A low speed fender-bender makes national news? Continue reading Low speed, no injury collision is headline news
“THE DEADLY TOLL OF POLICE CHASES” shrieks the above-the-fold front page headline 7/31/2015 of the Arizona Republic. The companion article on the front page of the AZ Rep’s parent USA Today reads “High-speed police chase have killed thousands“. (those were the headlines in the print edition, the online ones are somewhat different). Continue reading The deadly toll of police chases?
Oh yeah, this one:
A woman accused of driving her SUV about 90 mph before colliding with a car stopped at a red light in east Mesa, killing both occupants, was arrested on Monday. Mesa police booked Ingrid I. Morataya, 35, on suspicion of manslaughter and other charges after she was discharged from a Valley hospital…. The driver and the passenger in the car struck by Morataya’s Toyota FJ Cruiser — Guadalupe Madril, 37, and Jason Aguilera, 33 — died instantly of massive injuries from the violent collision, according to court records… azcentral.com Continue reading Woman with DUI history arrested in Mesa fatal collision
[1/15/2014: azcentral.com Man in Scottsdale pedicab crash sentenced to 4 years in prison; Joseph Paul Spano pleaded guilty to two counts aggravated assault plus one endangerment ]
Two passengers of a pedicab were very seriously injured when they were struck by an suspected drunk driver in an early morning hours crash near downtown Scottsdale 1/4/2013. The pedicab’s driver was also injured. The crash occurred as the pedicab was traveling north on Scottsdale Road near Rose Lane.
Seriously injured Cody A. Clark and Michael D. Tysver were both Kansas state fans in town for the Fiesta Bowl. The automobile driver “Phoenix resident Joseph Paul Spano, 27, was driving the sedan that collided with the pedicab and was arrested on suspicion of DUI, endangerment and aggravated assault”. Aggravated assault, §13-1204, can be a fairly serious charge; depending on a variety of factors. Continue reading Driver Sentenced: Serious Injuries in Scottsdale Pedicab Crash
Short answer: As with all modes of transportation, it entails some danger.
Longer answer: yes, similar to the risk of motoring — perhaps twice as risky. but how to measure? (per mile, per trip?). Bike-MV collisions are currently running 2% of all in AZ. Bicycling represents perhaps 1%, i.e. twice the risk.
For the moment, this is going to be a catch-all for links and related info on the topic. Links:
- Mighk Wilson’s essay freedom from fear .
- Another essay in the same vein by a UK sociologist Dave Horton: Fear of Cycling.
- My posts about the books How Risky is it Really? and Free Range Kids.
- Alan Solot: Tucson bike vs. car crashes aren’t increasing March 2016 op-ed style piece breaking down some Tucson-specific figures
- UK gov’t study showing how the usual measures of cycling safety tend to overstate the danger… “This research dispels the idea that risk for UK cyclists is substantially higher than for drivers or pedestrians” “we found that for young male cyclists between 17 and 20 years of age, cycling was markedly safer than travelling by car” “Surveys from many countries show that time spent travelling has remained fairly constant over time at about one hour per day, despite large changes in modal split . This supports the use of risk based on time as being most appropriate for comparing modes with different average speeds”. It covers risk expose measures that tend to favor driving, like comparing per mile, rather than, say, per trip. I think this is all obvious stuff but it’s good to have it quantified, if only for the UK; the same mechanisms seem to be applicable to US. full text: Exposure-Based, ‘Like-for-Like’ Assessment of Road Safety by Travel Mode Using Routine Health Data Jennifer S. Mindell, Deborah Leslie, Malcolm Wardlaw. Here’s a road.cc story about it.
- Rick Vosper has an excellent 3 part series in BRAIN, part one Haunted by the Ghosts of Dead Cyclists addresses the media bias, and danger exaggeration “There is nothing the media likes better than a dead cyclist. Unless it’s a dead cyclist who was not wearing a helmet. That salacious and often completely irrelevant bit is invariably tossed in…”
Good factoid in the article about a bicylist who plead guilty to a felony (thought to be the ONLY one in history) vehicular homicide in a pedestrian death in 2012 in San Francisco:
Some 4,834 cyclists and 59,925 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in the United States between 1999 and 2009 (the most recent year for which figures are available), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cyclists killed just 63 pedestrians, or about six a year, during the same time period. — NYTimes
That’s about a thousand-to-one ratio of car-ped to bike-ped pedestrian deaths. Car drivers are more dangerous. That was re-quoted by Carl Alviani‘s article widely disseminated entitled Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things: “After 15 million miles traveled, the Citibike program has still caused not a single fatality for either pedestrians or riders” (stats as of 2014?) he also ; which lays out a good case that bicycling isn’t particularly dangerous to either riders or other road users. The bikeshare stats were sourced to a slate article Not One Person Has Died on an NYC Bike-Share Bike;
- Mighk Wilson’s essay I am not a Bicyclist.
