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Bicycle deaths on the rise nationally, study finds

Old 09-20-17, 10:45 AM
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Bicycle deaths on the rise nationally, study finds

Bicycle deaths on the rise nationally, study finds - The Morning Call

Excerpt:

"....
1st: Florida — 150 deaths

2nd: California — 129 deaths

3rd: Texas — 50 deaths

4th: New York — 36 deaths

5th: Louisiana — 34 deaths

12th: New Jersey — 18 deaths

13th: (tie) Pennsylvania — 16 deaths

13th: (tie) South Carolina — 16 deaths
..."
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Old 09-20-17, 10:53 AM
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This should come as no surprise to anyone. As more people get on bikes more people die. Over the years the number of deaths has risen and dropped with the overall number of people riding.

No matter how you slice it, bicycling is still relatively safe.
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Old 09-20-17, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
No matter how you slice it, bicycling is still relatively safe.
Especially when you consider the numbers are still far, far lower than the numbers of automobile fatalities. You are far more likely to die in a car crash than on a bike, even if you look at the numbers in percentages of cyclists/drivers vs. fatalities.
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Old 09-20-17, 11:04 AM
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People that ride bikes and live just don't make news.
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Old 09-20-17, 11:11 AM
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One of my favorite quotes is by W. Edwards Deming, "Numbers are numbers, numbers are not knowledge". In the case of the above referenced article, the numbers do not account for changes in the number of cyclists, the number of miles ridden, changes in traffic density, etc. The raw number of cycling deaths is useful only to the extent that it supports whatever point you are trying to make.
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Old 09-20-17, 11:25 AM
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Unlike many here, I'm not concerned with this kind of statistical data.

I don't think about whether to drive or ride, wondering which is safer. Those decisions rest on which best fits the specific need.

Bicycling is reasonably safe, meaning that it's within the same general range of other things I do daily, and that's what matters.

Rather than thinking about the broad statistics, I focus on controlling my destiny.

This doesn't mean that data is useless. It can expose otherwise hidden patterns or changes that warrant exploration. If there's a change in established patterns, we can ask why. On the flip side, if folks point to potential problems, ie. The dangers of cell phone use, but the data remain unchanged, we might conclude that the fears are overblown.
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Old 09-20-17, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Hoopdriver View Post
One of my favorite quotes is by W. Edwards Deming, "Numbers are numbers, numbers are not knowledge". In the case of the above referenced article, the numbers do not account for changes in the number of cyclists, the number of miles ridden, changes in traffic density, etc. The raw number of cycling deaths is useful only to the extent that it supports whatever point you are trying to make.
Good point... has the rate of deaths per mile/hour changed... that is the real question.

Of course since cyclists don't report mileage like motorists (to insurance companies) there is no way to figure out if more miles, more cyclist, more cycling hours or just bad road designs and or cars are the issue.
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Old 09-20-17, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
This should come as no surprise to anyone. As more people get on bikes more people die. Over the years the number of deaths has risen and dropped with the overall number of people riding.

No matter how you slice it, bicycling is still relatively safe.
That was my first thought, and seems to be confirmed by the article citing a rise in popularity of cycling and bike commuting.

It doesn't mean, however, that the communities should be complacent, rather, there should be a goal of continuous improvement including improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

If 1/7 of the traffic fatalities are cyclists, that is HUGE as the ratio of cars to bikes on the roads is a whole lot greater than 6:7.
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Old 09-20-17, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
That was my first thought, and seems to be confirmed by the article citing a rise in popularity of cycling and bike commuting.

It doesn't mean, however, that the communities should be complacent, rather, there should be a goal of continuous improvement including improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

If 1/7 of the traffic fatalities are cyclists, that is HUGE as the ratio of cars to bikes on the roads is a whole lot greater than 6:7.
Yes, it would be huge, IF it were 1/7, but it isn't 1/7th or anything close to that.
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Old 09-20-17, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Yes, it would be huge, IF it were 1/7, but it isn't 1/7th or anything close to that.
About 800 bicycle deaths a year.
About 32,000 automobile deaths a year.

Ahhh, you're right. About 1/40, or about 2.5% which may bring one close to the number of cycle commuters in some places (less than estimates in some cities, more in others).

