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Are we "vulnerable users"?

Old 05-21-13, 10:53 AM
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Are we "vulnerable users"?

A statewide advocacy group often refers to bicycling as a dangerous activity requiring special protection. They sponsor a Ride of Silence and encourage helmet use, for example. I think these messages are counter-productive because they scare many people away from even trying transportation cycling.

This group is currently running a lobbying effort. They are asking state legislators to support roadway improvements tha t will "safeguard vulnerable road users." In the context, it's clear that they mean bicyclists. I have some problems with this whole message, so I've been posting comments on the group's Facebook page. Here is my most recent comment:
I don't think that casting cyclists as vulnerable users who need safeguarding is going to do anything but scare people away from bicycling. The message is, "Even their own advocates think that cycling is an excessively dangerous activity."

Furthermore, non-cyclists must wonder why they should have to pay in order to make a risky hobby less risky. Parachutists and scuba divers aren't asking for government support, so why are cyclists?

Lets change the message to reflect that bicycles are a fun and safe alternative to automobile transportation. Bicyclists deserve good facilities because we pay taxes too. Good bike facilities make travel easier for BOTH cyclists and motorists. Good bike facilities will mean fewer cars on the road, which will reduce traffic congestion for people who do want to drive. Lets face it, people (including politicians and planners) are more likely to support a positive message--especially if they can see that there's something in it for them too!
I was wondering what other transportation cyclists think about this issue. Do you feel like a "vulnerable user"? Do you want others to think that cycling is a dangerous activity?

(I think there might be a divide between everyday or transportation or utility cyclists, as compared to recreational, club and fitness cyclists. That's why I'm posting on LCF rather than another sub forum, in case any mods are wondering.)
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Old 05-21-13, 11:28 AM
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You are correct. Emphasising the dangers of cycling deters people from cycling. Most importantly, it deters people from allowing their children to ride on the roads. And the fact is, cycling is very safe. In the UK, which is a long way behind many other European countries in terms of cycling safety, there is only one cycling fatality for every 28 million miles cycled. One would be better off having a "shower of silence", as the risks of injuring yourself while getting out of the bath are substantially greater.

Amd I speak as one who cycles for sport as well as transportation.
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Old 05-21-13, 12:04 PM
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It certainly CAN be dangerous, depending on a lot of things... When a fully loaded logging truck or chip truck passes me with about 1' of clearance going over 60 MPH I would say there's some danger there and I do feel "vulnerable". Maybe not as dangerous as being in Afghanistan or Iraq, but for that 1 or 2 seconds ones life is hanging on the dangerous side of what can be considered normal risk or no risk... JMO Oh, and there are hundreds of logging truck and chip trucks around here...

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Old 05-21-13, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by 350htrr
It certainly CAN be dangerous, depending on a lot of things... When a fully loaded logging truck or chip truck passes me with about 1' of clearance going over 60 MPH I would say there's some danger there. Maybe not as dangerous as being in Afghanistan or Iraq, but for that 1 or 2 seconds ones life is hanging on the dangerous side of what can be considered normal risk or no risk... JMO Oh, and there are hundreds of logging truck and chip trucks around here...
Right, and snowplows can be even scarier. But how many cyclists are injured or killed in these encounters? Feeling frightened and being endangered are sometimes two different things....
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Old 05-21-13, 12:16 PM
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Maybe I should have reworded the thread title:


Do we want to be known as vulnerable users?
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Old 05-21-13, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
A statewide advocacy group often refers to bicycling as a dangerous activity requiring special protection. They sponsor a Ride of Silence and encourage helmet use, for example. I think these messages are counter-productive because they scare many people away from even trying transportation cycling.
Not knowing more about this issue, I tend to support them in asking for road improvements. Since I only have your description, I can't comment on the dangerous activity bit. But we are vulnerable when we share the road. Motorists do not usually end up with worse injuries than cyclists when the two collide. But certainly that's bad marketing to try to sell road improvements strictly on injury.

The Ride of Silence is usually a personal affair, I know of no groups who publicize it beyond their own groups. I think that advocates should wear helmets and lead by example, but not by preaching.

