Archive for December, 2013

Pity the Pitiful Pedestrian

December 31, 2013

Every time there’s a story about cycling there are usually half a dozen pedestrians who comment. While pedestrians come from various walks of life, there is one thing in common with all of them. If Internet comments are to be believed, they are all unhappy.

Usually, they have zero problems with motorists despite the fact that motorists acount for nearly 100% of their deaths.

No, they like to pick on scofflaw cyclists only.

Are scofflaw cyclists a problem?

Yes!

However, scofflaw cycling is incredibly safe! Despite “every cyclists ALWAYS breaking the law”, scofflaw cyclists only managed to kill a single person a year or less. Not efficient at all. Compare that carnage to the number of “legal deaths”. (Note “legal deaths” are when a motorist kills someone but is not charged. The vast majority of people are killed legally.)

Thus, a scofflaw cyclists is actually safer than a law abiding motorist.

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2012/08/07/in-new-nhtsa-report-scarce-information-on-causes-of-pedestrian-deaths/

Still, I hold it near and dear in my heart that pedestrians ought to be respected. That’s why, at least once a day, I lock my brakes for a pedestrian who jay walks right in front of me without looking. In fact, most cyclists have a great deal of respect for pedestrians which is why they don’t call them out for being the hypocrites that they often are.

Ask yourself, did you follow every single pedestrian law? Always? You never ever broke a law? Because if you did and you bitch about cyclists, you’re a hypocrite. If you do think you follow all the pedestrian laws, name them. What is the vehicle code that allows you to walk on the sidewalk?

Most cyclists, at least in San Diego, can actually quote the vehicle code, from memory for every last maneuver that they make.

Again, I ALWAYS yield for pedestrians. I don’t expect them to be perfect. But I do expect pedestrians to realize that I’m not perfect, and I might not see you slipping through those rows of stopped cars. All I ask for is reciprical respect that pedestrians crave.

Who is NCUTCD?

December 19, 2013

This apppears to be a national organization devoted to keeping innovation out of traffic engineering. I don’t know about you, but there’s something soul crushing about the notion that we can’t have any diversity in traffic control devices. This should lead to stagnation in engineering practices and ultimately make streets safer than places where they are more free to experiment:

 

http://www.ncutcdbtc.org/members.html

 

I don’t have any problems with people expressing their own personal fears when it comes to innovation and change, but it kind of sucks when this backward thinking is entrusted to a nationally recognized organization.

 

As a left nut tea bagger this is yet another government organization abolished. Innovation should be allowed in every city in the United States.

 

Finally, this committee is packed with known VC DBs: John Allen who routinely overstates traffic deaths associated with dooring to manipulate people to “take the lane”. In a previous post he got punked when I asked him why there were so few dooring in Orlando. He doubled down in VCism despite this.

 

Then there’s Mighk Wilson who until recently has kept Orlando as one of the top cities in the country for cycling danger.

 

One can only speculate how many people have either died or been deterred from cycling because committees like these have stood in the way of safer infrastructure for cycling.

 

 

 

 

Helmets Negatively Affect Cycling Perceptions III

December 18, 2013

cycling-tbi

[Above is a breakdown of traumatic brain injuries and their causes.]

Finally the good stuff from the study:

“As compared to nonwearers, helmet wearers reported significantly less Perceived Exemption from Harm and greater Perceived Danger of Cycling.”

So there you have it. People who want us to wear helmets have the belief that cycling is dangerous.

I suggest that if you think cycling’s dangerous, don’t do it.

“Helmet wearers reported greater or more Emotional Benefits and Safety Benefits than nonwearers.”

Again, those who want us to wear helmets are doing it for emotional reasons rather than a real thought at how we can collectively spend our helmet money on something more substantial and useful.

Also, those who wear helmets have an exaggerated notion of how protective they actually are. I know at least one intelligent person who has modified her stance from thinking helmets were the bees knees to acknowledging that she wears a helmet out of habit and to feel good. This was based upon detailed reading of crash stats including the recent rash of unfortunate deaths of helmeted riders.