Still, I think the numbers would be more significant if one compared miles ridden/driven, although maybe one should look at time on the road rather than miles.
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Old 09-20-17, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post

....Still, I think the numbers would be more significant if one compared miles ridden/driven, although maybe one should look at time on the road rather than miles.
New we're getting into the area of massaging the numbers which is pointless. The best use of statistical data isn't to talk numbers but to find commonalities that might point to causes, and ultimately to solutions. (Un)fortunately, the numbers are so small, and there so many factors that little pattern info is revealed.

However, if you look at the breakdown of the deaths by things like age of the rider, location, time of day, and the like, you can see that there are things to do which can bring the (statistical) risk down by half. Simple stuff, like not riding at night without lights, avoiding the roads late Friday and Saturday nights, and so on.

For my part, I don't like to see stories like this because they might cause folks to ask that something is done, and the most obvious solutions to they type of people who'll make the decisions, would be to mandate helmets, and/or further restrict cyclists from busy roads (for our own good).

Let's stop crying, and send a positive message. Bicycling is safe. Yes, it could be safer yet, but it's already very safe.
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Old 09-20-17, 01:52 PM
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Here locally there have been two fatalities in the last couple years. One was a single mom on her way to work, pre-dawn darkness, rainy morning, riding in the left lane of a 50 mph divided highway, no lights, no reflectors, nothing. She was hit by two cars. They had to close the highway to clean it up, really bad.

The other was an older gentleman, leaving his neighborhood. For some inexplicable reason he blew right through the stop sign and into traffic.

I've notice a new trend lately. My county apparently has a high DUI conviction rate, judging by the numbers of moped/scooters on the road. However, last year NC started requiring licensing and registration of scooters. The numbers on the road have dropped dramatically. Recently I've seen an upswing of, uhhh, not your "typical" cyclists, on cheap discount store bikes riding around. No helmets or safety gear. Last night on the way home from work I encountered one in my lane, right at twilight, riding against traffic, ball cap backwards on head instead of helmet, no lights, dark clothing.

So if this trend continues I expect to see an upswing in accidents involving cyclists but it likely won't be the typical roadie/recreational cyclist involved necessarily.
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Old 09-20-17, 01:58 PM
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The referenced statistical data also does not break down how they died. It just says they died.

They could have:

1. Been hit-
a. By a car
b. By a pickup truck
c. By a law enforcement vehicle
d. By a local government vehicle
2. Been on a:
a. Unicycle
b. Two-wheel
c. Recumbent
3. Been on a road that was:
a. Asphalt
b. Cement
c. Concrete
d. Gravel
4. Day of the week
a. Weekday
i. Rush
ii. Non-Rush
b. Weekend
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Old 09-20-17, 02:40 PM
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1 in 3 Americans rode a bike - that's 110 million people. 800 deaths. That works out to a .0000073 chance of being killed, or a %0.00073 chance of a fatal accident. Those look like pretty favorable odds to me.

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Old 09-20-17, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by bbbean View Post
1 in 3 Americans rode a bike - that's 110 million people. 800 deaths. That works out to a .0000073 chance of being killed, or a %0.00073 chance of a fatal accident. Those look like pretty favorable odds to me.

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Cherry picking the biggest denominator you can find makes quite the difference, doesn't it?

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Old 09-20-17, 03:36 PM
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Has anyone created a convincing 'argument' for a potential cyclist who can only see themselves dead or terribly injured by biking on a shared road? The stats are not convincing and definitely my encouragement has been less than satisfactory. If I had to earn my living encouraging people to bicycle on a shared road, I would be fired.

It's clear to me that biking is pretty safe as shown in the numbers. So, how have you been successful in encouraging a person that they will be safe on their bike and not a target for cars?
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Old 09-20-17, 03:38 PM
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While we're playing stupid numbers games, here's another.

Roughly 2.6 million people die every year (total, all causes) Of those only about a third ride bikes to some degree. So the odds of dying on the bike vs another way would be 800 out of 800,000. But that doesn't take age into account, and only compares various causes of death to each other, but not the chance of dying per se.

However, it can be interesting to look at the various causes of death, and ask oneself whether cycling regularly might improve one's odds against death by some of these.

  • Heart disease: 633,842
  • Cancer: 595,930
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 155,041
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 146,571 [presumably includes 800 or so riding bicycles at the time]
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 140,323
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 110,561
  • Diabetes: 79,535
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 57,062
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 49,959
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 44,193
(source is the CDC, 2014 data)

BTW- am I the only one wondering about the 110,000 non-MV accidental deaths?