Are you talking about the League of Michigan Bicyclists? What is the article?
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Old 05-21-13, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
Right, and snowplows can be even scarier. But how many cyclists are injured or killed in these encounters? Feeling frightened and being endangered are sometimes two different things....
Yes it is different, I don't actually know of anyone bumped off by a logging truck, but for those 2 seconds, and maybe up to a minute after on of those things brushes by me... Over all I do think that bicycling is pretty safe...
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Old 05-21-13, 02:43 PM
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I dont see myself as especially vulnerable while cycling on the road, tho I wouldnt cycle in certain places after dark.

That is how I would see myself as "vulnerable" being female but then I would be even more vulnerable in those places if I was walking so cycling there would be that much safer.

But riding in broad daylight I feel pretty safe and I look after my own safety on my bike tho there are the odd drivers who either don't see me or don't care but on the whole drivers are pretty considerate.

I do appreciate all the off road and road improvements that make my ride easier ie cycle lanes on pavements, improved canal towpaths etc but I wouldnt want them to be there because I'm a seen as a "poor cyclist she must be protected".

I see improvements as ways to make my ride faster and would love to see the canal towpath into town set with hardcore so I dont get plastered in mud if I ride down there after wet weather.
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Old 05-21-13, 05:44 PM
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For some reason unknown to me the Helena area is awash in dump trucks. In Helena dump trucks are belly dumpers and side dumpers. There are conventional dumpers too. ALL OF THEM are doubles. That means the tractor is pulling two trailers or the conventional dumper is pulling one trailer. These things are big and luckily all of them give me plenty of room when they pass. They all will wait until it is clear for them to occupy the other lane on a two lane road before passing.

I'm more afraid of cars. Daily somebody passes me within a foot or two to my left. This happens even though I'm in the right side tire track on the road.

I understand both points of view. Using the word vulnerable just might be the thing that city planners need to hear to get the message across to them. Without it the argument sounds less intense, less real. Let the proponents use these words until they get what they want. Then focus on getting more people to ride and not be so vulnerable.
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Old 05-21-13, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas
Not knowing more about this issue, I tend to support them in asking for road improvements. Since I only have your description, I can't comment on the dangerous activity bit. But we are vulnerable when we share the road. Motorists do not usually end up with worse injuries than cyclists when the two collide. But certainly that's bad marketing to try to sell road improvements strictly on injury.

The Ride of Silence is usually a personal affair, I know of no groups who publicize it beyond their own groups. I think that advocates should wear helmets and lead by example, but not by preaching.

Are you talking about the League of Michigan Bicyclists? What is the article?
Yes, the LMB-- but a post on Facebook, not an article on the website. I have noticed for some time that they put out a message that cycling is excessively dangerous as part of their advocacy. The last two or three times, I responded via Facebook. I know I have a tendency to harp on things, so I wanted to check it out with the smart people on LCF.
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Old 05-21-13, 06:07 PM
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Like ArtKansas, I don't really understand the context. If I were trying to appeal to state legislatures, I might use the world "vulnerable" if I were advocating a bike to school program. For an adult cycling program I would try to emphasize the dollars saved thru good health, less wear and tear on roads, less traffic, better air quality, reduced CO2 emissions... vulnerable would be my last thought.

Roody, why the interest in this group? Do you think they could benefit from your expertise? Perhaps you should get to know them a little better than a Facebook page. Often these groups are crying out for help or could at least use a little input on their strategies.
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Old 05-21-13, 09:58 PM
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Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite. Cyclists, real-world super-heroes, are vulnerable to motorists who don't follow the law. Of course, motorists are also vulnerable to scofflaw motorists and are maimed and killed in much larger numbers.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:29 PM
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Skydivers and scuba divers don't see a mentality where tens of thousands of their number are killed annually is accepted as "the cost of doing business". Nor do they practice their activity daily amongst thousands of oblivious base jumpers or swimmers.

When a motorist is hit by another, the main impact is borne by steel, shaped into "crumple zones", not flesh, bone, and cloth. (THAT is the "vulnerable" part.) As long as people think operating 3000lbs. of 150-200hp steel and rubber as if it's only worthy of 30% of their awareness, YOU'RE DAMNED RIGHT I WANT SOME PROTECTIVE MEASURES TAKEN.