“Others have found that Personal Vanity and Discomfort played little to no role in the decision to use a helmet; the current study, however, found Personal Vanity and Discomfort to be highly predictive of helmet use or nonuse. Perhaps the fact that this sample was predominantly female elevated the importance of vanity for predicting helmet nonusage.”

OK, first of all, let’s be insulting and belittling of female attitudes. Instead of “vanity”, I’d prefer to use something like a “Healthy Concern for One’s Image” or the like. But whatever, dismiss one of the most important things in human existence, beauty.

Now that we know that people don’t like to wear helmets because we realize that cycling is safe and that helmets don’t help much. Furthermore, we don’t like to look like dorks for marginal safety gains at best.

So what does the researcher want to do? Push people to wear helmets, of course.

“Researchers highlight the importance of peer pressure and discuss how social cues can genuinely induce intention, citing a need for more campus outreach by organizations and individuals to recommend bicycle helmet.”

In conclusion, in order to get people to wear helmets, we must make them think that cycling is more dangerous, helmets would probably save your life in cases when it doesn’t, and that one’s own personal appearance isn’t that important.

We’ll do this by wasting money which could be used for real safety to repeat the tired message that we have all heard so many times that many of us believe it: “wear a helmet or you’re an organ donor.”

In order to get more helmets on people’s heads, we need to surround ourselves with like minded people who all spout the same party line.

Instead of this dark future, I suggest that we stop manipulating statistics to cover up the fact that only a few thousand people a year hurt their heads in cycling and only a few hundred die. There are many other dangers out there that we accept without questioning which we are spending far less energy on.

Helmets Negatively Affect Cycling Perceptions II

December 17, 2013

Continuing where we left off yesterday. From the survey:

“Only 12% were self-reported helmet users; the
majority (72%) reported not wearing a helmet and having no intention to do so in the future.”

CDC [http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0036941/m0036941.asp]

“Although bicycle helmets provide effective protection against bicycle-related head injury, only approximately 18% of bicyclists wear helmets all or most of the time.”

Also, the CDC notes how unlikely a person who’s hospitalized for head injury is to be adult: “During the same years, greater than 75% of persons treated in emergency departments for bicycle-related head injury were less than 15 years of age.”

“Conversely, in a study of patients warranting emergency room care for a serious bicycle-related head injury, only 4% of patients had been wearing helmets.”

But only 6% of the adults are there for head injury anyway so this would not have made a difference in the vast majority of cases. Why they are fixating on such a tiny number is beyond me.

Helmets Negatively Affect Cycling Perceptions I

December 15, 2013

The helmet monster has arisen! I have been stirred up to do some more hard core helmet research.

Today the question is whether the whole helmet/yellow vest cult is scaring people away from cycling. I’d say YES.

As I have said a million times, cycling isn’t really that dangerous, all things considered.

I have read a recent paper that confirms this.

“…44,000 bicyclists were injured in 2006; 773 of these injuries resulted in death, accounting for 2% of all traffic fatalities that year. Head trauma is a particular problem with bicycling injuries; in 2004, for example, 10,769 bicyclists were hospitalized for head injuries.”

This seems like a lot, but our country as over 300 million people so this is a minor risk compared to other injuries.

It seems larger when we compare the injury rate to motoring which has a lower rate of fatalities because there are so few people cycling. On the other hand, the sheer numbers of motoring deaths far out weights that of cycling.

However, if you think of cycling as a sport as well as transportation, the picture looks rosier.

“High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.” [http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/media/statistics.aspx]

What super-popular sport would you not expect to have a few injuries a year?

“Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States.”

Thus, there are a variety of ways to get head injuries. Yet our authors state: “This lack of helmet use [in cycling] is of great concern for health educators and practitioners.”

