The push is on to further limit sidewalk cycling. “We understand that there are concerns with sidewalk bicycling, but we think that sidewalk riding is normally a problem where there is not a space in the roadway that bicyclists perceive as safe,” said Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. Jeanne Mallett is really worked up about sidewalk cycling.
Long Bridge Drive, which will feature bike lanes that might some day connect Arlington to the MVT, might finally be ready for construction.
Centerville Football coach is either wrong, or misquoted "Haddock said the highest rate of concussions in youth sports occurs in girls soccer, and the highest rate of concussions in the United States stems from bike accidents." He's talking about NUMBERS, not rates and not at the high school level. Either way, it's deceptive to try and cast football as less of a concussion risk than cycling. The numbers are higher because far more people participate in those sports. Concussion rates for football are the highest in all high school sports. I'm unaware of any data on concussion rates for cycling, but I'd be stunned if they're higher for cycling than for football. While there are twice as many bike-related concussions per year than in football, there are far fewer people playing football than biking (for starters, almost no women play).
Speaking of failing to consider the denominator. Here's someone arguing that Mixed Martial Arts fighting is safer than cycling because more people die while cycling. He also fails to consider the benefits of cycling - everything looks bad when you only consider the costs [Thousands of people contract sexually transmitted diseases each year? Well, I guess it's cold showers for me from now on.] "Is it all so simple that we can just ignore the hard numbers behind these two activities and two data sets?" he asks. Apparantly, it is. By his logic it's safer to play Russian roulette than bike, because fewer people die doing it. [I don't have an opinion on MMA and whether it should be legal or not, but casting Citibike as dangerous or biking as more dangerous than fighting without using all relevant data is bad form].
The south end of the proposed trail will connect to the existing Lakeside Trail located on the east side of Lake Frank within Rock Creek Regional Park and will continue north to connect with Muncaster Mill Road and cross at the Emory Lane intersection. The trail then will use the Emory Lane Bikeway and cross the Intercounty Connector Bikeway to the ICC bridge over the North Branch of Rock Creek. The proposed trail will go under the ICC bridge and connect to a future hard surface trail, which will be constructed by the developer of the Preserve at Rock Creek and will be dedicated along with parkland to the Department of Parks. The developer-built trail will end at Bowie Mill Local Park.
There was a suggestion to connect the trail to two local, dead-end roads, but residents of those roads didn't want the trail connections. “Connecting the trail is important to the Olney community, as it is a missing piece of a larger network, said association President Barbara Falcigno. “GOCA feels the master plan alignment that keeps the trail within the natural area is preferred over directing users onto roads.”
"The resolution also stated that GOCA feels the trail route should stay off area roads such as these which do not have a shoulder or sidewalk, which could make it unsafe for users."
The Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is still looking for volunteers for documentation project counts Thursday July 11th (5-7pm) and SaturdayJuly 13th (12-2pm). Go to their webpage for additional information: www.bicycle.alexandria.va.us/
Surprise! Bike share in NYC is a big success. Though ABC got a little confused on the facts in DC. "Washington D.C. began its program in 2008 with 120 bikes and 10 stations. It has expanded to 1,800 bikes and more than 200 stations." And despite trippling bike parking in Boston, it can't keep up with demand.
The lack of a helmet requirement in New York’s month-old Citi Bike program...has some experts predicting a disastrous increase in injuries and fatalities.
so far, through more than 500,000 rides, such predictions haven’t come true, with just three minor accidents and nothing more serious than some scrapes and bruises.
John Pucher is the only expert they cite [unless you count comedian (and former roommate of my former boss) Jon Stewart or the AAA-New York spokesman as experts], and while I certainly think he's a knowledgeable guy, they don't actually have a quote from him and they lump helmets in with other possible causes.
A lack of a helmet requirement, blocked bike lanes and inexperienced cyclists hitting the road are all reasons Rutgers University public policy professor John Pucher cited in predicting that the number of cyclist injuries and fatalities will double or even triple in Citi Bike’s first year.
And near the bottom of the article they have a study that seems to contradict this.
The Mineta Transportation Institute in California studied 14 bike-share programs and found relatively low accident rates, averaging 1.36 serious or fatal accidents in 2011. In the same year, there were 22 fatalities for bicyclists in New York.
The fact that DC and Boston have been relatively safe isn't even really mentioned. They do pull out the discredited claim that
in 97 percent of bike fatalities from 1996 to 2005, the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet.
