In a typically rambling column, filled with context-free statistics that one finds in the top three of a google search, Courtland Milloy has somehow landed on the right answer - that it's not safe for cars to be on the roads where cyclists and pedestrians can be found.
I'm intentionally not linking to the column.
Here it is with my comments:
The drivers of [vehicles involved in crashes several counties away] may or may not have been at fault. Nevertheless, those two cyclists should never have been in harm’s way.
That's a nice thought. But life involves getting in harm's way. Cyclists have been killed riding on the sidewalk and riding on bike trails. You can get killed by a car while sitting on a bench outside an ice cream parlor, for God's sake. "Harm's Way" is, unfortunately, a very broad swath of land.
What cyclists need is a separate network of biking roads, not bike lanes. Give them trails through wooded areas, away from cars and trucks.
He's half right. More bike boulevards, "trails through wooded areas" and separated bike facilities would make things much better. [Where would we ever find enough wooded areas in the city for all the cyclists though?] Still, we're going to need bike lanes, unless the plan is for us to park our bikes and walk the last mile. And that's insane.
Once they enter high-traffic areas in the city, it’s off the bicycle and onto alternative transportation. Like two feet.
Actually, if we expand the idea, then it's not so bad. Maybe we could give drivers their car-only roads - a.k.a limited access highways - but then have them park their cars when they exit and switch to alternative transportation. Like two feet. After all, they're the ones doing all the killing.
Think of it, people could leave their home and walk - or even bike now that all local roads would be biking roads that cyclists need - to the nearest car-storage facility. Drive out of it onto a highway, where they won't be bothered by pedestrians and cyclists, then pull off into the car-storage facility closest to their destination, and walk or bike to that. Sure, it would take longer, but think of all the lives that would be saved. Think of the children. Think of Bono. Think of underwear models (not really relevant, that's just fun).
In other words, Milloy and I are in complete agreement, we just differ on which roads should be biking roads and which ones should be driving roads. But, if we can't totally segregate the transportation system because we value efficiency over safety, then perhaps sharing roads is the next best idea.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, bicycle fatalities increased from 682 in 2011 to 726 in 2012. Injuries from collisions with cars increased from 48,000 to 49,000. There were no reports of motorists being killed by a cyclists[sic]. Passenger vehicle deaths actually declined during the same period.
Recently, there has been an uptick in bike fatalities. But we make a dire mistake when we look at only two data-points and try to define a trend. After all, if we look at just the trend in Washington Football Team Super Bowl victories between 1986 (0) and 1987 (1) then they would be on track to win 28 super bowls this year alone.
So if we look at more than just two years, we see that the general trend for bike fatalities nationwide is down, even if we just look at raw numbers.
And it gets even more pronounced if we consider the uptick in cycling.
In the Washington area, seven bicyclists were killed in collisions with cars in 2013, compared with three in 2012, according to the Washington region’s Transportation Planning Board. There were 902 injuries in 2012, compared with 783 the previous year.
Same issue here. Bike fatalies have ranged from a high of 12 in 2005, to a low of 1 in 2003. The numbers he cites, while too high, are not outside the norm. It's true that bicycle injuries have been trending up, but that's because of increased biking. I don't see his point except to make cycling seem very dangerous, which it is not.
It may not look so bad to some, but the problem is likely to get worse.
There will probably be more bike crashes, injuries and fatalities if biking increases. But if it helps lower automobile VMT, there will probably be fewer injuries and fatalities overall. After all, it's driving that is deadly as he notes when he writes that " There were no reports of motorists being killed by a cyclists.[sic]"
Area jurisdictions are hurrying plans to funnel thousands of bicyclists into unsafe streets. The District has the audacity to fast-track plans for 200 miles of on-street bicycle facilities by 2040.
Right. The on-street bicycle facilities are what are needed to turn "unsafe" streets into safe ones. Other ways to make streets safer is to lower the speed limit or raise the bar for a driver's license (a bar Milloy famously managed to not get over once).
Which means that an already outdated 20th-century bike lane system should be finished by the dawn of the 22nd century.