Many places have (re)cited data attributed to a company named Failure Analysis Associates, Inc (now know as Exponent), expressed as # of Fatalities per 1,000,000 Exposure Hours
- Skydiving 128.71 Snowmobiling .88
- General Flying 15.58 Motoring .47
- Motorcycling 8.80 Water skiing .28
- Scuba Diving 1.98 Bicycling .26
- Living 1.53 Airline Flying .15
- Swimming 1.07 Hunting .08
I have been unable to find any primary sources on this data and how it was produced. Though a relatively recent Grist Magazine article Not pedaling can kill you, Alan Durning states “The engineering journal Design News published it with little comment in 1993 in an article on a different subject”, and has some further elaboration.
Motorcycling vs. driving an automobile safety per mile can be relativley precisely measured; it runs about 30X more fatality per mile traveled. Compare e.g. Table 1-35: U.S. Vehicle-Miles (e.g. in 2015 , motorcycling is a bit less than 1% compared to all light-vehicle miles; 19.6B vs. 2.1478T; and of course has proportionately many many times the number of fatalities per mile traveled; easily looked up but it’s like 20,000 light-vehicle deaths compared to 5,000 motorcycle)
Take Back the ‘Burbs, Sunset Magazine June 2012 issue; sidebar titled Is Biking Safe?:
Fear of traffic is one of the top reasons people don’t bike. But, statistically, biking is safer than driving, and wearing a helmet makes it even more so. Here are the annual odds of fatalities for common activities, according to the most recent stats. –Aislyn Greene
- Motorcycling 1/ 6,141
- Driving 1/ 11,883
- Working 1 / 30,735
- Biking (all) 1 / 68,673
- Walking 1/ 75,026
- Swimming 1/ 87,357
- Biking with helmet 1/ 342,847
- Flying 1/ 1,476,136
- riding in a train 1/ 216,475,677
Sources: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer Reports, Federal Railroad Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Motorcycle Industry Council, National Transportation Safety Board, the Outdoor Foundation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation (full article currently available at saferoutespartnership.org site)
Not many clues as to how these numbers were figured.
This is a freebie paper published under various names: The Scottsdale Times, The Ahwatukee Times, etc…
I was generally not terribly unhappy (see my general complaints about media bias ) with how it turned out. I was pleased that the reporter, Christina Fuoco-Karasinski, was willing to spend some time researching information I sent her prior to a phone interview, which itself lasted perhaps 15 minutes. The parts I spoke with the reporter about came out pretty well:
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, there were 1,914 accidents in Arizona last year involving automobiles and bicycles. A total of 25 bicyclists were killed by motorists in 2009, and 19 were killed in 2010. For comparison, a total of 762 motorists were killed [*] on Arizona roads during 2010, a fact Ed Beighe, of azbikelaw.org, a bicyclist activist website, says should be noted. “So while we’d all like to see bicycling be safer, bicycling represents a small part of an overall large problem,” Beighe says.
The number of injuries to bicyclists number in the thousands, however. There were 1,648 reported injuries to bicyclists in 2009 and another 1,583 in 2010.
“Most bicyclist-motor vehicle collisions occur when one or the other is making a turn movement [this probably would have been better stated as “turning and crossing” movements] — and not overtaking,” says Beighe, who stresses that he is not a lawyer. “But the relatively few overtaking collisions (bicycle struck from behind by a passing motorist) that do occur tend to be more serious than average.”
He says the 3-foot passing law is helpful in raising awareness among motorists. It shows drivers what to expect when overtaking and what they should see. However, Beighe says, the law itself is difficult to enforce and, in fact, “very, very few” citations have been issued outside of a collision, where it is often irrefutable that the motorist encroached upon the 3-foot right-of-way.
In many cases, when a bicyclist is struck and either injured or killed, no citation is issued for not allowing for three feet of clearance, says Sterling Baer, co-founder of Not One More Cyclist and himself an avid cyclist. The reason is that the cause of the accident often becomes a criminal act rendering the 3-foot citation irrelevant, as it takes a backseat to more serious felony charges.
