There was a study published in 2007 which took FARS (for traffic fatalities) and GES (for injuries) data, and combined with NHTS (National Household Transp Survey. 2001) data to try to quantify relative risk of fatality/injury by travel mode per trip. Full text and full .pdf are both available free online: Continue reading “Crash Injury Rates by Mode of Travel”
I’ve been seeing, more often lately it seems, fairly bold numerical statements about relative bike traffic safety; so to take this one from peopleforbikes for example (my emphasis added): “The problem is particularly glaring here in the United States, where bike injury and fatality rates are roughly 20 times those of the cycling-friendly countries of western Europe“. Continue reading “Is it really 20 times more dangerous?”
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:
- crash-injury-rates-by-mode-of-travel and crash-injury-rates-by-mode-of-travel-2/ these contain stats on per-trip, and per-mile fatality risk by mode; bike/ped/passenger car/motorcycle
- 2019 The Risk of Dying Doing What We Love published a neat chart that compares a broad range of activities; it uses commercial airline travel as the benchmark and attempts to list an exposure (by time) adjusted risk value; i.e. driving is 4X as dangerous, bicycling is 8X as dangerous (i.e. cycling is twice as dangerous as driving in a car). Motorcycling comes out as 100X, i.e. 25 times worse than driving. (also noted in my article here)
- collection from Ohio Bicycle Federation: “Cycling is Safe” subhead.
- kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm now via archive.org
- Mighk Wilson’s essays freedom from fear, and I am not a Bicyclist.
- 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…”
- Pedestrian danger/risk: “Of the 711 pedestrians who have died in traffic collisions since 2014, only four have been killed by bicycles” — We’ve Blamed Traffic Deaths on Bicyclists Since 1880. What About Drivers?
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)