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Study That Spurred Bike Helmet Fetish Was Repudiated By Its Own Authors

The authors of a study that helped foment the public and governmental obsession with bike helmets later issued research that undermined their initial findings.

Cyclists in Melbourne, where helmet use is mandatory. Photo: Wikipedia

Cyclists in Melbourne, where helmet use is mandatory. Photo: Wikipedia

The 1989 study, by Frederick P. Rivara, Diane C. Thompson, and Robert S. Thompson, found that helmet usage reduced head injury by 85 percent, and the risk of brain injury by 89 percent.

Network blog Wash Cycle reports that other researchers were not able to replicate the results — a red flag. And a few years later the original researchers issued a report, recently reprinted, that basically repudiated their landmark study.

These numbers have been repeated ever since by a variety of medical and insurance organizations and government agencies, despite the fact that “later efforts to replicate those results found a weaker connection between helmets and head injuries.” In fact, in 2013, in response to a petition from WABA, the CDC and NHTSA agreed to remove these estimates from their website.

Thompson, Rivara and Thompson did another study in 1997 that shows no connection between helmet use and serious injury. In a review of questionnaires filled out by 3,390 cyclists injured over a three year period, they determined that “Risk for serious injury was not affected by helmet use (OR=0.9)…[and]…neck injury was not affected by helmet use.” Instead they determined that:

“Prevention of serious bicycle injuries cannot be accomplished through helmet use alone, and may require separation of cyclists from motor vehicles, and delaying cycling until children are developmentally ready.”

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • MTA Board Sees Steep Fare Hikes If Albany Doesn’t Act on Funding for Capital Plan (NYT, WCBS, PIX)
  • Daily News Coverage Blames MTA for Fare Hikes; Russianoff Sets Paper Straight (1, 2)
  • Melinda Katz, Legislators Come Out Against Move NY But Don’t Offer Their Own Solution (Observer)
  • DOT Caves to Mark Treyger, Shifts Location of Shore Parkway Speed Cam (Bklyn Daily)
  • Truck Driver Seriously Injured After Smashing Parked Cars, Building in Hell’s Kitchen (Post, DNA)
  • Transit Beat Reporter Pete Donohue Is Leaving the Daily News (Capital)
  • State’s Chief Judge Backs Summons Reform; Says Bicycling on Sidewalk Shouldn’t Be Criminal (Capital)
  • Two Die in High-Speed Fresh Meadows Car Crash (News); Driver Critically Injured on LIE (Post)
  • The Transport Politic Questions Whether de Blasio’s Utica Ave Subway Extension Is a Wise Investment
  • Malcolm Gladwell Focuses on How to Build a Safer Car, Rather Than Safer Streets (New Yorker)
  • Reckless Driving is Just a Bunch of LOLs to the Staten Island Advance

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Bay Ridge CB Overwhelmingly Backs Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Safety Fixes

Bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements are coming to Bay Ridge after a pair of votes at Brooklyn Community Board 10 last week. It’s a turnaround from just a few years ago, when the board gained a reputation as one of the most anti-bike in the city.

After years of work at the community board, bike lanes are coming to Bay Ridge. Map: DOT [PDF]

After years of work at the community board, bike lanes are coming to Bay Ridge. Map: DOT [PDF]

After voting down a 2011 DOT proposal to add bike lanes to Bay Ridge Parkway, CB 10 went back to the drawing board and came up with its own list of streets where it wanted bike lanes. DOT came back with a plan last summer, and the plan finally passed the transportation committee on April 16 before clearing the full board in a 30-5 vote on April 20 [PDF].

“Most of the people were quite satisfied with the changes that DOT made. The process was very long and cumbersome, but in the end the final proposal that DOT brought forth was perfectly in line with the wishes of the committee,” said CB 10 member Bob HuDock. While a handful of people, led by former transportation committee member Alan Bortnick, voted against the plan, it passed the full board with flying colors last week.

“It was a really stunning turnaround from four years ago,” HuDock said. “It was not a very controversial thing. Everybody had seen this plan evolve over the years.”

The proposal [PDF] forms a loop on the northern, eastern, and southern sides of CB 10. Shared lane markings will be added to Sixth Avenue from Fort Hamilton Parkway to 68th Street. Fort Hamilton Parkway will get striped bike lanes, from Sixth Avenue to 92nd Street, and shared lanes from 92nd Street to Marine Avenue. Shared lanes will also be added to Marine Avenue from Fort Hamilton Parkway to Colonial Road.

In the northern section of the neighborhood, striped bike lanes are being added to 68th and 72nd streets west of Sixth Avenue. Fifth Avenue from 65th Street to 72nd Street will receive shared lane markings.

Some of the biggest changes are coming to Seventh Avenue near the Gowanus Expressway, where extra-wide lanes will be narrowed to make room for striped bike lanes.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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You Can Help Make State DOTs Accountable for How They Spend

States have prioritized maintenance. Will new standards help? Image: Smart Growth America

States have failed to prioritize maintenance instead of expansion. Will new standards help? Image: Smart Growth America

Pressure is mounting on the president and Congress to keep roads and bridges from falling apart by increasing transportation funding. But a big part of the problem is states, which receive the lion’s share of federal transportation funds but opt to spend most on new roads, instead of maintaining existing infrastructure.

Between 2009 and 2011, states spent just 45 percent of their highway money maintaining the 8,822 miles of roads that they control, according to Smart Growth America. Meanwhile, they poured 55 percent into road expansions. Some states spent more wisely and some spent more irresponsibly. The worst spent upward of 90 percent of their budgets on new construction during that time period.

