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  1. #1
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    Cycling risk -- different perspectives

    Some 25 years ago, I came across a web site that had analyzed risk of various activities on a per hour of exposure basis rather than on miles traveled. I always believed that hours of exposure was more realistic for assessing risk for activities like flying, hang gliding and cycling.

    As I remember, on the per hour basis, cycling was as safe as cars and commercial air was slightly riskier. Road motorcycling was much riskier than cycling and about on a par with general aviation which was something like ten times riskier than autos. Interestingly it appears that many deaths for both general aviation and cycling are alcohol related as with autos.

    I've never been able to find updated hourly risk data. This guy has apparently found new data which includes more recent hourly exposure data.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIurRqi6ySw&NR=1

    Al

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    Cyclist must ride defensively & choose their route based on time & traffic at that time. Our local community has recently posted several "Share The Road" signs at the urging of the local bike clubs, it has helped.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Kurt Erlenbach's Avatar
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    I don't find those kinds of stats particularly revealing. We all know that driving or cycling safety is largely a function of how safely the driver drives or the cyclist rides. Because cycling stats don't discriminate between the experienced roadie and the drunk salmon ninja, I don't think you can draw any conclusions from the data.

    That problem infects all risk-related stats. They might be accurate as they pertain to the population as a whole, but they have very limited relevance to an individual in gauging his own risk.

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    I'd be interested to know the source of his data. It's easy to find the number of deaths per year, but harder to determine how many people were riding, for how many miles, or how many hours.

    I think I remember the same table as alcanoe. The one I saw was put out in 1987 by Failure Analysis Assoc. (now called Exponent), a data gathering firm supporting the insurance industry to help them evaluate risks. They determined the risk of a fatality per million hours of exposure (equal to 114 years) for a variety of activities. Bicycling was surprisingly low at 0.26, car driving was a little higher at 0.42, motorcycling was around 9, and general aviation (small planes) was 16. OTOH, commercial aviation was safer at 0.15 and hunting even better at 0.08. Skydiving was worst at 126 (but even the most avid skydiver probably spends little time actually jumping compared to other recreational activities).

  5. #5
    Century bound Phil85207's Avatar
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    I never put much stock in stats. It seems they are always made up by someone that has an agenda and stats are usually bias one way or another.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member love2pedal.com's Avatar
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    Some 25 years ago, I came across a web site
    humm.................................

  7. #7
    Motorcycle RoadRacer cehowardGS's Avatar
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    Let me tell you this, and this is just my opinon, others may differ.

    I roadrace motorycles, no drag race, or motorcross, pure motorcycle roadracing with WERA and CCS respectfully. I have had several 100+mph crashes, been airborne at over 100mph, along with several street crashes.

    I have done 2 AFF freefall skydives, and let me tell you, even though I am growing to love riding these bicycles, I am more afraid on the bicycle then roadracing or skydiving COMBINED. I contemplate coming in contact with several tons of steel moving at high speed. Pure fear!! Yet, when I was at Daytona on the racebike, on the big oval doing 170mph (slow), and then braking it down for the curve so hard the rear wheel be off the ground, no fear!. Yet, when those cars pass me within a foot, and I ain't sporting nothing but a flimsy helmet, I am scared chitless!!!

    In all those actions, I consider the bicycle the MOST DANGEROUS by a WIDE, WIDE MARGIN...

    People would say, " then why you do it ?"... Just like wth the other actions, my answer is always PURE DESIRE!!

    Road race action..

    http://www.cehoward.net/livin.jpg

    Straight down freefall from 3 miles up...

    http://www.cehoward.net/skydawn3.jpg
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  8. #8
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    Sometimes it is simply the perspective we are viewing things at a time. Not long ago I was pretty upset with the number of cyclists that seemed to be victims of careless drivers. I had some close calls myself due to the infamous right hook.

    In frustration I complained to a friend over coffee after a group ride that I was disappointed with how bike friendly our community was. Turns out my friend was a Para-medic and responded to most of the accidents I was concerned with. What our news paper hadnít reported was that a good number of those accidents were caused by or the cause was contributed by the very cyclists I was worried about. It seems as if many of the cyclists were riding home while under the influence from some of our local pubs and cut across some dimly lit roadways wearing dark clothing, without lights or reflectors and not paying any attention to car traffic on the street.

