Acceptable Risk NYC Style

NOTE: The numbers here don’t totally match up on a yearly basis. This is a huge error that I regret, but my time is short. If someone wants to run the numbers with better data and share it, I’ll buy you a beer.

Also, if someone can correct my math, I’d appreciate it. It could be totally wrong as I suck at math.

Begin Post:

If you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail.

If you learn about “acceptable risk” you want to run the numbers for every place that has juicy data!

LTRs know that I love NYC data because it’s very complete compared to other areas.

Here I look at the total number of cyclists = 200,000 []

There were an average of 23 deaths per year [] thus, the risk of cycling is 15 per 100,000 which is within the maximum tolerated risk for the general population.

This is far safer than the US as a whole. Why the difference?

I don’t know but I can guess that the reason is that streets in NYC tend to be slower. We know that speed kills.

In fact from the same study we see that over half the deaths were near arterials which as high speed streets. Getting cyclists off arterials seems to be the “single most effective way of saving lives”. (Yes, I keep repeating this phrase because we keep seeing it associated with helmets which is total nonsense.)

However, when you take into about that ninety plus percent of the deaths were because cyclists were hit by a car, a different pattern emerges.

Cycling is now at the rate of 1/100,000 which is at the safety rate for new nuclear power stations which is ten times safer than the normal level of risk. This is risk level three which is super high. Thus, in New York without cars, cycling is super duper safe.

It seems that the secret sauce that kills cyclists is cars.

The above paper obsesses over where cyclists were hit, what they were doing, who was at fault, were they wearing a helmet. But here’s the kicker: MOST CYCLISTS WERE HIT BY HIGH SPEED CARS. IF THOSE CARS WERE NOT THERE, THEN OVER 90% OF CYCLISTS IN NYC WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY.

Thus, for this case, it’s highly inaccurate to say that cycling is dangerous as it meets and exceeds the maximum acceptable risk.


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