Safety

This is not a piece of why you should or should not wear a helmet, though, that may end to be part of the learning.


The Danish Road Safety Council oftens speaks out against dangerous trees, as if they attacked the cars, or in some magical way, cars gravitated to trees, however, whats dangerous is the high speeds and lacking attention of cars and motorists. Picture: Wikipedia.org. 
We are all the time told bicyclists are either death defiant hoodlums or that bicycling is just plain dangerous. This summer The Center party (Radikale Ventstre), suggested helmets to be mandatory for youths below 15 years of age. This week I woke up to the national news (DR P3) that, as bicycling was the most dangerous transport mode, and one of the most renowned transport scientists would research if wearing flaming yellow jacket, would reduce the risk of cycling, the story ran in most national media (for an example click here). Nothing sells like fear.

The researcher is probably going to get positive results. Then he can continue to examine the effects of bicyclists wearing a back-shield like motorcyclists, and will be able to document that it can lead to a reduction in bicyclists getting their back broken. His research will become more and more important, as bicyclists more and more resembles armoured clowns, fewer and fewer will choose the bike, and we all know what happens the more modal share goes down, killed cyclists per mile goes up. Incidently, so does obesity, diabetes II, depression, ADHD etc.

The big deception in all road safety, is that it is all focused on the victim. The danger of transport modality is measured by the risk of being killed and seriously injured, rather than the risk of killing and injuring others.

By such standards the most dangerous animal would the farmed chicken, but in general most people probably regard a Bengal tiger to be much more dangerous.

Second it is measured by km/miles travelled, making cars a really safe mode of transportation, though they are virtually responsible for all killed in traffic.

Third the dangers of pollution are never included, in Denmark, the emissions kills about fifteen times more than accidents (talk about ignoring the bull).

Is it fair to measure danger by distance travelled at all. I would argue not, a bicyclist or pedestrian will never travel extra miles to shop at supermarket with convenient parking, or travel all across town to save a few dollars. Or as many danes enjoy to do, drive all the way to Germany or Sweden to load up on soft drinks, beer, candy and smokes, as a weekend spoil.

For every trip a pedestrian or bicyclist will pay a high tribute to proximity. Even fitness centers mostly caters to people living and/or working in the immediate vicinity. Though one could argue a fitness center situated 5 km away, would fit perfectly with a warm-up run, prior to bending some heavy steel.

For long trips a bicyclist will often use a train, bus or plane, which is virtually 100% safe, but that mileage will not be included in the statistics of bicyclist.

All in all, I think accidents pr billion trips or billion hours in traffic, would give a better representation of the actual risk, so how does cycling stack up, the the second most safe country for bicyclists (after The Netherlands).

Traffic deaths by modality and transportwork/time/trips – Source: Statistics Denmark (Accidents data) and Technical University of Denmark, (DTU) – Datasæt: TU0611v2

First of all even, measured per mileage, bicycling is much safer than walking and motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. Second measured by trips and time, bicycling is the safest mode of individual transport, public transit being the most safe overall. Deaths in public transit in Denmark is mostly linked to suicides.

Also if we make the by no means universally true assumption, that public transit is only used by non-motorists, and make a group which summarizes bicycles, pedestrians, and public transit, the dangers in traffic per billion km is all but the same, for motorists and non motorists.

Now as I mentioned earlier, what kills in traffic is cars, and most of all the pollution from cars. In Denmark the debate is always about the accidental deaths in traffic, getting the annual death toll under 200. It is NEVER EVER, about the 95% of premature deaths which can be attributed to traffic, which are caused by pollution, the annual 4.100.

If we want to make traffic safer, reduce speed limits, increase the price of parking, limit street use for cars.

We need to make an urban environment, where we prioritize the freedom to be vulnerable in traffic, rather than the freedom to drive predatorily.

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