“It actually hides or sort of skews the real statistics that show many of these kinds of events are happening,” Baer says.
* The 762 figure is mis-stated. There were a total of 762 persons killed in fatal traffic collisions. Since 19 pedalcyclists and 155 pedestrians were included within that total, that leaves 588 motorists killed. See adot-2010-crash-facts for references.
There’s a wonderful book written by author and former journalist David Ropeik that explains risk perception (and MIS-perception) in elemental terms; How Risky is it, Really?.
His explanations go all the way down to the biological and evolutionary level — think adrenalin, amygdala, and the fight/flight response — and it’s all very fascinating. Everyone should read it.
More to the point here, his “confessions” as a former journalist i think go a long way to explain the persistent problems with media stories regarding risk (p. 165):
Before I go on, mea culpa. I was a daily television reporter for 25 years, and most of the things that journalist do that make the world sound like a riskier place than it is, I did…. I regularly played up the dramatic aspects of my stories, emphasizing the negative or the frightening or the controversial, and deemphasizing (or omitting altogether) the aspects that would balance things out of put them in perspective… I never lied… But I did what most journalists do: I made choice that would make my stories more newsworthy, more dramatic , and more likely to attract attention. And that left my views with a distorted and more alarmning view of the world than was actually the case.
In chapter 2, Bounded Rationality, he explains several shortcuts we (everyone) use to determine whether something is safe vs. risky. Among them is how any particular issue is “framed”; this is critical in any sort of news story. Consider the following two statements:
Statement 1; actual quote from an AZ Rep news story on the BSAP:
Last year, 19 bicyclists died and more than 1,500 were injured, according to new Arizona Department of Transportation statistics
Statement 2; re-framed in terms of overall traffic safety
During the study period, bicyclists accounted for only 1.5% of all traffic collisions, and less than 3% of traffic fatalities, according to Arizona Department of Transportation statistics. This indicates that bicycling is a small part of a very large problem
Which sounds scarier to bicyclists? Which reinforces notions of danger? Is 1,500 injuries (or 19 fatalities) a lot, or a little?
The thirteen Risk Perception Factors
- Risk vs. Benefit
- Is the risk natural or human-made
- Pain and suffering
- Catastropihc or chronic
- Can it happen to me?
- Is the risk new or familiar?
- Risks to children
These factors fuel what Ropeik terms the Risk-perception Gap; which leads to poor decisions being made both by individuals and by society.
Free Range Kids
Along the same idea, is so-and-so’s book Free Range Kids, which I am now reading (Jan 2012)
ADOT’s Bicycle Safety Action Plan Study ( the study’s home-page link is now dead ) is a multi-phase plan to assess and improve bicycle traffic safety, with emphasis on Arizona state highways. In urban areas that often means the interchanges. Here are direct download links to final reports:
- BSAP Final Report; Appendix A (September 2012)
- and the somewhat related PSAP Final Report (June 2009. An update to PSAP is in MPD FY 2016 Work Program)
During the five-year study period “There were a total of 9,867 bicycle crashes statewide in Arizona… crashes that occurred on state highways were extracted from the statewide data set. There were 1,089 bicycle-motor vehicle crashes reported on state highways between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2008” from this a focus area was determined, within the focus area there were 746 bicycle crashes. PBCat was used to crash-type all 746 of these collisions.
Thus this data set accounts for a small minority of bike-MV crashes, around 11%. But Working Paper 1, table 15 offers a useful comparison between the studied data and all statewide data. For example, we see the same suspiciously-high percentage (24 to 25%) of “other” fault ascribed to bicyclists as with other studies. As I’ve written before, the “other” fault is generally the result of a poor/improper crash investigations that tends to wrongly faults cyclists who are doing nothing illegal (see Understanding Collision Summaries) — this is statistical proof of poor-quality investigations are a statewide problem for bicyclists. This is a shortcoming of the crash reports, and not the BSAP; in Working Paper 1, figure 20, something they call “primary contributing factor” by crash group is assigned overwhelmingly to motorists (67%), and only 24% to bicyclists.
