have made.

At this point, however, I’m severely doubting whether John Allen read the original study:

“The purpose of the video review was to analyze the actual behavior of bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers in order to determine how well each user type understands the design intent of the facility and how potential conflicts arise.”

The other two things the study did was a survey on _stated_ behavior. Finally, they got a bike count.

No where in the introduction was any talk of safety. Thus, John creates a false standard by which we are to evaluate this study.

I’m a bit shocked at how bad this supposed xpert (sic) is at reading. Plus since I was exposed to, for years, at VCers imaginary bullshit about “turning conflicts”, I would have thought that any VCer would want to get real world data on this subject. Alas, like a schoolboy who’s too afraid to make the moves, instead of the real thing, they are stuck with just their imaginations.

And they love their imaginations. From John:

“But collecting data over a long period of time has its disadvantages too: not just cost and delay, but also the averaging, and therefore blurring, of the effects of various changing causes and circumstances.”

So too much data is bad, too? That’s just plain nonsense. In the case of statistical analysis, more data is better. So John is wrong on this.

Why would he say something so silly?

“In response to these problems, engineers developed the methods of traffic conflict analysis.”

Ah, I see, because they won’t be able to put it through their bullshit.

You saw it here, folks, a vehicular cyclist coming out and saying that he prefers he mental models rather than real world data. He’s literally rhetorically turning his back on planet Earth in favor of one that fits his own imagination. I get what they mean by “biased” now. A study is biased if it explains something about the real world. I’d be totally stunned by this observation had I not had experience with these self appointed xperts for years.

“If there exists a suitable relationship between the former and the latter, then conflict analysis can be used to study road safety at reduced cost, with better timing, and even via simulation modelling of facilities that have been designed but not yet built.”

I guess. In my model, I have lots of people texting and generally not paying attention. I will predict that vehicles in the travel lane will have more collisions than those outside of it. The real world proves this obvious idea true.

“There is no such corresponding body of research for bicycles.”

Yes, there is, but it’s been done mainly in Europe. This is a totally asinine statement as I have reviewed a few European papers on this very blog.

He goes on at length of his theories on traffic modelling and I’m thinking WTF? He’s like the guy who goes on a date and spend the whole time talking about himself. We’re talking about a paper her. He finally winds up with:

“With these fundamental limitations in mind, obviously traffic conflict analysis is a promising method for investigating important aspects of bicycling safety.”

Who gives a shit? We have video data to analyze. I’m guessing this is argument ad boring.

“The work of Monsere et al. (2014), Lessons From The Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes In The U.S., should be considered a pilot project in this effort, although the authors themselves do not describe it as such.”

I’m confused because he said that traffic modeling is the way to go then he lauds this paper for traffic modeling which is the opposite of what this paper does as it actually collects real world data and analyzes it. I’m confused here.

“They did their video recording chiefly at intersections, six in these four cities in the summer and fall of 2013. This was then presumably while the users were still in a cautious or exploratory state, as they got used to the new facilities.”

Um, if this is so, why did you argue that they didn’t spend more time collecting data? There is only a short period of time that something is “new” to someone.

“As noted following the opening platitude, any facility, no matter how poorly designed, will appear safe if examined over a short enough period of time.”

As noted this isn’t the point of the study.

“(For comparison, the entire city and island of Montreal, with all its thousands of intersections, averages averages of late about five cyclist deaths and 25-50 police-recorded serious cycling injuries per year.)”

If cycling is so safe why are they constantly whining about unsafe riding? It seems that no matter how uneducated we are, cycling is safe.

“Further, as this was neither a before-after study nor a comparison with standard intersections, there is no way to know whether the numbers of observed conflicts, violations, or errant behaviours, were themselves high or low.”

This is a valid criticism. Go, John!

“As to the actual results from this pilot project, the much touted headline was that there were only six minor conflicts found, out of nearly 12,900 bicycle movements through intersections.”

Great! But not everyone is happy.

“Thus the authors give figures of 7574 turning motor vehicles, but only 1997 turning motor vehicles with bicycles present. The corresponding conflict rates (which they normalize by the products of bicycle and motor vehicle movements, not by the numbers of bicycle movements alone) they give for the individual intersections therefore vary by factors of approximately 3 to 10, depending on which figures are used.”

OK, so there are 30 minor conflicts. None of these result in a collision. I’m beginning to see why VCers are so obsessed with their “conflicts”. This lets them complain about safety problems even when no one is hurt. Aha! Another dirty VC trick revealed.

