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Friday, December 3, 2010

Culture of Fear

Commute Orlando has an excellent blog with many thought provoking posts.  This one is especially interesting to me.  Culture of Fear.   It finally explains why Britain's Cycle Touring Club, their equivalent of our LAB, is so opposed to mandatory helmet laws. The comments get into the infrastructure discussion but don't mention my biggest peeve, the incessant promotion of Stranger Danger.
For the record, I always wear a helmet but given the choice of a reasonable road or multi use path, I take the road.


  1. The debate over how safe or dangerous riding a particular stretch of road is is always notoriously hard to study, because we can almost never know what caused an increase or decrease in crashes. The results of various treatments is also debatable for the same reason.

    For example, let's say we have two stretches of similar road with similar traffic patterns. If we take one segment and add bike lanes, and the crash rate increases, was it because of the lanes? Or was it because less experienced riders hit the road? Crash rates themselves are hard enough to study by themselves, since it's hard to get people to participate in a study with cyclocomputers. I remember reports about how crash rates tend to increase with facilities, but it could well be the increase in less experienced riders that cause it.

    FWIW, an idea that was floated something like a year ago was to have say LAB members track their crashes over a year over a variety of roads, and only look at those rates. Helmets and other safety gear are known to have the side effect of making people take more risks, thereby negating their safety advantages at least partially. Cars pass closer to bikes when a bike lane is present, but whether it's less safe is also debatable. All in all, safety assessments are really difficult in anything other than the simplest cases.

  2. Nelson,
    I agree that for us (BWT) the debate over lanes vs. wide shoulders etc. is non productive and good data on anything human is nearly impossible. I liked the article mostly because it made the point of how much fear is irrational. It took me years to get the courage to "Take the Lane." despite knowing it was the safer course most of the time.

  3. The biggest issue I have with Bike Lanes and recommendations like "take the lane" is that too many bicyclist feel that gives them the opportunity to disengage their brain. Too many bicyclists "assume" when they are in a Bike Lane that they are no longer "in traffic" -- a potentially deadly misconception. Similarly, it is not always wise to "take the lane". I only take the lane when my action improves my visibility to a motorist and the prevailing LAW permits that action. For example, TCA 55-8-175 only permits this actions under limited conditions.