Sunday, August 23, 2009

External Airbags

I've been saying for years that driving a car with interior airbags, but no exterior ones, shows a callous disregard for others' well-being. They've finally invented them, so now what's your excuse? While you're at it, unstrap that seat belt: "...the predominant effect [of seat belt laws] was of increased numbers of injuries to non-car users."

Wearing a helmet like it matters

Like many Americans, I've been expected to wear a bike helmet since I started riding. I've been pressured and guilt-tripped when I don't. And I've seen the reporting, e.g. when someone drives their car into a bicyclist's leg, that the biker wasn't wearing a helmet, and was therefore somewhat to blame for their injuries. For years I'd "forget," or decline, or make excuses why it wasn't convenient. Finally I buckled under (my chin) and I've been wearing a helmet consistently for the last couple of years.

I've also been reading up. Did you know, for instance, that the standard for bike helmets is 'intended to give protection in the kind of accident in which the rider falls onto the road without other vehicles being involved.’ That bike-related head injuries have not decreased with helmet use, and may even have increased? Most relevant to the "Where's your helmet?" crowd, that thirty times as many motorists as bicyclists die from head injuries every year, and that per hour of use, bikes pose a lower risk of fatal injury than cars?

Like I said, I've been convinced. I'm wearing my (probably useless) helmet in both types of high-risk vehicles. And the conclusion so far is that none of the people who have urged me and others to wear helmets take it at all seriously. Even the ones who own helmets and who have heard my explanation of the risks, haven't been wearing theirs. It's enough to un-convince me. I'm ready to stop being the only sweaty-headed fool. Sure, I'll let my experiment run a few more months -- no rash decisions -- and I'll probably get a motorcycle helmet to keep the snow out in winter, but I'll probably do like everyone else and let fashion and feelings dictate my helmet (non-) use. If anyone has a problem with that, they can put their melon where their mouth is and buckle under for a turn.

p.s. for those of you who think bike helmets are scientifically proven safer:

'Claims that "helmets reduce the incidence of serious head injuries by as much as 85%" are almost all based on a series of studies that gathered data from Seattle-area emergency rooms in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Even the authors of these studies admit that these studies suffer from serious methodological flaws. For example, the same data can be used to show that "helmets reduce the incidence of leg injuries by as much as 72%'
[ref] [via]

I encourage you to google it all for yourself, but if a website repeats the common "85% safer" statistic, it's probably from the Seattle study above, and the rest of their facts may be just as valid.

p.p.s. After years of study, Dr. Ian Walker can't tell if helmets increase safety: "I do not know whether or not bicycle helmets save lives. And, critically, nor does anybody else."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to move quickly through a crowd of children

Ball up your fists and start swinging. Be careful not to actually hit anyone, but keep moving forward, ideally at a run, and yell at anyone who isn't looking. Of course, they'll look and then it'll be their fault for not getting out of the way of your fist. Don't try this in a crowd of adults -- they might start swinging too.

There's something inherently aggressive about bringing your fist/automobile within inches past someone, even if you never hit them or even mean to. When your victims are too small to hold their own or fight back it's borderline psychotic, even if you are in a hurry. They'd lock up a child-stampeder right quick. Is that the only reason you haven't tried it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Camera Bus?

There is a popular fallacy that four-wheels should be straddling the lane line when they pass two-wheels; "sharing the lane," as it were. There's another alarming one, that once the driver's body has passed the "obstacle" it's time to start drifting back right. Put those two together with a metro bus and it's hair raising.

I had a feeling when the bus pulled up behind me at the red light, so I looked back and memorized all the numbers on the front. After the green, when the driver had an opening, they started to pass halfway within the lane, then while alongside started to run me off the road. Actually there was a row of parked cars, so I'm lucky the bus didn't get any closer. But it's just that, luck, when they were closing on me in the blind spot. After they passed I memorized the numbers off the back of the bus, too.

Then I called the NFTA at 855-7211. Maybe their phone system was busted or over capacity, but I was hung up on at least nine times before I got through to a person, who graciously took my complaint. Here's what I learned:

- they can identify a bus by the numbers on it, but not by its license plate
- that particular bus is a "camera bus," so they can actually review the footage with the driver

I hope they get something out of it for their general bus driver training.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Main St

- 3 cars in a row passed me with inches to spare, speeding; occupants of last car shouting out window

Antisocial behavior at its mindless finest, like trampling someone at WalMart to get ahead in line. This street had two narrow lanes plus parked cars. You could have waited a few seconds and used the left lane. Was it worth those few seconds to potentially kill someone?

Despite the "Complete Streets" policy, they rebuilt this stretch of Main Street without bike lanes. They found room for a flowerbed down the middle, though.

In case you skipped drivers ed, when there's no marked bike lane the rightmost travel lane becomes the bike lane, and if it's too narrow for both vehicles (15 feet or so) you are required to change lanes completely to pass. Plus, then you won't casually kill someone.