There was a lengthy, front page A1, Arizona Republic article by Sean Holstege on Sept 17, 2011 which perhaps was intended to be about the plan but did wander, understandably, to general topics. For example they make great hay out of the per capital fatality stats, without any discussion of how to interpret them — e.g. how weather probably affects them, with Arizona being more of a year-round cycling state; or a higher per capita usage, e.g. Arizona has significantly higher (than US) percentage of commuters (according to census figures, see Working Paper 1, Table 1 — Arizona is 0.9% versus 0.5% nationwide).
The story, as many “bicycle safety” stories do, lacks context of traffic in general. So, for example, there was a chart of the number of bike-MV collisions (about 2,000/year total). There is no mention of the fact that that represents only a tiny fraction of all MV collisions ( which ran well over 100,000/year over the study period). And though it mentions the number of fatalites, say 25 in 2008 — it never mentioned the total number of traffic fatalities (it runs around, and lately something under, 1,000 per year).
So here are some hard numbers, over the five year period 2004 – 2008 there were 681,466 MV crashes, of which 9,730 were bike-MV — a little less than 1.5% (taken from the historical overview in the 2009 Bicyclist Fatality study, which were gleaned from AZ Crash Facts — note that the numbers a slightly different in the BSAP, but I don’t know why). The number of fatalities is 4,943 total, 132 bicyclist; or 2.67% — so bicyclist fatalities were somewhat over-represented but not dramatically so.
Note that the ADOT plan by design is aimed at the small percentage of bike-MV crashes that occur on the state highway system. “The majority of bicycle crashes in Arizona (approximately 90 percent) occur on local, city, and county roadways outside of ADOT jurisdiction”
Also, by the way, the article inaccurately stated that the BSAP recommends a mandatory taillight law. That was in an earlier draft but was since removed — I don’t believe there is adequate evidence to support the additional burden on cyclists. The article does correctly mention that the BSAP recommends state-level sidewalk law clarifications, which seem like a worthy endeavor, given the huge proportion of sidewalk-related collisions, along with the current legal murky morass that currently exists when cyclists who cycle on the sidewalk subsequently collide with vehicles in crosswalks and driveways.
The raw data from the 746 crashes studied can be viewed and mapped at this google fusion table. I also read the data into a mysql database, bsap, password access available upon request using a scheme analogous to asdm and presently only available on mysql.azbikelaw.org, and not on the godaddy server.
The crashes studied were full-blown pbcat 2.0 with crash types, groups, cyclist’s direction; that’s the good news. The bad news is it’s not clear how that relates to bicyclist crashes in general.
Fatal vs. non-fatal: The dataset mentioned above, the 746 crashes includes only 4 fatalities and is data only from the focus area. The BSAP report has several charts and graphs that refer to 24 fatalities. The distinction is that the total 24 is over the entire SHS (state highway system); whereas the 4 is only the focus area. I don’t have the raw pbcat data for the 24 (or rather , the other 20).
Here is a bunch of data extracted via query from ASDM data — currently covering years 2009-2014. In other words, it is an attempt to automate the types of data presented in the BSAP but applied to all Arizona bike-MV crashes, not just state highway system.
Summary of PBCAT results
Many of the motorist drive out’s (from stop signs, or performing a right-turn on red) involve counter-flow sidewalk cyclists. Out of the 746 crashes studied here are the top 5:
Table 5 – Top 5 Crash Types Percentage of SHS Focus Area Crashes Crash Type Description 103 13.8% Bicyclist Ride Through ‐ Signalized Intersection 83 11.1% Motorist Drive Out ‐ Sign‐Controlled Intersection 76 10.1% Motorist Drive Out ‐ Right‐Turn‐on‐Red 71 9.51% Motorist Drive Out ‐ Commercial Driveway / Alley 61 8.17% Motorist Drive Out ‐ Signalized Intersection 746 Total SHS Motor Vehicle‐Bicycle Crashes
Also interesting title of this PBIC presentation How to Create a Bicycle Safety Action Plan: Planning for Safety. It’s from the toole design people so, as expected, is filled with nacto and facilities stuff.
With gas prices the way they are, stories about cycling in mainstream press abound. As I have pointed out before (see Media Bias) these stories for mass consumption generally paint a one-sided cycling-is-dangerous story. Despite my high hopes for the journalistic balance of the Wall Street Journal (news that is. I don’t expect balance in the editorial content), Rhonda Rundle’s story from August 1, 2008 fell into the same familiar pattern. The title, Risking Life and Limb, Riding a Bike to Work in L.A., should have been a give away Continue reading Yet another cycling is dangerous story