“Besides conflicts, there were numerous violations or other errant behaviours: e.g. 9-70% of bicycles and 7-52% of turning motor vehicles in the various intersection designs used the lanes incorrectly, 1-18% of turning motor vehicles in the various mixing zone designs turned from the wrong lane, 5-10% of motorists turned illegally on red arrows at intersections with bicycle-specific signals, and 7-23% of bicyclists disobeyed their signals.”

Wait, what? There are a lot of shitty motorists out there? News at 11. This is precisely why VC sucks. Again, to a normal person this should be intuitively obvious.

“Without any theory or model of how any of these occurrences or their frequencies relate to death, injury, or property damage, and without any before-after or non-sidepath comparison data— not to mention, with the very small numbers of observation hours— there are almost no safety implications, positive or negative.”

Yes, there are. Nobody got hurt. If that’s not an implication to you, I don’t know what is. God, stop stroking your model for one second and go outside.

“The only concrete result is that one of the local authorities apparently deemed the problem of motor vehicles turning from the wrong lane (18%), straddling lanes (another 17%), or entering the turn lane early (15%) to be so severe that they later removed the intersection treatment and replaced it with another design (at Fell and Baker in San Francisco).”

Yes! This is exactly how things are supposed to work. Now you are finally learning. This is precisely why we need to put in the “dangerous” infrastructure that VCers were fighting out there. So we can learn. Again, as John noted, nobody got hurt. But the intersection was fixed pronto. Remember this the next time some moron claims that we’ll be “stuck with bad design for years” or “we don’t know if it’s safe.” If you stop us from learning, as a local advocate tried to do, we’ll be ignorant forever. I guess that’s just fine because we always have these models to play with.

” The sociological surveys tell another story: one-third of all bicyclists surveyed said they had been involved in at least one near collision on the paths, while 2% experienced an actual collision. 23% had a near collision with turning cars, 1.8% an actual collision with turning cars; 19% a near collision with a pedestrian, and 0.4% an actual collision with a pedestrian.”

Again, nobody got hurt. Despite have tons of collisions and near collisions, this was still safe as John noted. The often made VC claim that any collision is deadly has been proven not only bunk, but it’s shown that harmless near collisions and collisions happen all the time. But John didn’t learn this, and he’ll continue to act as if a simple bump is as bad getting run down by a high speed car. This is a trick that is used to make cycling infrastructure seem unsafe when in fact it’s very safe.

” Even with better methods, conflicts are only one facet of the bicycling, and overall safety picture; while road designers and road users, whether bicyclists or motorists, have to consider more than just safety.”

No. You don’t get to play this card now. VCers have been talking exclusively about safety for years in order to kill projects. In many cases they even threatened to sue. When pointed out that there’s more to life than safety, such as comfort, they ignore these arguments. Now infrastructure is shown to be safe, safety is suddenly not an issue. This is another underhanded trick always used by VCers: moving goal posts.

It took a long time to suss out all the ways that VCers argue against infrastructure. There is only one rule that they follow: any argument will do as long as it makes infrastructure look bad. Even when it makes no sense and contradicts things they said earlier.

Many things were leaned both about facilities and how the strange mind of a vehicular cyclist in the wild operates.

We learned that many conflicts don’t result in as nearly as many injuries as VCers have predicted. We learned that a variety of infrastructural treatments can work equally well. As John noted, only one needed to be changed. This after years of being told that there were specific ways of doing things that were only found in the “Aashto Green Book”. This turned out to be false. We also learned that infrastructure can be experimented with and there will be little to no injury compared to their do nothing approach which, in Orlando, kills and maims people in record numbers. We learned that infrastructure can be changed very quickly if it does not work out despite being told that “we’ll be stuck with this for years.”

Finally, we learned that when reading a well designed study which answers one of their own burning question, VCers will fail to comprehend the study’s purpose and they will apply a standard that it does not aspire to. When it exceeds their own safety needs, they will denigrate it by asking for more data collected even when that will negatively affect the intent of the study. And finally, we learned that people pick up, in general, at no harm, new infrastructure much more rapidly than if we had to teach all these road users an expensive class to deal with the normal flow of texting traffic.

6 Responses to “Me on the John Allen on the Monsere and Dill Study”

  1. jsallen1 Says:

    I’m John Allen. I didn’t write the report, as my blog post clearly indicates: it was sent to me by Dr. M. Kary, whoread the study and wrote the report. I’ll leave the rest of the response up to him but I suspect that it will be critical, given, for starters, that you didn’t even get the authorship right.