Knowing the relative risks, this has me scratching my head because I know that this is NOT true.

For example, the CDC which doesn’t even list bicycle injuries on its severe traumatic brain injury page (TBI): http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/severe.html

On a separate page, the CDC did note this: “…7% of brain injuries are bicycle-related.” [http://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0036941/m0036941.asp]

And yet, the paper posted above once again takes on the mystery of why more people don’t wear helmets while riding their bicycle as if all of us are complete idiots who have missed something obvious.

Yet despite not caring to list the link between cycling and high incidence of TBI:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note several barriers to helmet use, including cost, comfort, lack of knowledge regarding helmet efficacy, and negative peer pressure.”

“In contrast, positive correlates of undergraduates’ helmet use include past personal injury or hospitalization due to a bicycling accident, long distance bike travels, helmet ownership, being Caucasian, a history of a cycling-related injury to a close friend, perceived vulnerability to injury, perceived ability of helmets to prevent head injury, and having peers who routinely wear bicycle helmets.”

All of these sound like perfectly good reasons to wear a helmet.

For me the reason to wear a helmet: being pretty sure I’m going to get hit in the head that day and knowing that the helmet will protect me from whatever I hit my head on. In general, none of thes are true.

“Therefore, helmet-wearing practices likely reflect a person’s internal beliefs more so than external forces, such as laws. Rosenstock’s Heath Belief Model (HBM) provides a useful framework for conceptualizing personal attitudes that predict preventative health behaviors.”

“An individual’s readiness to act is a function of his/her perceptions of his/her own vulnerability to the health threat (eg, the chances of being injured while bicycling) and the severity of consequences (eg, the extent to which a bicycle-related injury would impair one’s physical, social, and occupational functioning).”

I found this to interesting. I do feel vulnerable while riding without a helmet. I feel much more protected while riding with a helmet aka safety compensation. Thus, I don’t wear a helmet as I know, intellectually, that a helmet offers little protection from real threats.

“The preferred path of action includes the perceived benefits and barriers factors,
and beliefs about benefits gained must outweigh the cost or barriers to action.”

I feel that this is true for me, but with helmets we rarely hear, my supposedly unbiased researchers, the downsides.

French Paper: Proving That Helmets Are Next to Useless (Or Worse)

December 14, 2013

LTRs can skip.

Here’s a paper from people from France who really like bicycle helmets.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/iuob563sseca1i1/french%20helmet%20paper.pdf

One thing about helmet research. It’s almost impossible to do research in this area, which is highly politically charged, in an objective manner. The researcher either wants to prove that helmets are effective or that helmets are not necessary and not cost effective.

This paper is of the former case. Long term readers know that I despise cycling helmets with a burning hot passion for many reasons but the biggest one is that they make cycling look dorky and stupid.

Still like a glutton for pain, I continue to read pro-helmet studies. I realize that I’m not very objective in my reading of these papers, but really, who is? Most of us have made up our minds on helmets long ago and nothing will chage our minds.

If a helmet only protected on from 1% of injuries would we still use them? What about 10%. I feel we should have a clear number before we study this. Here’s my number 100%. If a helmet worked 100% of the time, I still wouldn’t use it.

Back to the paper.

They did something right in the first section: “Bicycle helmets are not mandatory in France and only 14% of cyclists always wear one.” However, I could not read their reference because it’s in French.
Alas, things break down right away:

“However, helmet status was not completed for 39% (n 5419) of the registered injured cyclists. In a logistic regression, a case-complete analysis (ie, excluding subjects with missing data) is said to be robust to ‘not missing at random’ data.22 Accordingly, we excluded subjects with missing helmet status from the analysis, leaving 8373 subjects.”

Great they leave out almost 40% of the data. That alone is bigger than the effect that they claim. I consider this to be a massive oversight.

But it gets worse:

“Of the 8373 injured cyclists with known helmet status, 1720 (26%) were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash and 6653 were not.”