The statistic itself is somewhat daming in isolation, but no more so than pointing out that 100% of bike fatalities in the same period were not wearing rainbow colored suspenders. They don't give a citation, but it is likely this report which also notes that only about 13% of New York cyclist were even wearing helmets during that time. Add in the fact that often the helmet use was unknown and that the reporting of helmet use in fatalties is frequently reported wrong and this statistic is just above junk status. That's not to say that helmets aren't useful, only that this statistic makes them look more useful than they probably are.
The Pucher reference most likely comes from this article, but they wildly misread it. Pucher does mention that having more cyclists on the road increases total risk - just as the number of Segway related deaths has gone way up since the 1980's when there were none. But he does not in any way attribute that to helmets
"The problem with requiring helmets with bikesharing systems is they're generally meant to be for very short trips," says Pucher. "Let's say you get off the subway or Metro, and you just need [a bike] to cover maybe, say, ten blocks. It's unlikely you're going to carry with you a helmet to use for that ten-block ride."
Alternatively, he says, bikesharing programs would have to take on the difficult task of figuring out how to dispense one-size-fits-all helmets at every station.
Short trips also generally make for less risk than longer trips. And while they may not do so for safety purposes, bikeshare systems encourage shorter trips within their pricing systems. Capital Bikeshare, for example, ramps up the price after 30 minutes of riding.
While there is an argument that helmet laws are unnecessary, Pucher points out that more riders on the roads, particularly when new bikeshare systems open for business (like New York's Citi Bike, which launches in July), naturally leads to greater risk.
Then the money line - which isn't even really a prediction, it's a fear.
"All of a sudden, you've got these 7,000 bikes, which anyone with a credit card can use. ... My guess is the people using those bikes are far less likely to be experienced cyclists," he says of New York's new system. "What I fear is you're going to have indeed a spiking--and it could be a doubling or a tripling--of injuries and fatalities, both of cyclists and pedestrians."
So he's talking about inexperience cyclists - not helmets. He's also talking about pedestrian injuries spiking.
More MBT attack follow-up here. WABA's planning a safety walk. And those cameras DC installed? Almost entire for show. It's clear we're going to need an Enforcement Droid* 209.
The complete history of road lanes and how cyclists got kicked out of them. Long, but good. "The UVC therefore gave bicyclists the superficial appearance of being drivers, but without the right to use travel lanes like drivers. Although a travel lane is intended for a single line of vehicles, bicyclists were told that they could not use travel lanes like real drivers. Bicyclists were told they had to ride at the right edge and if they strayed from the edge, they were doing so at their own peril. Bicyclists were now officially second-class road users."
"Crashing without a helmet exposes the head to accelerations and forces – or loads - up to 9.5 times greater than with a helmet and so greatly increases the risk of head, skull and brain injury, according to a detailed biomechanical study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention."
Because only rich people live and work in Manhattan and Brooklyn and only poor people live in the other bouroughs, bikeshare is part of the dividing of people into haves and have nots leading to a dystopic future from out of a sci-fi novel. Or something.
"It’s too early to tell whether parking spaces lost when bike lanes were installed will cause ticket revenue to dip or whether the sharp uptick in the number of people riding bicycles around town will mean less demand for the city’s 260,000 on-street parking spaces."
Jim Titus's excellent work in correcting the official government statements on helmet efficacy has me thinking about the best way to promote helmet use - and I recognize that not everyone agrees that we should either out of concern that doing so makes cycling look dangerous or because of doubts that helmets are even worth promoting.
A recent post on Marginal Revolution got me to thinking about the various ways we can change behavior. We can try to force people to change their behavior from the top - through government enforcement, or we can push people to change their behavior from the bottom through social enforcement. Both can be effective, but when we compare their use in reducing smoking or alcohol use, the former seems to be more effective. And while using inflated claims and cherry-picking data can be a part of social enforcement, I think we can agree that that is not only unethical, but possibly counter-productive in the long run.
In the United States, we tried to curtail alcohol use by making it illegal and for 13 years it mostly was. We shut down breweries and distilleries (though wine was still legal) and threw bootleggers into prison. Ironically, alcohol use had already begun a steep decline before prohibition due to social pressures, but after prohibition alcohol use not only returned to pre-prohibition levels, but exceeded them and continued to climb until the 1980's.
No similar law was ever instituted for cigarettes and yet, smoking has been in a long decline.
Sure, we've taxed cigarettes like crazy, set up programs to help smokers by getting them the help they need and limited the places you can smoke (almost nowhere) as well as where you can advertise it (almost nowhere), but the taxes on alcohol are high and we've raised the drinking age. No doubt we might see a significant change if we stopped allowing alcohol ads on TV, but then we probably wouldn't have TV anymore.