The new bike facilities DDOT is building and designing are not 20th century. But yes, building things takes time. Is Milloy for an escalated schedule? Again I can't tell what he's complaining about. Is he upset that it's moving too fast, or too slow?
There are children on bicycles with training wheels trying to keep up adults [sic] as they bicycle through downtown. It’s one thing to put yourself at risk, but endangering your child is another matter.
That is not something I've ever seen. Not a child on training wheels downtown. Not a parent riding in front of such kid as they "try to keep up".
I cringe at the sight of infants riding on seats strapped to handle bars, and cyclists towing toddlers in those two-wheel “baby buggies” that are barely taller than the bumper of a car.
In a review of 5 years of nationwide FARS data that I did last year (to be posted later, I promise), I couldn't find a single example of a child who was killed riding in a seat attached to a bike or a bike trailer. Not one. So, cringe all you want, but it's probably safer than taking a shower. More roller coaster paradox issues.
But here’s where we are now:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the groups with the highest rates of bicycle deaths are those between the ages of 15 and 24 and adults 45 years and older. People from ages 5 to 24 account for nearly 60 percent of all bicycle-related injuries.
88 percent of those killed were male.
69 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas.
30 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred between 4 and 8 p.m., according to the NHTSA.
Of the 49,000 injuries to cyclists in 2012, the NTSA said “6,000 were incapacitating, meaning the bicyclist could not leave the crash scene without assistance (skull, chest, or abdominal injuries, broken limbs, severe lacerations, or unconsciousness.”
That's a lot of statistics (here's my take on the GHSA report). It must've taken him 5 minutes to google, cut and paste them. But I don't know what point he's trying to make. Biking has some risk? Groups that are highly represented in biking are also highly represented in fatality data? The places where the most people bike, are also the places where the most cyclists are killed by cars? Men shouldn't bike? I think it's another, "see how very dangerous biking is" data dump meant to rally people behind the idea that the roads just aren't suitable places for bikes. Though, when we look at the total number of automobile related fatality data, we can use the same logic to draw the conclusion that roads just aren't suitable places for cars. So, that must be Milloy's point.
The District’s transportation safety plan, called “Vision Zero,” aims to create an accident-free road system with no fatalities and no injuries. Nice thought.
It is, isn't it.
But D.C. is not Denmark, San Francisco is not Sweden, New York is not the Netherlands.
I don't know why D.C. has to be Denmark to be a place where we can bikes and cars can safely share the road. In fact, despite Milloy's non-relevant data dump (DC is also not Florida) biking in DC is relatively safe. There have been 4 fatal bike-car crashes in DC in the last 5 years. The fact that Milloy had to go to Hartford County for one of his recent examples should make it clear that for most people, biking is about as safe as driving. And when one considers the long term health benefits, it's on average much better for you, even with the slightly elevated risk.
Here, bicycles and cars were not designed to “share the road,” and the roads weren’t built to accommodate the wishful thinking of well- intentioned urban planners.
We pretty much use the same bicycles and cars here as they do in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, and so I don't know how ours were not designed to share the road.
And that roads were built with cars primarily in mind is something that DC wishes to repair and its the reason why they want to add all those bike lanes that he scoffed at earlier. But let's be clear, even when the roads were designed for the total accommodation of cars (instead of wishful thinking) they've never been 100% safe for motorists. Anytime you go out on the road (or even the sidewalk) you are one drunk or irresponsible driver away from being killed. That can't be fixed until self-driving cars hit the road.
Better to provide a special bus for cyclists once they get off the wooded bike trail. It would sure beat riding in an ambulance.
This is pretty much the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Why has he (and The Post) wasted his time on a column that advocates something no one wants, no one would support and he knows won't work? This isn't even an "eat the rich" essay. It's just a long-winded attempt to say that it's not safe for bikes to be on the road, which is false. And no one is going to force them off anyway.
Why he doesn't come to the conclusion that we need safer roads - and talk about the ways that Vision Zero seeks to achieve that - is beyond me. That's the natural direction that any concern for cyclists should take you. But, I suspect Milloy isn't concerned for cyclists. Except to drive up his click count, I suppose. Don't go to the Post website to read this. Don't comment on it. Don't link to his post.