But only 14% of the population wore helmets. If helmets had no effect at all, you’d expect to see 14% of those admitted who wore a helmet. Yet, they show that 26% wore helmets. This means that wearing a helmet almost doubles your chance of getting admitted to the hospital. WTF!?!

Here’s proof of safety compensation:

“Helmet wearing at the time of the crash was also associated with higher injury severity to body regions other than the head, face, and neck. In other words, helmeted cyclists were involved in more serious crashes than non-helmeted ones.”

Only someone who is utterly convinced without question that helmet wearing is sacred would not come to the conclusion that there’s a coorelation with helmet wearing and serious accidents. If we’re really risk adverse, we won’t wait for cause and effect, but rather we’d stay away from helmets.

“Compared with controls, cyclists with head injuries were more likely to be male, over 55 years of age, to have been hit by a motor vehicle, to have sustained more severe injuries not involving the head, face, or neck, and/or to have crashed on a major road.”

Again, why wear a helmet when we know that helmets don’t do much to protect one from several tons of high speed metal and plastic. Nor do helmets do anything to prevent an accident in the first place which seems much more common than non-helmet wearers.

Also, it seems that my safety advice of avoiding major roads would save more lives than helmets.

Given 1720 helmet wearing hospital patients of whom 15 had a serious head injury, the rate of head injury is 0.8%. Pretty good protect, right? Not really, because we have 6653 total non-helmet wearers of whom 129 sustained head injuries. That means that about 2% of the total non-helmeted hospitalized had serious head injuries. Thus, helmets would have helped (if at all) in 2% of serious accidents. Not good at all. Actually kind of useless since I consider a 1.1% difference to be more than a rounding error rather than a significant difference.

Since there are 1.6 million people and you can get a helmet for about $30, this is 48 million US$. Seems like a lot of infrastructure could be built for that chunk of change. Per victim that’s $372,093. Does it really need to be this expensive to protect a single individual? Maybe people need to slow down and avoid major roads?

Also, 18% of the helmeted riders had some kind of head injury. So while severe injuries were a rounder error lower, ALL head injuries were higher in helmeted riders. THUS, IF YOU WEAR A BICYCLE HELMET, YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO WIND UP IN THE HOSPITAL WITH SOME KIND OF HEAD INJURY.

Overall, head injuries of any kind are pretty rare:

“Testing for interaction between helmet and age (children/teens/adults) was not possible because there were too few cases among children.”

Too few cases to test. How long will we still bang on about this non-issue? Years.

By this time, I have come to the conclusion that helmets are worse than useless. What about our valiant authors? A mind bender:

“Moreover, we conducted a sensitivity analysis. Since our study misses cyclists who crashed and
were uninjured, it misses those who hit their head and were fully protected by a helmet. This leads to underestimation of the protective effect of helmets.”

Biased much? This is a perfect example of begging the question. The whole point of this paper is to convince us that helmets protect us from injury. It’s not seemly to assume that helmets have helped protect people if that’s what you are studying. Let’s just say helmets work and dispense with all the complex statistics.

Instead, we continue to miss the forest of danger for the scanty trees:

“…cyclists crashing in rural areas are more seriously injured than those crashing in urban areas, probably because of higher speeds…”

To me, it seems like rural riding is the real danger. Do the authors, who think that they can best protect us by getting helmets on our heads, say anything about rural riding? They encourage it! WTF!?! Are these people stupid?

“Wearing a helmet while cycling should be strongly encouraged, particularly in rural areas.”

So they are saying, riding the country is really dangerous so do it anyway. And be safe by wearing a helmet which could have saved, at best 129 people, out of 1.6 million. Hmmm…

We’re talking about a risk of serious head injury for 0.008% of the population! How much time should we squander on such an insignificant problem? Perhaps we should spend more time saving the 8000 people who were hospitalized for non-head injuries and the thousands who are too scared to ride due to fear mongering like this?