Every Bicyclist Counts

About two weeks ago, the LAB issued a report based on data they collected from the everybicyclistcounts.org site that was setup and run by Elizabeth Kiker (whom I guessed was an intern; but i really don’t know).

I had been in contact with Elizabeth a few times over the course of her data collection in 2012 with some Arizona fatalities. It seems like a perfectly reasonable project; especially after reading a perfectly sensible preview of the project why-every-bicycle-counts-and-what-we-can-learn-fatal-crashes dated May 2012, especially when it described the limitation of methodology which i will quote at some length:

Limitations: Despite the enormous value and new analysis we believe this project will bring to the bicycling community, we recognize that there are (at least) several limitations.

  • No coverage of injuries and near-misses. As it is, we have taken on the significant task of trying to track down what amounts to nearly two crashes per day. It would be nearly impossible to do the same for the tens of thousands of non-fatal crashes.

  • No exposure data. Without knowing how many people are riding under difference conditions, it’s impossible to know the relative risk of different circumstances. This problem haunts other bicycle risk analysis as well.

  • Not scientific. It is not a census of all fatal crashes (though we are trying to make it as comprehensive as possible), nor is it a random sample. We report only the ones we find out about. In addition, it requires a person enter the information and make determinations about which categories best apply. (Links to all sources are available on EveryBicyclistCounts.org.)

  • Dependence on public sources. Every Bicyclist Counts still depends, to some extent, on police reporting and media accounts. These are often flawed, incomplete, or biased. We believe that additional information from cyclists and families can help improve our data. The project may, in the long run, help improve the quality of future reporting.

However, the final report and 5/21/2014 blog announcement (direct link to .pdf)  is another story altogether. Now, Andy Clarke (The LAB’s Executive director at the time; see below for another example of Clarke’s thinking, that one involving supporting a mandatory-use law)  is running all over the place, see also e.g. bicycleretailer.com interview, saying essentially that the LAB has uncovered some sort of new proof;

For the longest time it’s been an article of faith that we should be taking the lane, and that separated bike facilities are unnecessary … well, I think we are grown up enough now to say that’s not the case. Most people feel more comfortable actually having a paved shoulder or a cycle track or having a buffered or protected bike lane, and those things will reduce the fear and the incidence of being hit from behind. And we shouldn’t feel bad or awkward about saying that.

Without mentioning what those of us who have studied the stats already know, for decades: 1) rear-ends collisions are over-represented in the fatal collisions, versus the much more numerous non-fatal collisions (100:1. I.e. there are about 100 non-fatals for each fatal collision. In AZ for example, the rate is about 2,000:20 per year), and 2) rear-end are over-represented when any of the following factors are present: rural; high-speed; nighttime. So Andy draws conclusions from the non-scientific, non-random sample of fatals to whip up fears that rear-ends are more common than they actually are according to, e.g. PBCAT to apparently engender support for “separated facilities”.

The Report Itself

So, the report’s dataset is 628 anecdotally collected reports of cyclist fatalities; mainly in the year 2012. They note that they collected reports on “552 in 2012 alone. In 2012, FARS reported 726 bicyclist deaths”. It is quite likely that the LAB’s 552 is almost but not quite a perfect subset of the 726 since FARS counts strictly traffic fatalities involving an in-transport motor vehicle.

The report’s methodology is, as noted above, and pretty much by definition, non-scientific and non-random. The report is also non-rigorous statistically — there are no statistical measures (e.g. no confidence intervals) of any kind. This is, however, not mentioned in the report.

One error / omission is table 1: the list of crash types and percentages did not “add up”.  It listed 567 incidents, rather than 628. The author, Ken McLeod was kind enough to supply the missing  61 incidents and now the results can be calculated. See the worksheet “LAB EBC” for the corrected Table 1 I have on google docs.

I encourage LAB to release their data; Ken told me that they are considering this. There’s really no excuse not to. (update 5/2015 still no data).

The choice to calculate the fraction of crash types (e.g. rear-end = 40%) is probably inflated by the fact that it’s calculated as a fraction of “of known crash types” and they have a very high number of unknown crash types. As previously mentioned there was no confidence interval presented — it would presumably be very large. FARS in 2010 (the most recent year PBCAT was completed) found motorist-overtaking crash group to be only 25% of all bicyclist fatalities — FARS is a complete census; there is no sampling error.

Rather than note that, e.g. the 40% might be incorrect, due to methodology limitations, Andy (in particular) rather uses the report as a propaganda tool citing it as “proof” of the need for more segregated facilities.

The report oddly does not mention rural/urban which tends to be rather important in rear-end collisions. It is also highly unlikely segregated facilities will ever be built on the vast majority of rural roads.