But a larger cause in the drop of smoking is probably the growing perception that it is unhealthy and unattractive.
Americans would probably be better off if everyone decided to quit smoking, and they would probably be better off if everyone decided to quit drinking and they would probably be better off if everyone decided to wear helmets when biking. But mandating behavior, especially when the public isn't convinced, hasn't proven to be the best strategy.
And if we're going to convince cyclists that they're safer with helmets, we need to start by being credible which is what Jim has been pushing for and I'm happy to see the government moving in that direction. I hope to see other opinion makers in the media and medical profession follow suit. Still, other dubious facts like this
Continue to be repeated. More on that here. And from the same article, the new one making the rounds
Bike accidents contribute to more sports-related head injuries than any other activity.
Which is likely inaccurate, and is by no means a measure of risk. It's inaccurate because while cycling does result in twice as many head injuries as football, not all cycling is sports-related. If we counted only recreational cycling, that number would go down quite a bit. I'd bet that there are more pedestrian head injuries per year, but we just don't count walking as a sport.
And it's not a measure of risk because it doesn't consider exposure. How many hours a week does the average person even spend playing football compared to cycling? The number itself is more a proxy for how much people cycle, not how much people who bike are at risk for head injuries.
And It would help to put energy into making better helmets if possible, as Jim notes, since more effective helmets would make for a stronger argument. It's unfortunate that it has taken NHTSA this long to pay attention to this issue and I doubt it signals a shift to greater interest in cycling safety, but moving away from the inflated 85% effective claim hopefully means the conversation won't begin and end with helmets.
The federal government is withdrawing its long-standing claim that bicycle helmets prevent 85% of head injuries, in response to a petition filed by WABA under the federal Data Quality Act.
In 1989, a study in Seattle estimated that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries. Efforts to replicate those results during the 1990s confirmed that helmets reduce injuries, but not nearly as much as the Seattle study suggested. Yet public health advocates, government web sites, and the news media have continued to repeat the 85% factoid to the point that it has become a mantra.
Bad information can cause problems, even when it is promoted with the best intentions. If people think that helmets stop almost all head injuries, consumers will not demand better helmets, and legislators may think it makes sense to require everyone to wear one. So we asked two federal agencies to correct the misinformation, and they recently agreed to do so.
How Effective are Bicycle Helmets?
Helmets absorb the shock from a crash. If your head strikes the ground or a vehicle, your brain could be seriously shaken by the sudden deceleration. Helmets should decrease that shaking. The deceleration will be more gradual as your head depresses the foam in the helmet, rather than striking a hard surface. Helmets can also prevent head fractures by spreading the force of the impact, like the difference between being hit on the head by a rock or a beach ball with the same weight.
That’s the theory. But how often do helmets actually prevent head injuries? It’s hard to tell. Experiments on people are unethical. So researchers instead collect hospital data on people involved in bicycle crashes.
In 1989, a team of researchers from Seattle collected data about cyclists who went to area hospitals after a crash. The team was led by Robert S. Thompson, MD, who directed preventive care for the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. Only 7% of the cyclists with head injuries wore helmets, but 24% of those without head injuries did wear helmets. Based on a statistical analysis they estimated that helmets had reduced the risk of a head injury by 85%. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctor Thompson’s study was a “case-control study.” This type of study originally showed the link between smoking and cancer. “Case-control” is a misnomer because there is no true control group. Epidemiologists often say that case-control studies are a good way to show whether something has a good (or bad) effect on health, but not to accurately quantify that effect.
So the fundamental contribution of the Thompson study was to demonstrate that helmets do reduce the risk of head injuries. But public health advocates recognized that the 85% estimate was a good factoid for risk communication: it means that failing to wear a helmet makes you more than 6 times as likely to experience a head injury. Government web sites and newspapers repeated this factoid, to the point where it has become ubiquitous in discussions about bicycle helmets.
Meanwhile, dozens of researchers sought to replicate the Thompson findings in their own communities. They also found that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries. But they found less of a beneficial effects than Dr. Thompson found in Seattle. Some of the studies also found that helmets increase the risk of neck injuries.
In 2001, a review of all published studies found that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by 45–71%, and increase the risk of neck injuries by 0–86%. That “meta-analysis” was updated in 2011: Helmets reduce head injuries by 25–55%, but because of the increased risk in neck injuries, the combined reduction in head and neck injuries is only 2–26%.
Yet government web sites, public health advocates, and the news media continue to repeat the 85% estimate.
