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I agree there is massive problems with the data. Rather like fender benders.

But on the high end -- the serious/deadly accidents -- the data is correct.

Cycling is safe (which is another reason why the push for enhanced penalities is stupid). And the best part of Bikeshare (well, one of them) is the promotion of helmet-free riding.

However, we do need better eduction/policing of

1) one handed riding (saw this idiot on M st, passing a bus on the right, one handed)

2) one way (much like stopping, there is a zone where it is safe, but it is also incredibly dangerous)

3) blowing throw stops signs/lights (again, a good rider can figure out a zone. My new rule of thumb is there isn't any cars around, it is safe to go through)

I am sure there is a way to do a safe one handed ride with a coaster brake to modulate, but that isn't what I am seeing.

There is no law against one-handed riding, so there's nothing to police. I ride one-handed all the time -- I have bar-end shifters so I have to take my hand of the bar to shift -- and I have no problem. It's no bigger deal than driving with one hand.

What I was dismayed with in the article was the emphasis on helmets. For adult riders riding in traffic helmets offer essentially zero protection. They are ineffectual against the greatest risk, getting hit by a car, and they are not designed to provide protection against that kind of impact.

@Contrarian: You can cite all the data you want, but my wife was t-boned (by a driver passing stopped traffic in the shoulder) and left a helmet-shaped hole in a windshield before being thrown twenty feet. Thanks, but I'll keep wearing a helmet and gently encouraging others to do so (on the other hand, I won't support a law to require adults to wear them).

I'm a helmetist myself. You crack up a couple and you tend to become a believer. They're not perfect--I wiped out this winter and whacked my head but good, without leaving so much as a scratch on the helmet--but when they work, they're great.

Instead of counting helmets, why not count how many bikes went through red lights without making an Idaho stop.

If measuring safety is one of the the goals, the counters should count anti-safe behavior.

This would at least provide some data for the "bikes don't stop at red lights" discussions.

I'm all for counting helmets. Of course, I'd like us to also track injury types too. Does a drop in helmet use coincide with an increase in skull fractures? That would interesting to know. But I also like tracking things that are known to cause crashes like riding against traffic, not using lights etc...

The odd thing is that people are upset that CaBi users don't generally wear helmets. But I'm excited that they always use lights. I'll take that trade every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

I wear a helmet when I ride my own bike, but do not when I ride CaBi. I think it's generally smart to wear a helmet, and I'd recommend it to anyone who asks...but I think they should only be mandatory for kids, as the current laws are written. Of course there will be times when helmets help, but so would shoulder and knee pads and no one is saying those should be mandated. It's just a level of risk you assume. And according to doctors, the benefits outweigh the risks.

http://bicycling.com/blogs/thehub/2011/07/29/doctors-against-helmet-laws/

"Clothing. Sensible footwear. Enough LED power to irradiate a small village. Outside the safe confines of the World Naked Bike Ride, these are the items that should probably be required by law to ride a bicycle. But wearing a helmet shouldn’t be one of them, say doctors in the unexpected results of a British Medical Journal survey.

A poll of 1,427 of the journal’s readers revealed more than two thirds would prefer helmets remain a personal choice and not required by law. Reasons for the opposition to helmet mandates varied. Some respondents argued that the research on helmets reducing the risk of head injury is too inconclusive to support a new law. And there have been studies, such as one conducted by a Bath University professor in 2006, which found passing drivers give less room to helmeted cyclists than they do to those not wearing helmets."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8669773/Bicycle-helmets-should-not-be-compulsory-say-doctors.html

"If people are forced to wear helmets they may give up cycling altogether and lose the health benefits of regular exercise, they warned.

More than two thirds of the respected journal's readers said they opposed compulsory helmets for adults.

One respondent in the poll of 1,427 people said: "It gives out the message that cycling is dangerous, which it is not. The evidence that cycling helmets work to reduce injury is not conclusive.

"What has, however, been shown is that laws that make wearing helmets compulsory decrease cycling activity. Cycling is a healthy activity and cyclists live longer on average than non-cyclists."

Another added: "Since nowhere with a helmet law can show any reduction in risk to cyclists, only a reduction in cyclists, why would anyone want to bring in a law for something which is clearly not effective at reducing the risk to cyclists?"

I personally wear a helmet, but I think that a much more important safety feature is lights, which is almost never reported on in this kind of piece.

I'm a lightist as well,.

um...from the sub-heading of the article on the web:

"Authorities are struggling to keep up with a crowd of riders whose skills range from expert to novice."

methinks one equally accurately substitute the word "drivers" for "riders". Takes two to do this dance.

If all the time, money and effort spent promoting helmets over the past 20 years in the USA had instead been invested in bike lines, we'd have many fewer dead cyclists today. I'm pretty sure that's true even if you exclude money spent on commercial advertising.

See http://www.cycle-helmets.com/elvik.pdf (the paper contains a lot of statistical glop, but the Summary section is straightforward).