    • Fred Says:

      Thanks, John, I’ll fix this. One might say that I am a bad reader, true!, or one might also say the article was confusing. Brilliant rebuttal, though. Cheers.

  2. Jack Hughes Says:

    While you wonder whether John Allen is very good at reading, you might update your entry to note that you are not quoting or critiquing, as you say you are, a comment by John Allen.

    I suggest you give the piece a more careful reading. For instance your take on:
    “Without any theory or model of how any of these occurrences or their frequencies relate to death, injury, or property damage, and without any before-after or non-sidepath comparison data— not to mention, with the very small numbers of observation hours— there are almost no safety implications, positive or negative.”


    Yes, there are. Nobody got hurt. If that’s not an implication to you, I don’t know what is.

    When the point of the paragraph is that we can’t know whether it is safer or less safe unless we have a comparison to the condition before or a comparison to a condition similar to that before. The point that no one got hurt in a short survey period was addressed by noting that collisions with injuries are rare (rare, though numerous through large exposure) such that a short period with no injuries would be expected whether or not the infrastructure treatment is more dangerous or less dangerous or equally dangerous as before. Therefore, a short period with no injury tells us very little about safety. Like observing a new smoker for a week and looking for lung cancer tells you very little about the risks of smoking.

    • Fred Says:

      The only reason that they are rare is due to the low mode share. Collisions with vehicles on roads are actually quite high. Deaths are also high as they are teh #1 killer of people < 34. Deadly collisions with bicycles are low due to the fact that: 1. nobody takes the lane, 2. people don't bicycle often 3. cyclists tend to ride on slower roads. Finally, you totally missed the point of this study just like the person on John's blog.

    • Fred Says:

      We’re _still_ arguing the safety while I noted that the point of the study was NOT safety.

      I didn’t say that the infrastructure was proven to be safer by this study.

      I did point out that nobody got hurt.

      You said that you didn’t expect anyone to get hurt. Great, we’ll use you as an advocate for increased experimentation because as you said, “The point that no one got hurt in a short survey period was addressed by noting that collisions with injuries are rare (rare, though numerous through large exposure) such that a short period with no injuries would be expected..”

      This is MUCH different from what local advocates are saying and much different from what Forrester, a local here, has said.

      They said that if they put in experimental infrastructure, they would sue if there are injuries. They also claimed to almost getting hurt 6 times in a mile of a bicycle path.

      I’m addressing the more histrionic claims.

      If you statement came from a local, this would be seen as a welcome change in position. As it is, if you are a vehicular cyclist, I’d e happy to quote you that some VCers actually “expect no collisions even on experimental infrastructure and no injuries.”

      I greatly appreciate your move to our side. Thanks.

  3. Jack Hughes Says:

    There were two points to the study, a study in two parts.
    First, the study was a survey of opinions about whether people liked or felt safe in the sort of facilities installed. That didn’t show much more than earlier studies–uninformed people often prefer that which looks good on paper but isn’t really safer. My brother was one of those “I’d rather be thrown from the car in a wreck than be trapped by the seatbelt” people even though he’s mostly a reasonable sort of person. Education about the causes of injuries is the missing key to bicycle safety.
    The second part was a very short period of observation showing no collisions and a few “minor conflicts.” That doesn’t tell us much more than we already knew. Since collisions are rare (yes, rare, not because of low exposure, but because of how many collisions per mile traveled occur–just as rare if you double the exposure), seeing a collision in that short period of observation would have been quite surprising. Therefore, NOT seeing a collision is hardly news. Contraflow sidewalk riding is far more dangerous than normal street riding, but in that short an observation period, you’d be unlikely to see a collision even on a sidewalk where contraflow riding is prevalent.
    Do you have another “point” of the study to examine for us? I hope you have a more coherent statement than “Deaths are also high as they are teh #1 killer of people.”
    Examining conflicts in the real world helps us to understand what makes or does not make a facility safer or less safe than normal vehicular operation in the absence of the facilities. The study, as Dr. Kary notes, the study could be viewed as a preliminary step in gathering data necessary to have a better understanding of that. However, the study shows us very, very, little. Experts at People for Bikes should be well aware of that, but they are too busy with the push for facilities to concern themselves with finding out whether the facilities they push really are to the benefit of their intended users.

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