Do I want to be KNOWN as a vulnerable user? I'd rather be known just as a road user, no special designation; but since the private auto seems to outnumber KIDS in America, much less ALL OTHER FORMS OF TRANSPORT, I don't see the recognition of equality happening any time soon. If being called a "vulnerable user" gets attention to the hazards we face daily, then OK.

It's great to accent the positives of cycling, rather than focusing on trimming the negatives by regulation; but LAW, by its very nature, is a negative, always saying what you HAVE to do or CANNOT do. When dealing with lawmakers, who are the only real hope we have for any sort of equality, we have to accent the negative -- it's all they understand. And impatient, aggressive, gratify-me-NOW America won't cop to what we already KNOW, because all they see is: slow, sweaty, minimalist, and outside their comfort zone; how do they haul groceries/kids/drycleaning/10-disc CD changer w/ subwoofer, and still have "status"? Because their seats are 2-1/2 feet wide, and ours are <8", they cannot conceive of comfort, and dismiss us as "gay" because we must LIKE having something hard up our arses. NOT in John-Wayne MANLY America!

So, call me vulnerable; call me GAY, if you like. But leave me and mine alone with your bumper & fender, or your life WILL change forever.
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Old 05-21-13, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
A statewide advocacy group often refers to bicycling as a dangerous activity requiring special protection. They sponsor a Ride of Silence and encourage helmet use, for example. I think these messages are counter-productive because they scare many people away from even trying transportation cycling.

This group is currently running a lobbying effort. They are asking state legislators to support roadway improvements tha t will "safeguard vulnerable road users." In the context, it's clear that they mean bicyclists. I have some problems with this whole message, so I've been posting comments on the group's Facebook page. Here is my most recent comment:
I don't think that casting cyclists as vulnerable users who need safeguarding is going to do anything but scare people away from bicycling. The message is, "Even their own advocates think that cycling is an excessively dangerous activity."

Furthermore, non-cyclists must wonder why they should have to pay in order to make a risky hobby less risky. Parachutists and scuba divers aren't asking for government support, so why are cyclists?

Lets change the message to reflect that bicycles are a fun and safe alternative to automobile transportation. Bicyclists deserve good facilities because we pay taxes too. Good bike facilities make travel easier for BOTH cyclists and motorists. Good bike facilities will mean fewer cars on the road, which will reduce traffic congestion for people who do want to drive. Lets face it, people (including politicians and planners) are more likely to support a positive message--especially if they can see that there's something in it for them too!
I was wondering what other transportation cyclists think about this issue. Do you feel like a "vulnerable user"? Do you want others to think that cycling is a dangerous activity?

(I think there might be a divide between everyday or transportation or utility cyclists, as compared to recreational, club and fitness cyclists. That's why I'm posting on LCF rather than another sub forum, in case any mods are wondering.)
Roody, I agree that portraying cyclists as "vulnerable users" is both inaccurate and a very misguided advocacy strategy. If you're trying to get non-cyclists to buy into efforts to make bicycles part of the transportation mix, playing the victim is pretty much the most idiotic thing you can do. Motorists don't want to share the road with what they perceive as entitled p*ssies who wear tights, flaunt traffic laws at will, and then mourn self-righteously when one of their fellows get run over; they're far more likely to take seriously the arguments of confident, rational cyclists who follow the rules and point out what the benefits are for the community at large.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by gerv
Like ArtKansas, I don't really understand the context. If I were trying to appeal to state legislatures, I might use the world "vulnerable" if I were advocating a bike to school program. For an adult cycling program I would try to emphasize the dollars saved thru good health, less wear and tear on roads, less traffic, better air quality, reduced CO2 emissions... vulnerable would be my last thought.

Roody, why the interest in this group? Do you think they could benefit from your expertise? Perhaps you should get to know them a little better than a Facebook page. Often these groups are crying out for help or could at least use a little input on their strategies.
I think it's a pretty good group, but they might have more rapport with recreational riders than with transportation cyclists. My main concern is that their use of scare tactics to sway politicians and planners wont do much to make transportation cycling more popular. I don't know that I want to get too much more involved, but if they ask for comments on Facebook, I will provide them. I can't go on rides with them because I don't own a helmet.
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Old 05-21-13, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by DX-MAN
Skydivers and scuba divers don't see a mentality where tens of thousands of their number are killed annually is accepted as "the cost of doing business". Nor do they practice their activity daily amongst thousands of oblivious base jumpers or swimmers.

