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Old 05-29-07, 02:39 PM   #1
1990trek2300
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relative risk of driving, cycling, and motorcycling

Hello,

I was wondering if anyone could help me out with a friendly argument at work.

I've seen statistics that show your chance of getting killed in a traffic accident are about 30x higher on a motorcycle than in a car (that's deaths per mile travelled).

But what are the relative risks in biking vs motorcycling? My buddy rides his motorcycle while I commute by bike; he claims I'm taking just as large a risk. I disagree. Anyone got some numbers to back me up (or him up for that matter)?

thanks!
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Old 05-29-07, 02:49 PM   #2
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The data is available and has been posted in A&S before.

However if you are comparing two specific individuals, I would suggest that the comparision will have far more to do with each of your individual skills, experience levels, routes used, risk taking behaviors, etc. than average national statistics.

Al
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Old 05-29-07, 02:53 PM   #3
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Tell him the A&S way...we don't need no stinkin numbers, we just call em a poopy head and kick em in the huevos.

You'll find a nice little chart that might help you here:
http://neptune.spacebears.com/opine/helmets.html
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Old 05-29-07, 02:55 PM   #4
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Thanks, that chart helps!

I did seach through old posts, but didn't come up with what I wanted.

With motorcycling vs driving, there's the Hurt report, IIHS, and NHTSA data. I have no doubt I'm safer cycling, I'm just looking for data to wave around at work...


Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
The data is available and has been posted in A&S before.

Al
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Old 05-29-07, 02:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1990trek2300
I did seach through old posts, but didn't come up with what I wanted.
I didn't mean to imply you should have found it readily or should not have asked - only that you might be able to find it if you dig around hard enough - I certainly didn't find it easily.
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Old 05-29-07, 05:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
...if you are comparing two specific individuals, I would suggest that the comparision will have far more to do with each of your individual skills, experience levels, routes used, risk taking behaviors, etc. than average national statistics.
+1

***
It can also depend greatly on mood, and time, and your own individual condition (at a given time).

A very tired and emotionally upset person going through some life crisis is much more likely to be preoccupied or distracted, and is much less safe on the road.

There are a variety of other conditions that a person can be in, sometimes to the great detriment of good judgement and safety.

***
Also, statistics can be very misleading. They can lull you into a false sense of security.

The level of risk involved depends on specific individual conditions (both inner and outer), and specific individual situations (and your response to them, avoidance of them, etc.).

Last edited by Niles H.; 05-29-07 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 05-29-07, 06:20 PM   #7
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http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm

http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds_dying.jpg
According to this, a person's odds of dying are 1 in 1 (just thought I'd throw that in there).
The odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 84.
The odds of dying in a motorcycle crash are 1 in 1,020.
The odds of dying in a bicycle crash are 1 in 4,919.

I think the risks faced by motorcyclists and bicyclists are very much the same. Particularly in regards to drivers of four wheeled motor vehicles. The difference is the motorcycle's greater speed.

Last edited by CommuterRun; 05-29-07 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 05-29-07, 06:21 PM   #8
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Numbers really do mean nothing.
It has been said that anything can be proven or disproven using statistics.
I bet I can come up with the numbers to prove that men who do not shave are more prone to colon cancer than those that do. But that's just numbers.
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Old 05-29-07, 06:53 PM   #9
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Without assigning values to the data, how would you quantify it? Anything else would be called speculation.

Sure, different studies may show different values according to any variables that may have influenced the study, but that doesn't mean they are all wrong.

If values are not to be assigned to data, then there can be no peak oil, nor global warming.
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Old 05-29-07, 07:07 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CommuterRun
http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm

http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds_dying.jpg
According to this, a person's odds of dying are 1 in 1 (just thought I'd throw that in there).
The odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 84.
The odds of dying in a motorcycle crash are 1 in 1,020.
The odds of dying in a bicycle crash are 1 in 4,919.

I think the risks faced by motorcyclists and bicyclists are very much the same. Particularly in regards to drivers of four wheeled motor vehicles. The difference is the motorcycle's greater speed.
Worthless statistics. These are per person. Since the vast majority of people never ride a motorcycle in their lives the odds of dying on one are pretty slim.

The OP was on the right track for commuting. Per mile is what counts.
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Old 05-29-07, 07:30 PM   #11
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Per trip would likely be the least biased data and most meaningful.
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Old 05-29-07, 10:54 PM   #12
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Here's something from Ken Kifer's website -

Fatalities Per Mile
Motor Vehicle Travel 42,000 killed 2.56 trillion miles .016 fatalities per million miles
Bicycle Travel 813 killed 21 billion miles .039 fatalities per million miles

Data from Traffic Safety Facts 1997
and The Environmental Benefits of Cycling and Walking

Since a cyclist is unlikely to ride anywhere near the number of miles a motorist travels, cycling is obviously safer. Unfortunately these odds didn't help Ken out - he was killed by a drunk driver.
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Old 05-30-07, 12:31 PM   #13
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Some of the per-mile statistics make bikes look good (and one gets the strong impression that some of the writers who use these sorts of statistics have an axe to grind -- they want to show that bikes are safe).

Cyclists and pedestrians, according to some of the statistics, are equally safe, on a per-mile basis.

But bikes typically travel several times as fast as pedestrians. In an hour of walking, a pedestrian will cover about three miles. According to these statistics, a cyclist will have the same odds in the course of three miles.

But bicyclists will typically cover several times as many miles in an hour, and have (according to these same statistics) several times as many fatalities during the same period of time.

Bicycle commuters often cover many more miles than walkers.

So the stats can be spun to make cycling look as safe as walking; but the truer version would see it as several times as likely to be fatal over a given period of time.

***
statistics can be horribly misleading
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Old 05-30-07, 12:45 PM   #14
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Studies have shown that survival is the best method of death prevention

That said, fatality statistics dont take into account those cyclists who survived a crash in a vegetative state.
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Old 05-30-07, 01:23 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thor29
Here's something from Ken Kifer's website -

Fatalities Per Mile
Motor Vehicle Travel 42,000 killed 2.56 trillion miles .016 fatalities per million miles
Bicycle Travel 813 killed 21 billion miles .039 fatalities per million miles

Data from Traffic Safety Facts 1997
and The Environmental Benefits of Cycling and Walking

Since a cyclist is unlikely to ride anywhere near the number of miles a motorist travels, cycling is obviously safer. Unfortunately these odds didn't help Ken out - he was killed by a drunk driver.
Kifer was rightly critical of that data. It has basically been pulled out from whence the sun don't shine. Likewise with the 'Failure Analysis Associates' chart.

In any case, even if the numbers are right on, beware of trying to quantify the danger of cycling through fatality numbers alone.

Robert
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Old 05-30-07, 01:29 PM   #16
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Driving isn't dangerous, riding a motorcycle isn't dangerous, walking isn't dangerous and riding a bike isn't dangerous...people are dangerous - to themselves and to others.
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Old 05-30-07, 02:46 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CB HI
Per trip would likely be the least biased data and most meaningful.
There is no one best number. You first have to ask the question "Why am I cycling?". For recreation? Per hour. Commuting? Per mile. And in any case it needs to be a group that reflects the rider. It really does not matter how many people get hurt doing stupid things on a bike that you will never do, like coming off the sidewalk at speed or riding against traffic.
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