If all the time, money and effort spent promoting helmets over the past 20 years in the USA had instead been invested in bike lines, we'd have many fewer dead cyclists today.

And here I thought I was bad starting a helmet war, and you have to throw bike lanes in too!

Just as with helmets, the safety effects of bike lanes are inconclusive, and much of the underlying research suffers from bias.

I agree with the posters who point to lights at night as the most important safety step cyclists can make.



See http://www.cycle-helmets.com/elvik.pdf (the paper contains a lot of statistical glop, but the Summary section is straightforward).

And if you don't have time to read the summary, this sentence tells you what you need to know:

According to the new studies, no overall effect of bicycle helmets could be found when injuries to head, face or neck
are considered as a whole.

I don't know this study, but is it possible there a self-reporting flaw? If I have an accident that protect my head so that I never have to seek treatment, that doesn't get reported.

Sorry. "where the helmet protects my head"

I was cycling home past the Silver Spring Metro tonight (on the sidewalk, slowly) and another cyclist was traveling the other direction at a walking pace, talking with two pedestrians. He had no light of any kind on his bike. They saw my lights--helmet front and back, bar headlight, two flashers in back, and started talking about it with each other. The one utterance i heard clearly was the cyclist, saying, "I'm underlit." Yeah, cycling with no light of any kind, on a Friday night around 10 p.m. with all the crazies out driving around. Yes. You're underlit, buddy.

I have nothing against helmet use. Seriously. I have one and often use it. The problem is the completely irrational way in which "wearing a helmet" has become a proxy for "bicycle safety".

As often as the helmet Nazis repeat it, it still doesn't make it true. And no, quoting your sister-in-law who's an ER nurse and "has seen a lot of head injuries" doesn't get us any closer to the truth, thanks.

I'll take that trade every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Thank you, WC. This absolutely captures my position on this. In fact, given a choice, I'd probably choose "gloves" over "helmet" if I could only pick one or the other.

@ken,

methinks one equally accurately substitute the word "drivers" for "riders". Takes two to do this dance.

Ah, sure, but we need to take a step back and acknowledge that novice cyclists can get themselves killed. Novice drivers will merely kill other people, so they're not quite as much of a public health issue.

@contrarian:

Just as with helmets, the safety effects of bike lanes are inconclusive, and much of the underlying research suffers from bias.

Sure, but the one thing we do know about bike lanes is that it increases the adoption of cycling as a choice of transport.

Personally, I think they make cyclists less safe in urban environments than putting sharrows down, and maybe getting it through drivers' thick skulls that cyclists have a right to be on the road.

But that ignores the "safety in numbers" effect. More cyclists means everyone is safer. And, in 2012 America, bike lanes mean more cyclists.

    The problem is the completely irrational way in which "wearing a helmet" has become a proxy for "bicycle safety".

I think helmet use (or lack thereof) is actually, in drivers' minds, a proxy for "bicyclist stupidity". This is why the stories always mention whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet. Drivers universally assume that it is stupid for a cyclist not to wear one, so when a helmetless cyclist gets creamed by a car, it's easier for them to justify to themselves--the cyclist was just stupid and he got in the way.

wrt lights, unlike in Europe, in the US, the CPSC does not require that bikes be outfitted with front and rear lights. The industry likely would fight it hard, but such a requirement is the only way to go really.

wrt more training for cops, I was at a conference on bike sharing and one of the presentations was by the Denver RTD and they did specialized training for bus drivers in advance of the opening of Denver Bike Share, because there would be more bikes on the roads, likely ridden by less able cyclists, and they wanted bus drivers to be prepared.

I thought that was interesting.

For all the complaints that riders make about WMATA drivers, they do get specialized training wrt bikes, and so do heavy vehicle drivers for DCG, although not necessarily all agencies. (And I think the bus contractors for DCPS should get such training and I doubt they do.)

How about training for cyclists. They have phys ed teachers teaching kids how to drive cars safely. How big a stretch is it to have them teach kids how to ride a bike safely.

Tom, that's how the Dutch and Germans do it I think. They spend a lot of time teaching kids how to bike in traffic.

In fact, given a choice, I'd probably choose "gloves" over "helmet" if I could only pick one or the other.

I always wear eye protection on my bike. I couldn't imagine riding without it now.

    I always wear eye protection on my bike. I couldn't imagine riding without it now.

Same here. And my gloves came in handy (ha ha) the other day when, like a complete dork, i tripped over a curb at low speed. Thank you, Pearl Izumi.

I've been having issue with bus drivers lately. One basically forced me out of my lane multiple times, and when I told him at the next light to stop doing it, informed me that he was permitted to do it because there was no bike lane on that street.

I filed a formal complaint, although we know how weak the process is at WMATA.

@Crickey7:

I filed a formal complaint, although we know how weak the process is at WMATA.

Knowing that there's a rigorous formal complaints process in place should put your mind at ease:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/26/metro-derailed-by-culture-of-complacence-incompete/?page=all

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