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« Hiccups, and mind altering drugs | Main | Why do bikes cost so much? »

It is news when cyclists die, news when they don’t

In a country with a population of three hundred and fifty million people, less than two cyclists die on roads in the US each day. A pretty miniscule number, so rare these deaths are always reported by local media, to be picked up elsewhere and the stories re-run across the nation.

On any given day some 12 pedestrians will die, and around 90 people driving cars will be killed somewhere across America. For the most part these fatalities will go unreported. This lop-sided reporting of cycling deaths, gives an erroneous impression that cycling is far more dangerous than it really is.

So it pissed me off, irked me somewhat this morning to read an article in the New York Times with the headline, “No riders killed in the first 5 months of the bike share program.”

When Citi Bike was introduced earlier this year it was widely speculated that that this bike share program would be a “Blood Bath,” putting inexperienced cyclists among New York’s crazy drivers.

Now people are surprised it didn’t turn out that way, even though similar bike share programs introduced in other large cities around the world, didn’t see huge increases in cycling fatalities either.

John Pucher, a professor of urban planning and public policy at Rutgers University and a so called cycling advocate, said last year that he expected, “At least a doubling and possibly even a tripling in injuries and fatalities among cyclists and pedestrians during the first year of the bike share program.” What a prick, strange thing for a cycling advocate to say.

I have written about John Purcher before. He uses fear tactics to push his own crazy fucking ideas, agenda for urban planning. This includes separating motor vehicles from cyclists and pedestrians. A utopian notion that will never happen in large cities like New York, the cost would be prohibitive. And to what end? Just so motorists can drive like fucking lunatics, as fast as they wish, and continue to slaughter each other.

The real story in this NY Times article, and one that should have made the headline, is almost lost three quarters of the way in. It states that traffic fatalities are down 30% since 2001. This is a huge amount of lives saved across the board, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.

This bears out a truth that dick-wads like Purcher don’t get, real cycling advocates understand. The more cyclists added to a city’s traffic mix, the safer it becomes for everyone. For a start, every bicycle represents one less car, so less conjestion.

The closer you get to there being as many bikes on the streets as cars, everyone is forced to drive slower, and more important, pay attention. So even adding inexperienced riders on Citi Bikes to the mix is a good thing. It makes it safer for everyone.

Finally, New York City Comptroller, John C. Liu, has been pushing to add bike helmets to Citi Bikes. Making helmets mandatory would probably be the kiss of death for any bike share program. It makes a simple program very complicated.

No one wants to wear a sweaty rental helmet that someone else has just worn, and it is unlikely most people are going to walk around with their own helmet on the off chance they might rent a Citi Bike. Although that is an option. (Left.)

As it stands a person in NYC, has the choice of walking from A to B, or renting a bike and getting there a lot easier and quicker. Of course there is also the option of taxi or subway.

But let’s say the person decides to get from A to B under their own steam. If he/she decides to walk, they could just as likely be hit by a car while crossing the street. However, no one suggests pedestrians should wear helmets.

Helmets are designed to offer protection should the cyclist fall from the bike and strike their head. Mr. Liu states at the end of this article, that Citi Bike users ride slow, very slow, and ultra-slow. So falling from one of the very heavy bicycles is a remote possibility.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pucher is covering his ass, hedging his bets when he said in an interview last week that while he regretted predicting a doubling or tripling in bike deaths, he would be “really surprised” if future data did not reveal at least a modest increase in injuries.

I will be expecting a follow up story in the New York Times at some time or other, when it will be reported that a whole bunch of cyclists have either been killed, or possibly not.


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Reader Comments (17)

Amen Dave.

You should send this as a letter to the Editor.

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Thoroughly enjoyable commentary Dave, bravo!

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

Why do you have to be so sane, Mr. Moulton?

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterP.M. Summer

Good points, Dave. Thank you for being a voice of reason.

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd W

Your lined out comments are brilliant. Keep up the good work. News Flash: Tonight there wasn't a single robbery in The Bay Area, nobody was killed, auto accidents resulted only in sheet metal damage (and one destroyed vehicle), and the sun shone all the day.

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber


November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Huntsman

lol.. awesome..

November 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersivakumar

I'm amazed at Puchers prediction because the facts have shown public bike use have resulted in far less injury than private bike use.

November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

I too enjoyed the "corrections" good message too. There is a similair story of statiistics with regards to a number of other controversial topics. The "enlightenment era" of the US culture is long over and now we feed, behave and operate on "nothing more than feelings".

November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

Chapeau as usual Dave.
Our city just drew lines creating bike lanes in a residential area from the urging of a cycling "union". "Union" members saw me riding by when they where doing some self promoting thing in the area and asked me to join in. I responded with "Actions speak louder than words, these lanes are the worst possible thing for bicycle advocacy, just ride your bike and stop pissing the motorist off " and rode off.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClause

Why even bother reading that piece of shit paper?

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

What piece of shit paper would you recommend?

November 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

The idea that cycling is dangerous and thus should be avoided is widely shared. But this belief has basis in fact due to the continuing failure if our legal system to hold violators accountable as Duane writes: "In stories where the driver had been cited, the penalty’s meagerness defied belief".

Mionske:In the US and the Netherlands, two children on bikes are struck by cars—and the responses couldn’t be more different

Our laws fail us but so does a culture that favors car drivers over cyclists.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Great post as always! Two feedbacks (feedsback?)

Thing 1: look on youtube for videos of urban cyclists in Europe (esp the Dutch). NOBODY wears helmets. (Also nobody has drop bars).

Thing 2: 2 cycle vs 12 ped vs 90 auto deaths per day is one way to look at it, but probably not the most useful. The auto statistics are relatively inflated (or cycle statistics relatively deflated) due to (a) so many more autos than bikes, (b) so many more miles driven by autos (because of higher speed), and (c) so much more driving on freeways (highest avg speed, most fatal accidents). If you compare mile-for-mile in the urban areas that cars and bikes share, the statistics get more difficult, and the death rates are much closer together.

But still, no need for scaremongering! And I agree more bikes is better!

November 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

Wtf's going on in London?

November 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJW

1. The Law of Collisions should read: " the larger/heavier collidant is definitionally at fault in any collision, and is therefore responsible for any resulting damages". This law would save a lot of wasted money on attorneys and force SUV drivers to either take the bus or wake up.

2. Somewhere on the AlGoreNet are the graphs of bicycle usage vs. traffic deaths over time for Amsterdam. Very revealing.

November 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpsmith
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