Junk statistics and junk reporting

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association issued a report titled Bicycle Safety. The report is full of junk statistics, and the Los Angeles Times reported on the report with junk reporting. SABA and other advocacy organizations reposted on Facebook. It would take many posts or many paragraphs to respond to this junk, but here are a few points.

  1. Reporting bicyclist fatality COUNTS for different states is pointless and irresponsible. Yes, California has more fatalities. It also has more people. This is like comparing some statistic from Lichtenstein with the same from China. Nonsense! If a number is reported at all, it should at least be a number per 100,000 population. But the report author know that would be much less sensational, so doesn’t. Junk statistics.
  2. The report states “Adequate exposure data are not available to accurately monitor changes in bicycle travel…” and then goes on to draw all sorts of conclusions. The right way to report any crash statistic is as a rate, such as how many people were killed per mile traveled on bicycle (and in different settings that would distinguish recreational riding from commuting and errands). Unfortunately Caltrans and other states transportation agencies steadfastly refuse to gather bicycle use data, and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association should know this as well as anyone. Junk statistics.
  3. The report states “Lack of helmet use is a major contributing factor in fatalities.” But it provides absolutely no data to support this claim. Is there anything here to support the idea that these people would not have died if they were wearing a helmet? No. The other “research” cited is full of holes and assumptions leading to foregone conclusions. The report states that helmet requirements in Canada and Australia are examples of success, increasing helmet use and decreasing fatalities. In fact, there is plenty of initial data to indicate that these laws decreased use and increased the fatality rate per 100,000 people. Fewer people biking means a higher risk per person. Junk statistics, again.
  4. The LA Times articles opens with a photo of a crash test dummy flying through the air. Worthy of Fox News, for sure, but the LA Times? Blood leads. Junk reporting.
  5. The report and the Times article lists several solutions that have to do with separated facilities. But it makes the common leap of faith, prevalent among some in the advocacy community, that a preference among many bicyclists for separated facilities (which is certainly true) would lead to a decrease in fatalities. Do we know that? No. There has been some research to indicate that is true, but the same research has also been widely criticized. The truth is that we don’t know yet. I’m not suggesting that we not discuss the benefits of separated facilities, but to a priori claim that separated facilities are the solution to bicyclist fatalities is nonsense.

Junk statistics. Junk reporting. Junk. Junk. Junk. Don’t get sucked into this nonsense.

Yes, we should actively and intelligently seek answers to both the causes and solutions to bicyclist fatalities. Unfortunately, neither this report nor the LA Times article adds anything of value.

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News summary October 26

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News summary October 19

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Best Foot Forward Summit – join me?

California Walks, the statewide advocacy group, is hosted the Best Foot Forward Summit in Oakland on November 8th & 9th. I’m thinking of attending, but am unsure how exactly to make use of the summit to support efforts in the Sacramento region. If a critical mass of people from Sacramento attended, then we could have very useful discussions at the summit, and come to a consensus about how we can use the experience to move things forward here. However, there are only four people from the region registered at the moment. On the other hand, those who do attend could bring back a summary and skills for working on our regional issues, and share them locally with others. At the moment, it does not appear that WALKSacramento has the capacity to implement either of these ideas. But I’m asking that every reader here will consider the opportunity, and then share what they think, either by commenting here on the blog or by responding to the @GetAroundSac tweet and using the hash tag #BestFootForwardSummit.

What we know is that the transportation agencies in the region will move at a snail’s pace to improve walkability and livability, unless we exert strong public pressure on them. In fact, I believe that the harm they do will continue to outweigh the good they do, for some while, as they cling to outmoded ways of thinking and outmoded views of the kind of place that resident want. It will take a transformative experience to get advocates fired up and moving forward, together. I’m not sure if this is that experience, but I’d like to know what you think.

I am not minimizing the work of WALKSacramento and other advocates that have made a difference, particularly in the lower income South Sacramento area. This is all good work, and the priorities identified by community participants reflect the changing needs and desires of the region, but it is a drop in the bucket of what needs to take place.

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News summary October 12

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Walk to School Day?

Today was Walk to School Day. If any schools in the region have photos or stories to share, I’d be glad to post them, or link to other sources. I think your photos and stories will be an inspiration to others, and fuel for the next major event, Bike to School Day next May. I hope that you had a successful celebration!

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News summary October 5

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Development

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