    Having my perspective changed I started to notice more people that cycled on the wrong side of the street, blew through red lights and dressed like Ninjas at night. Now I believe cycling is no more risky than any other transportation I might choose but cyclists just might take more risks than most people I travel with.

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    Risk is equal to the probability of harm times the exposure (how many times you "roll the dice"). Most experienced riders have a lower probability per mile of death or injury than newbies but generally ride more, so more exposure. Regardless, all people (even risk analysis types that I work with) have a bias in assigning and considering the risk of low probability events....thus while we may know the actual risk of death is one in a ten thousand or whatever, we tend to behave and act as if the risk in one in a million....

    OK, while I have ridden over 200,000 miles in the past 35 years of road cycling with a few minor crashes, 3 experienced riders that I have known and rode with have been hit and killed by cars. In each case the driver was at fault and/or drunk.

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    Found more hourly data. The more extensive list of activities provides an even better perspective though it's for the UK.

    Note the age related table. The over 50 are doomed.

    http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1026.html

    Al
    Last edited by alcanoe; 03-27-11 at 04:53 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Garilia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by love2pedal.com View Post
    humm.................................
    I had that same exact hummm, although I would have expressed it as hmmmm.
    Aní though the rules of the road have been lodged
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by love2pedal.com View Post
    humm.................................
    Good point. The data was that old, but I must have found it when the web existed of course.

    Al

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerlenbach View Post
    I don't find those kinds of stats particularly revealing. We all know that driving or cycling safety is largely a function of how safely the driver drives or the cyclist rides. Because cycling stats don't discriminate between the experienced roadie and the drunk salmon ninja, I don't think you can draw any conclusions from the data.

    That problem infects all risk-related stats. They might be accurate as they pertain to the population as a whole, but they have very limited relevance to an individual in gauging his own risk.
    Kinda like Hari Seldon's psychohistory in "Foundation". Effective for large groups, insanity for smaller ones.

  14. #14
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I know cycling is dangerous, but I think the amount of danger depends a lot on the skills and practices of the rider - particularly in traffic.

  15. #15
    Motorcycle RoadRacer cehowardGS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alcanoe View Post
    Found more hourly data. The more extensive list of activities provides an even better perspective though it's for the UK.

    Note the age related table. The over 50 are doomed.

    http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1026.html


    Al
    You mention something like that over in the "over 50" forum, and you will get beat up big time...
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  16. #16
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Here's the thing. Being human is a mortal thing. We will all die. The question of where, when, and how is unknown to us. I choose to live what life I am given, not in fear, but by embracing as many moments as I can, and in hope that those moments bring some level of joy. Cycling, as an activity, is pretty high up on the list of things that bring me joy. If you're out on the road cycling where there are motor vehicles and don't see the inherent danger, adjust your style of riding accordingly, then that's just stupid. I don't really need statistics to tell me how I ought to ride. Frankly, I don't see the point.
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  17. #17
    enthusiast JamieElenbaas's Avatar
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    The statistics are handy if you feel that you need to 'defend' your choices to non-cyclist. Since I, for one, refuse to do so, the statistics don't make much of a point for me either.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by cehowardGS View Post
    You mention something like that over in the "over 50" forum, and you will get beat up big time...
    Paraphrasing one of my favorite movies --- I'm on a mission from God.

    Al

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by cehowardGS View Post
    Let me tell you this, and this is just my opinon, others may differ.

    I roadrace motorycles, no drag race, or motorcross, pure motorcycle roadracing with WERA and CCS respectfully. I have had several 100+mph crashes, been airborne at over 100mph, along with several street crashes.

    I have done 2 AFF freefall skydives, and let me tell you, even though I am growing to love riding these bicycles, I am more afraid on the bicycle then roadracing or skydiving COMBINED. I contemplate coming in contact with several tons of steel moving at high speed. Pure fear!! Yet, when I was at Daytona on the racebike, on the big oval doing 170mph (slow), and then braking it down for the curve so hard the rear wheel be off the ground, no fear!. Yet, when those cars pass me within a foot, and I ain't sporting nothing but a flimsy helmet, I am scared chitless!!!

    In all those actions, I consider the bicycle the MOST DANGEROUS by a WIDE, WIDE MARGIN...

    People would say, " then why you do it ?"... Just like wth the other actions, my answer is always PURE DESIRE!!