But that's just a numbers game, and toughly as productive as solo sex.
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Old 09-20-17, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by debade View Post
Has anyone created a convincing 'argument' for a potential cyclist who can only see themselves dead or terribly injured by biking on a shared road? The stats are not convincing and definitely my encouragement has been less than satisfactory. If I had to earn my living encouraging people to bicycle on a shared road, I would be fired.

It's clear to me that biking is pretty safe as shown in the numbers. So, how have you been successful in encouraging a person that they will be safe on their bike and not a target for cars?
That's like trying to tell folks living on an airport flight path than a jet won't be landing on their roof, or that living near a nuclear power plant is OK, or that one pastrami sandwich won't kill them. People have all sorts of fears, very real to them, but not supported by any realistic evidence.

Almost 50 years ago, I was involved with a bicycle travel/touring organization. We took thousands of teenagers all over the world, and the most common question from parents was about safety. We were honest and talked about the real risk, but tried to put it in perspective. Most parents that were interested in the first place were OK and trusted their kids to us, and the vast of majority of those never had cause to regret it.

You can only be honest and realistic, but people will decide for themselves, which is exactly how it should be.
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Old 09-20-17, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
Cherry picking the biggest denominator you can find makes quite the difference, doesn't it?

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Data are data. Odds of X happening isn't a complicated formula.
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Old 09-20-17, 04:39 PM
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In my view, data that are a broad aggregate are interesting if they provide an early warning of policy failure. But they don't tell me anything about my own individual expectations when riding a bike, because not all cyclists are exposed to the same risks. Also, cycling may reduce some non-cycling risks, such as heart disease.

I'd need to drill down into the data, to identify specific sub groups and risk factors, in order for the stats to approach being informative. But drilling down into sub groups also reduces the size of the data set available for any particular group, making it harder to reach conclusions. And sub groups / risk factors might not even be identifiable if cycling deaths and injuries aren't investigated and reported in a consistent way.
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Old 09-20-17, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bbbean View Post
Odds of X happening isn't a complicated formula.
Overestimating the denominator is a great way to underestimate the odds of X though.

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Old 09-20-17, 06:10 PM
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Here's the way I look at the data. While it's often difficult to get the details on bicycling fatalities, when I do a deep dive into the data I see trends emerging. These common factors probably come into play in about half of the fatalities. Impairment, riding against traffic and riding at night without lights. I can control every one of those variables absolutely. So I have cut my risk of death in half. Then there are door zone crashes. Again 100% avoidable by not riding in the door zone. Then there are intersection crashes. Left turners, right hookers and failure to yield ROW. It's pretty easy to avoid a right hook. If there is a place for a vehicle to make a right turn and you are going to get there at about the same time, expect them to turn into you. Moderating speed through intersections can also help. Assume anyone setting up for a left turn (slowing, signalling or their presence in a turning lane) will turn in front of you. By taking these countermeasures, you can further reduce the risk. The dreaded rear end strike is perhaps the hardest to avoid, but there are things we can do to make ourselves more visible. Since "I didn't see him" comes out of the mouth of just about everyone who runs over a cyclist, we can do things like use lights front and back, wear bright colors and use lane position to enhance visibility. Oh, and bicyclist at fault accidents aren't too uncommon either, so yielding right of way, keeping speeds reasonable etc. make a huge difference. There are few variables which are beyond our influence. Control what you can control and influence where possible. Doing all these things can greatly reduce risks. Ultimately your number may come up like it did with the poor riders in Kalamazoo.
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Old 09-20-17, 06:21 PM
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There was a prominent local rider killed here a few months ago on a road I ride from time to time and always considered pretty safe. 2 lane highway with 60 mph speed limit, but with wide shoulders and good sight lines.

Such an incident close to home does give one pause, but then I counted all the roadside memorials (a common practice here) commemorating those who died in auto accidents. A much larger number. And I never give a second thought to driving on these roads.
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Old 09-20-17, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
Overestimating the denominator is a great way to underestimate the odds of X though.

-mr. bill
As they say, "Figures don't lie, ----- but liars figure".
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Old 09-21-17, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
Overestimating the denominator is a great way to underestimate the odds of X though.

-mr. bill
How am I overestimating the denominator? According to the article, 1 in 3 Americans ride a bike. There are roughly 330 million Americans, so why wouldn't I use 110 million?

Tell you what. Lets say that I exaggerated dramatically and the total is only 1 million Americans on a bike. That puts the probability at .08%, leaving us with a 99.92% chance of surviving the year without a fatal accident.

Are you happier with those odds?
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