Bicycle safety is one of WABA’s central missions, and we have strongly supported bicycle helmets for the last few decades. We require helmets on all rides that we organize. One of our sponsored projects is the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), which reviews bicycle helmets and encourages improvements in their design. (BHSI raises its own funds, and is not supported by WABA membership dues.)
In the 1990s, we supported proposals to require children under the age of 16 to wear bicycle helmets, which eventually became law.
Thanks to occasional articles in the Washcycle, local cycling advocates have known for years that public health advocates overstate the effectiveness of helmets. But with all the ways by which drivers and cyclists misunderstand each other while navigating the roads, helmet effectiveness has not ranked high in our list of misconceptions to fix.
That changed this year. The Maryland Department of Transportationsupported the mandatory helmet bill, based on the web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which says that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries. An article in the Washington Post questioned why cyclists opposed the mandatory helmet bill, and stated that helmets prevent 80% of head injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The mandatory helmet law was promoted by people who were relying on incorrect information on federal agency web sites.
As we prepared our testimony on the bill, we realized that most helmet research has been focused on making helmets cool, rather than more protective. Better ventilation and more fashionable designs might encourage more people to buy and wear helmets, but it does not make someone safer. Could that be because everyone is assuming that helmets are already 85% effective?
If people thought that helmets are less than 50% effective, might there be a greater focus on what really matters—a better helmet?
WABA pushed agencies to correct the misinformation
Last February, I sent emails to both CDC and NHTSA, pointing out that the 85% estimate is incorrect, and providing citations to newer research. A few weeks later, CDC thanked me for pointing out the new research. I spoke with an epidemiologist over the phone, who told me that CDC would remove the error. She confirmed the conversation in a letter.
NHTSA staff told me that they were too busy to discuss the matter. That led us to conclude that a more formal request would be necessary: The Data Quality Act requires information on federal web sites to be accurate and supported by appropriate research. So I asked NHTSA to provide the underlying documentation. NHTSA confirmed that the 85% figure was based on the Thompson study.
On March 15, we sent our formal “request for correction” asking NHTSA to either remove the statement that helmets are 85% effective, or revise the quantitative estimate so that it accurately reflects the published literature. 
(Jim Titus is on WABA’s Board of Directors, a resident of Prince George’s County, and an occasional contributor to The Washcycle. This article was reprinted from WABA's web site; in this article "we" refers to WABA.)
We also asked NHTSA to support its claim that helmets are “the single most effective to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash”, but it was unable to do so.
Our petition also asked NHTSA to “delete all statements … asserting that wearing a helmet is the single most effective way (or device) to prevent a head injury, unless this claim has been substantiated by a peer-reviewed study showing that helmets are more effective than other ways or devices for preventing head injuries.”
NHTSA did not, however, agree to our request that the agency either substantiate or remove the claim that “wearing a helmet is the single most effective way (or device) to prevent a head injury.” NHTSA said that WABA had not met its burden of proof. Evidently, WABA and NHTSA disagree on whether NHTSA is required to provide at least one study showing its statement to be correct, before WABA would be required to show the statement to be wrong. We are thinking about whether to appeal.
The drunk W&OD Trail driver refused a breath test and was unable to complete a field sobriety test after she was pulled over. "She said she was coming from Mexico,” said Gary Lose, a Vienna police spokesman. Maybe she was referring to Foggy Bottom, which I once saw labelled as "Mexico" in a map from the 18th Century.
Do bike helmets really work? Probably, but not as much as the government has claimed - so they're backing off of that (more on this later)
The warm weather is causing something to emerge and it's not cicadas according to ABC7, it's bike thieves.
Shout it from the rooftops: "People who walk or bike to work are likely to influence their co-workers and partners to do the same, according to health researchers....married people were more likely to participate in AC than non-married people, men actively commuted (AC) more often than women and mothers were even less likely to actively commute....People who were comfortable with their bicycling skills were more likely to actively commute, as were those who believed they had a shorter biking or walking time to work. Believing that an employer supports active commuting and working for an employer who supports AC, living in a community that supports AC and believing that the community is supportive of pedestrians and bicyclists were all positively significantly related to active commuting. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the researchers found that lack of on-street bike lanes, off-street bike and walking paths, and sidewalks all negatively influenced active commuting. Difficult terrain, bad weather and the speed and volume of traffic along the commuting route were also significantly related to people deciding to not actively commute."
"the researchers concluded that head injuries were decreasing across the country at a rate that wasn't "appreciably altered" by the new helmet laws. Other rider health initiatives — namely, public safety campaigns and the introduction of better bike infrastructure — rendered the contribution of helmet laws "minimal"