    Road race action..

    http://www.cehoward.net/livin.jpg

    Straight down freefall from 3 miles up...

    http://www.cehoward.net/skydawn3.jpg
    I understand completely. I ride motorcycles too. I've never road raced, but I have motocrossed. What you're experiencing is lack of control of the situation. On the high banks of Daytona, you feel more in control than you do when getting buzzed by a soccer mom on the phone in her SUV. I have some of the same feelings, but I don't think comparing road racing to street riding is valid. Eddie Lawson (for those who don't know, is regarded as one of the top riders of all time) refuses to ride a motorcycle on the street. On the track, you have become comfortable with all of the dynamics. The noise, the wall passing by at 170mph, the other riders (all going nearly the same speed & direction), the rear wheel lifting during braking, etc. You know what to expect. On the bicycle, you're at the mercy of other drivers, and you DON'T know what to expect. Makes me nervous at times, too. Doesn't necessarily mean that we're more at risk in either situation.

  20. #20
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    And what are the risks of non-cycling? Or non-"other activity?"

    I would propose the risks of non-cycling, non-activity are much higher health wise then the risk involved with bicycling, especially if one is a knowledgeable, skilled and observant rider, who weighs risks, knows when and how to avoid them, etc.

    I carefully judge my risks in bicycling, and make certain decisions based upon the risks as I evaluate them. Am I bullet proof - no way. Am I at less risk than others - you bet. Would others reach the same risk/benefit conclusions that I have? No way, and that is what makes life interesting.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 03-28-11 at 10:27 AM.
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  21. #21
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    I looked at some statistics in some detail a number of years back. Cycling had half of the fatality rate per hour of automobiles and 1/8 of motorcycles. Also, something like 50% of the cycling fatalities occur in the hours of darkness. So if you don't ride at night, it halves your fatality risk.

    Now, I would posit that the majority of bicycle miles are put on during Sat AM and Sun AM when the big club rides occur. So if club riders had the "normal" risk of all bicycle riders, one would expect a big peak of bicycle fatalities on SAT and SUN morning. I found a data base that broke the fatalities down by day of the week and time of the day. Interestingly enough, there was no "spike" of fatatilites on the weekend. That led me to conclude that riders with a modicum of road skills, had very low fatality risks probably something like 1/10 of motorists.

    Now how could that be? I mean when I ride, I don't FEEL 10 times safer than a motorist. Part of this we are talking about fatalities. I have never been killed but I have had some bike crashes. Also, a near miss in a car is someone coming close to my fender which is at some distance from ME. A near miss on a bike is something close to ME. So a near miss on a bike is far more impressive than a near miss in a car. So I believe, I tend to perceive the risk as enhanced because it is a scarier experience to have a near miss.

    But how could bicycle fatalities be so low in prudent cyclists? Well, here is how. What groups of motorists have really enhanced levels of fatalities? Well they would be 1) people driving while impaired 2) people driving while distracted (cell phones etc) and 3) people who are fatigued (falling asleep at the wheel is a bad idea). I can easily see motorists doing all three of those highly risky behaviors routinely. I think the numbers of cyclists doing these things are much lower as a percentage than motorists. That difference would explain the high enhancement of safety.

    By the way, in order to die as a cyclists, you pretty much have to be hit by a car or at least more than 80% of the fatalities involve a car.

    Another thing, one of the best ways to enhance your safety as a cyclist is to be female. Males of all ages have greatly enhanced fatality rates over females. Call it testosterone poisoning.

  22. #22
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    I see several other things in that video that make cycling unsafe. Painting a simple white line along the edge of the road to make it a "bike lane" may make some feel good but IMO it just creates some real dangers of a different sort.

    Watch the video again to see if you can spot all the things that place a cyclist in harms way...............
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  23. #23
    Recreational/Utility bjjoondo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cehowardGS View Post
    Let me tell you this, and this is just my opinon, others may differ.

    I roadrace motorycles, no drag race, or motorcross, pure motorcycle roadracing with WERA and CCS respectfully. I have had several 100+mph crashes, been airborne at over 100mph, along with several street crashes.

    I have done 2 AFF freefall skydives, and let me tell you, even though I am growing to love riding these bicycles, I am more afraid on the bicycle then roadracing or skydiving COMBINED. I contemplate coming in contact with several tons of steel moving at high speed. Pure fear!! Yet, when I was at Daytona on the racebike, on the big oval doing 170mph (slow), and then braking it down for the curve so hard the rear wheel be off the ground, no fear!. Yet, when those cars pass me within a foot, and I ain't sporting nothing but a flimsy helmet, I am scared chitless!!!