When a motorist is hit by another, the main impact is borne by steel, shaped into "crumple zones", not flesh, bone, and cloth. (THAT is the "vulnerable" part.) As long as people think operating 3000lbs. of 150-200hp steel and rubber as if it's only worthy of 30% of their awareness, YOU'RE DAMNED RIGHT I WANT SOME PROTECTIVE MEASURES TAKEN.

Do I want to be KNOWN as a vulnerable user? I'd rather be known just as a road user, no special designation; but since the private auto seems to outnumber KIDS in America, much less ALL OTHER FORMS OF TRANSPORT, I don't see the recognition of equality happening any time soon. If being called a "vulnerable user" gets attention to the hazards we face daily, then OK.

It's great to accent the positives of cycling, rather than focusing on trimming the negatives by regulation; but LAW, by its very nature, is a negative, always saying what you HAVE to do or CANNOT do. When dealing with lawmakers, who are the only real hope we have for any sort of equality, we have to accent the negative -- it's all they understand. And impatient, aggressive, gratify-me-NOW America won't cop to what we already KNOW, because all they see is: slow, sweaty, minimalist, and outside their comfort zone; how do they haul groceries/kids/drycleaning/10-disc CD changer w/ subwoofer, and still have "status"? Because their seats are 2-1/2 feet wide, and ours are <8", they cannot conceive of comfort, and dismiss us as "gay" because we must LIKE having something hard up our arses. NOT in John-Wayne MANLY America!

So, call me vulnerable; call me GAY, if you like. But leave me and mine alone with your bumper & fender, or your life WILL change forever.
I empathize with your anger. But I think that you, like most North Americans, overestimate both the danger of riding a bike and the safety of riding in a car. I also believe that these bicycle advocacy groups play on these fears to some extent.

Ultimately, if bicycling in streets were an excessively dangerous activity, it would be logical to outlaw it. I think it's more truthful to say that both cycling and driving have similar risks. Appropriate road designs result in conditions that are safer for all users.

It's hard to be rational about risks, but well worth trying.
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Old 05-22-13, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody
I empathize with your anger. But I think that you, like most North Americans, overestimate both the danger of riding a bike and the safety of riding in a car.
Also, I'd like to point out a strange cultural point of view.

To my mind, if I buy a Bradley tank and ride it through the streets, I really can't argue that it's a safe vehicle. To the person inside, it's quite safe. But to the society outside the tank, the safety of the vehicle needs to be evaluated in the context of danger to those outside as well.

A suitable balance should be met.

It's this strange point of view that saw so many people buying bigger and bigger cars (particularly in the 90s) because they thought them "safe" and who gave little regard to pedestrians and cyclists and people in smaller cars.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody
Bicyclists deserve good facilities because we pay taxes too.
I think that is your strongest point, and it's usually lost and forgotten by all sides. Gas taxes do not foot the whole bill for roads. Bike users pay for a lot of roads that they don't always use. Building bike lanes or trails is not 'something for nothing' for us.
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Old 05-23-13, 12:47 AM
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From a mainland north European view, there are vulnerable cyclists. The typical one is about ten years old, and that's what things ought to be planned around.

If you've ever cycled in Germany, you will know there are plenty of 'compulsory' cycle paths running in the opposite direction to traffic, set back from the road with confusing junction crossings.

