Tragedies Strike Cyclists in May
May was a tragic month for three cyclists in Tennessee. It started at the 3 State 3 Mtn Challenge in Chattanooga during a descent from Lookout Mountain on a cold rainy day. Antonio Jose Desousa Ribeiro, 49 of Jacksonville FL, failed to remain in his lane, crossed into the opposing lane and was struck by a motor vehicle. On May 23rd Jacob Billings, 14 of Smithville, TN, was making a steep descent on Casey Cove Rd and also crossed into the opposing lane and was struck by a motor vehicle.
In Knoxville, also on May 23rd, a 16 year old was trying to cross Western Ave at Sullivan Rd. The intersection is a difficult intersection to cross, even for experienced cyclists. Western Ave is an arterial road and there are several subdivisions on both sides of Western and Victor Ashe Park is just north of Western. There are many reasons a young cyclist might be trying to cross Western … visit friends, go to the park etc.
Is cycling becoming more dangerous in TN? No. While each one is tragic, there are relatively few cycling fatalities in Tennessee each year. The law of small numbers applies as a certain degree of randomness allows the numbers to fluctuate. When we look at the fatality numbers, we need to remember the longevity numbers. A National Institute of Health study published last year concludes that leisure time physical activity, for example riding a bicycle two hours a week, increases life expectancy by 3.2 years. Do the math; riding a bicycle is more likely to increase your life than reduce it.
Was cycling safer in 2010 and more dangerous in other years? No, it's just number randomness. There is a positive analysis in the TN numbers as we all know there is been a significant increase in the number of riders since 2005, but the number of fatalities has remained relatively stable. This is also true on the national level. On the national level the trends are more evident as because of the larger numbers there is less randomness and the graph lines are smoother which indicate the trends in a more statistically valid way.