    In all those actions, I consider the bicycle the MOST DANGEROUS by a WIDE, WIDE MARGIN...

    People would say, " then why you do it ?"... Just like wth the other actions, my answer is always PURE DESIRE!!

    Road race action..

    http://www.cehoward.net/livin.jpg

    Straight down freefall from 3 miles up...

    http://www.cehoward.net/skydawn3.jpg
    Your fears make a lot of sense to me, Motorcycle Road Racing is a fairly, "Controlled Environment", you use, very specific protective garments, you have instant medical response and you have a decent idea of the "skill level" of the other riders on the track with you. You don't have "Peds" or stray dogs, or little kids, etc, to have to compensate for. On the roadways, you have NO IDEA on the skill level of the drivers around you, hundreds of "distractions" around you, basically, except for a helmet, you don't have ANY protective riding gear, you are totally exposed, with only your, "wit's and skills" to keep you from harm. I admire anyone with the "highly worked on skills to do motorcycle road racing, (My Uncle was, Merlyn Plumlee, (Crew Chief for HRC-America, last rider: Jake Zemke). Before he passed away, (cancer), he too felt like you when riding his bicycle to train for his hobby, (Cyclo-Cross Racing), on the roads and streets!

    I treat my bicycle riding, like I did my, 30 years of being a "Motorcycle Tourist", "Everyone in a car is out to get me, no matter what I wear, I'm "INVISIBLE" to them, "Scan, Predict and Act", (from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Advanced Riders Course), is how I ride my bicycle and hope to ride till old age won't let me. jmho, ymmv.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by cehowardGS View Post
    Let me tell you this, and this is just my opinon, others may differ.

    I roadrace motorycles, no drag race, or motorcross, pure motorcycle roadracing with WERA and CCS respectfully. I have had several 100+mph crashes, been airborne at over 100mph, along with several street crashes.

    I have done 2 AFF freefall skydives, and let me tell you, even though I am growing to love riding these bicycles, I am more afraid on the bicycle then roadracing or skydiving COMBINED. I contemplate coming in contact with several tons of steel moving at high speed. Pure fear!! Yet, when I was at Daytona on the racebike, on the big oval doing 170mph (slow), and then braking it down for the curve so hard the rear wheel be off the ground, no fear!. Yet, when those cars pass me within a foot, and I ain't sporting nothing but a flimsy helmet, I am scared chitless!!!

    In all those actions, I consider the bicycle the MOST DANGEROUS by a WIDE, WIDE MARGIN...

    People would say, " then why you do it ?"... Just like wth the other actions, my answer is always PURE DESIRE!!

    Road race action..

    http://www.cehoward.net/livin.jpg

    Straight down freefall from 3 miles up...

    http://www.cehoward.net/skydawn3.jpg
    1+

    Never road raced but my list contains:

    Motocross
    White Water kayaking
    Downhill ski racing
    Sky diving [I when through AFF many years ago]
    Equestrian activities including jumping [stadium and xc] and polo.

    Training on the road [bicycle] is imo the most dangerous thing I do. BUT, I don't really consider it "dangerous". Not without risk but then again I don't worry about slipping in the shower.

    Reading the cycling forums [or watching the 'news'] you get a lot of numerators but no denominators. Millions of people world wide ride bicycles every day without an accident. Odds are vastly in 'your' favior you won't get hurt [even if you ride like a buffoon.]
    http://img1.jurko.net/avatar_14902.gif


    *Common sense clearly isn't common*

  25. #25
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    The risk of bicycling in traffic is higher than I would like, but not unacceptably high. I pick my routes, I pick my weather conditions, I pick my times of day, and I always wear a helmet, a mirror, and bright-colored clothing. I have gained immense cardiovascular benefits from cycling.

    I don't like the risk statistics because too many compare experienced, conscientious, cautious cyclists such as most of us against the ensemble of all motorists. It would be more meaningful to compare our own stats while cycling against our own stats while motoring -- I drive a car with an outstanding safety rating (2001 VW Passat wagon) very conservatively. My 45-year driving record has only one blemish, 75mph on a 65mph stretch of freeway, in 1971.
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