What is a nuisance for an alert adult cyclist is often a death trap for a child.
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Old 05-23-13, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody
Do we want to be known as vulnerable users?
I wish for motorists to be known as dangerous road users.
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Old 05-23-13, 03:23 PM
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I think the problem with criticizing LABs method in dealing with this issue is that they have been at it almost as long as people in the US have been riding bikes. They understand that to advocate for cycling you have to be multi-lingual. They know how to speak the language of the current cyclist. They can even speak the language of the non cyclist that is looking at becoming a cyclist. But more importantly they know how to talk to policy makers in a language they understand. But they are three different languages. In trying to talk a company, City, County, State, or Federal agency key words that get their attention are Safety and Protection. You can sell safety to most politicians but if you offer a way to protect potential voters they are far more likely to help you build infrastructure for endangered voters, (cyclists) However if you tell the same politician there is nothing dangerous about going one on one with unrestricted traffic then additional infrastructure seems unnecessary. You might tell other cyclists that we are as safe as the guy in his BMW about to shove you off of the road but just like he doesn't stand a chance against the Peterbuilt in the next lane. But we all know that there are some streets where we (cyclists) are at risk and we are at risk from cars and trucks. Tell a politician that we aren't at risk and it is the same as saying, life is good do nothing, we don't need anything.
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Old 05-23-13, 06:45 PM
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In response to the OP it really depends on the location. I don't feel vulnerable in my current city like I did before I moved. The culture is different. Instead of being run off the road folks simply pass me here (or as it often goes I pass them!). Even the major artirial roads with no cycling infrastrucutre are relativelty benign.
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Old 05-23-13, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by kookaburra1701
I wish for motorists to be known as dangerous road users.
That would be more a help and closer to the truth.
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Old 05-23-13, 07:18 PM
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capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, well that is a reasonable description of a bicycle rider versus a car or truck...

In many places separate infrastructure would be plus to separate bikes from heavy vehicle traffic. In many areas infrastructure hasn't been built because of the objections of vehicular cyclists claiming it wasn't necessary. Unfortunately not everybody wants to ride as a vehicular cyclist under all conditions at all times. When my children were younger and still learning the ropes of riding there was no way in hell I would take them on some of the roads that I was forced to use as a commuting cyclist due to lack of any other viable options.

I strongly believe that if mandatory re-certification of motor vehicle operators on a regular basis was required AND that there was vigorous enforcement of traffic laws, it would go a long ways towards making cycling and walking safer. Helmets are a crap shoot in my opinion. People want to mandate them as a means of controlling cyclists because they are pissed off at them. I have seen the results of several cyclist versus motor vehicle fatalities, in NONE of the cases did wearing the helmet make a damned bit of difference, the incompetency of the vehicle operators did. In a few cases the cyclist was clearly and fault and paid with their lives. In the others they were not at fault and in many cases the motorists walked away scot free with little more than a fine. And in one recent Boston case they didn't even press charges because it was an "accident".

I work in safety for a living and sometimes you have to make examples of people to get the point across. My company has a 4 strikes policy, if you get 4 write ups for the same safety violation in a year's time you are fired. We don't take it lightly, but had and issue with texting and driving. After firing two people in a week it has finally sunk in... you don't do it.

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Old 05-23-13, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc
capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, well that is a reasonable description of a bicycle rider versus a car or truck...

In many places separate infrastructure would be plus to separate bikes from heavy vehicle traffic. In many areas infrastructure hasn't been built because of the objections of vehicular cyclists claiming it wasn't necessary. Unfortunately not everybody wants to ride as a vehicular cyclist under all conditions at all times. When my children were younger and still learning the ropes of riding there was no way in hell I would take them on some of the roads that I was forced to use as a commuting cyclist due to lack of any other viable options.

I strongly believe that if mandatory re-certification of motor vehicle operators on a regular basis was required AND that there was vigorous enforcement of traffic laws, it would go a long ways towards making cycling and walking safer. Helmets are a crap shoot in my opinion. People want to mandate them as a means of controlling cyclists because they are pissed off at them. I have seen the results of several cyclist versus motor vehicle fatalities, in NONE of the cases did wearing the helmet make a damned bit of difference, the incompetency of the vehicle operators did. In a few cases the cyclist was clearly and fault and paid with their lives. In the others they were not at fault and in many cases the motorists walked away scot free with little more than a fine. And in one recent Boston case they didn't even press charges because it was an "accident".

I work in safety for a living and sometimes you have to make examples of people to get the point across. My company has a 4 strikes policy, if you get 4 write ups for the same safety violation in a year's time you are fired. We don't take it lightly, but had and issue with texting and driving. After firing two people in a week it has finally sunk in... you don't do it.

Aaron
I have a three strike policy, and sometimes I find that too lenient, when it comes to safety and company policy...
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