The report (correctly) mentions there is no exposure data — and thus exposure risk can’t be quantified; they also present (via FARS data) the number of 2012 fatalities by road class (rural / urban and freeway, arterial, collector, local; etc). So the finding that “most fatalities occur on urban arterial roads” is somewhat self-evident. (note to self: check TYP_INT, Type of Intersection and RELJCT1/2, Relation to Junction  in the incident table against pbcat data).

see also: fars-and-pbcat

8 thoughts on “Every Bicyclist Counts”

  1. f.b. thread about “40%”
    The LAB EBC report states “552 in 2012 alone. In 2012, FARS reported 726 bicyclist deaths”. It is probably true that LAB thinks they’ve identified 552/726 = 76% but that’s not the case since they count some (more) deaths that FARS does not or counts in a different category. For example FARS does not count motorized bicyclists as bicyclists, they are counted as drivers. FARS does not count anyone who died when a MV is not involved, for example simple falls, or bike-bike collisions. FARS does not count deaths occurring on private property, or private streets. I am aware of 4 such deaths, just in AZ in 2013 so they’re not all that uncommon; and there are almost certainly more.

  2. SCAME refers to an acronym utilized by the Psyop Community. It is conducive to “counter-propaganda,” in that, it eludes to source, content, audience, media used, and effect of the propaganda. To s.c.a.m.e. propaganda, refers to one’s attempt to analyze the content of said propaganda using techniques taught at the JFK Special Warfare Training Center. It is often missused to desribe someone tricking another into a well devised scheme

    I was interested in its use especially for counter-propaganda. I heard about it on the radio randomly; the above definition is from urban dictionary.

  3. Here are some figures ground out by Paul Schimek:
    For the record, here are corrected figures from the 2010/2011 FARS data based on the (pbcat) crash-typing done by NHTSA contractors:

    1294 bicyclist fatalities, of which
    – 71% urban
    – 25% overtaking motorist
    – 47% not during daylight

    914 urban bicyclist fatalities
    – 180 (20%) were overtaking motorist
    – 119 of these (66% of urban overtaking) were at non-daylight times (dark, dusk, dawn)
    – 61 daylight urban overtaking fatalities, representing 13% of urban daylight fatalities, 7% of all urban fatalities, and 4.7% of all bicyclist fatalities****

    (the figures above can be obtained via the queries here)
    By the way, it is possible to identify these 61 fatalities by date, time, city, state, roadway name, and coordinates (all on the file), so if we wanted to make the effort we could try to do web searches to find any information about them (news articles, email archives, forums, etc.) and see if:
    – they were in fact overtaking collisions
    – what type of roadway they occurred on
    – how the crash occurred (e.g., not looking at road ahead, blinded by sun, tried to squeeze by, etc.)
    – what the legal outcome was.

    I think that would be interesting.

    I also think we need to make an effort to get police to enforce laws requiring lights on bikes, and also to revamp such laws to require both front and rear lights (and not require any other types of devices for night visibility).

    Endnote
    ****The CDC figures based on death certificates show that bicycle fatalities related to motor vehicles have declined from 90% of all bicycle fatalities in 1981-1989 to about 66% in 2008-2012. This appears to be a real trend given that there is a steady decline in the MV share. So there are really not 1294 fatalities over two years but 1/3 more, or 1762, of which urban overtaking fatalities in daylight account for 3.6%. One explanation for the increase in the non-MV share of fatalities is the steady increase in bicycling among the over 45 crowd and the decrease in the under 18 crowd. There are fewer kids riding out into traffic, but more adults dying from falls. I could check this by looking at age of MV vs. non-MV fatalities.

  4. Washington State’s “Mutual Responsibility” bill, HB 1018 in 2011 [the bill died, thankfully] The bill sought to establish a numerical passing law “in exchange” for diluting some existing cyclist’s rights. Good analysis of the bill at seattlebikeblog.com.
    For my purposes here, I was most interested in the quote from Andy Clarke, at least according to the wabikes.org article, which I read as a direct quote:

    The League of American Bicyclists, a national leader for bicycle safety and education, has reviewed this bill and Andy Clarke, the League’s President had this to say:
    In many ways, if HB1018 passes, it will set a new gold standard for the way a state vehicle code treats cyclists – possibly the first such major overhaul since the 70s. Significantly, while putting the cyclists perspective front and center, it is overtly multi-modal and reflective of the complete streets era.

    The trouble, or issue, or whatever, is that mandatory-use laws are expressly contrary to LABs stated policy:

    The League does not support mandatory use laws, and believes that cyclists should not be required to use dedicated bicycle facilities.

    I recommend reading the LABs full explanation at that link, it’s nicely stated; going over the safety and harassment problems with such laws. So, what gives, was Andy just going off the reservation? Was the policy different in 2011 (I sort of doubt it)? That exact article goes back to 2013; due to web redesigns, I can’t go back any further.

    Andy Clarke departed as LAB’s Executive Director in mid-2015 after a 12 year tenure. He can be credited with (continuing to) lead the League in a different direction than, say the 90’s.

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