And that’s always been their prerogative. Most of the tens of billions of dollars in federal funding that flows to states every year comes with few strings attached. The system is also opaque: Determining how states spend their money is extraordinarily difficult.

How can people demand better from their state DOT if they can’t tell what their DOT is doing? Advocates see greater transparency as an important tool for change, and they’re fighting to implement strong new federal standards to grade state DOTs on safety, maintenance, and other key indicators.

MAP-21, the transportation bill enacted in 2012, included provisions for U.S. DOT to hold states to a new set of performance standards. Now, two years after passage, policy makers at the agency are beginning to define those metrics. For the most part, the law doesn’t penalize failure to hit targets, but its reporting requirements could compel state DOTs to be publicly accountable for their decisions — provided they’re stringent enough.

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Livable Streets Events

This Week: Final Two Woodhaven-Cross Bay SBS Workshops

It’s a big week for bus planning, with an update on Utica Avenue Select Bus Service and opportunities to weigh in on SBS plans for Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards on tap. Also: check out plans for the Prospect Heights Slow zOne and offer your input on how to improve Mosholu Parkway.

Here are the highlights. Check the calendar for the full listing of events:

  • Tuesday: DOT is presenting its plans to install the Prospect Heights neighborhood Slow Zone at the Brooklyn Community Board 8 transportation committee and its plans for Utica Avenue Select Bus Service at the Brooklyn Community Board 9 general meeting. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m.
  • Also Tuesday: The Queens Community Board 5 transportation committee will discuss Woodhaven Boulevard SBS and hear a presentation from DOT on pedestrian and traffic safety improvements at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, Forest Avenue, and George Street. 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday: NYC DOT and the MTA are hosting the third of four workshops on Select Bus Service for Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards. This workshop will focus on Cross Bay Boulevard. Open to the public from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Also Wednesday: Council members Andrew Cohen and Ritchie Torres are hosting a town hall with Friends of Mosholu Parkland and the Bedford Mosholu Community Association to discuss ways to improve street safety and park space along Mosholu Parkway. 7 p.m.
  • Thursday: The final of four workshops on Woodhaven/Cross Bay SBS is being hosted in the Rockaways. Come learn how the Q52 and Q53 bus will change and go over block-by-block changes to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards. Open to the public from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Keep an eye on the calendar for updated listings. Got an event we should know about? Drop us a line.

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NYC DOT Needs to Turn On the Rest of Its Speed Cameras ASAP

NYC Traffic Injuries January-March 2012-2015

Total traffic injuries and fatalities in NYC declined in the first three months of 2015 compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD crash data. While it’s too early to isolate the effect of the city’s speed camera program on street safety, the available evidence strongly suggests cameras are a factor in the city’s continued improvement.

And yet more than half the speed cameras at NYC DOT’s disposal are still dormant. If speed cams are saving people’s lives, then the sloth-like rollout is also costing lives.

As of the end of March, there were 40 traffic fatalities in NYC this year, compared to 51 through March 2014, a 22 percent decrease. Motorists killed 24 people walking and biking through March, compared to 33 for the same period last year, a 27 percent decline.

Injuries, which are less prone to random variation, were also down through March. The total number of people injured in crashes decreased by 6 percent from the same period in 2014, and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists dropped 14 percent.

What’s making streets safer? The increase in speed cameras, paired with the lowering of the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph last fall, is the single most significant change to NYC’s streets in the past year.

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Is Your City Making Full Use of Existing Transit Investments?

In Chicago, fewer people are living near transit, even though rising rents say demand is high. Graph: Metropolitan Council

In Chicago, fewer people are living near transit, though rising rents indicate demand is high. Graph: Metropolitan Council

Chicago’s rail transit infrastructure has a lot of unused capacity, Yonah Freemark wrote last week on the blog of the Metropolitan Planning Council, and making use of it might be cheaper and easier than expanding the system.

Some of Chicago’s most transit-accessible neighborhoods are barely growing, but rents are rising fast, Freemark reported, an indication that additional transit-oriented housing could be supported. Unfortunately, zoning laws limit new construction in these areas, says Freemark, so countless would-be transit riders move to the suburbs or other regions, outside the reach of transit service.

Inspired by that article, David Levinson at Streets.mn looked at how much additional capacity there is on Minneapolis’s new Green Line — one of the biggest transit success stories of last year — which carries about 38,000 riders daily. Depending on how you calculate capacity, there’s actually quite a bit to work with, says Levinson.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • NYT Endorses Move NY Toll Reform Plan
  • Crain’s Talks With Walder About New Dock Software and Other Citi Bike Upgrades
  • Reappointed Prendergast Calls Capital Program His Top Priority (Emma G. Fitzsimmons, News)
  • Cuomo Announces $1 Billion Fed Loan for Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (ObserverPost)
  • Nicole Gelinas (Post) and Daily News Slam Cuomo and de Blasio for Transit Happy Talk
  • MTA Now Expects to Open 7 Line Extension This Summer (2nd Ave Sagas)
  • 78th Precinct Doesn’t Need a Law to Ticket Cyclists for Cell Phone Use (Bklyn Paper)
  • CO of 88th Precinct, Where Drivers Do What They Please, Brags on Cyclist Crackdown (DNA)
  • Green Cab Driver Rams, Flips Daily News Truck, Killing Paper Delivery Man (News, Post)
  • Bratton Opposes Decriminalizing Sidewalk Biking, Park After Dark, and Other Offenses (Post)
  • Daily News Op-Ed Writer Proposes Confiscating Bikes for Sidewalk Riding
  • New York State DMV Lets High School Kids Conduct Vehicle Inspections (Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Better Protection Slated for Vernon Boulevard Bike Lane, Tweets DOT

On Tuesday, Clarence tweeted several photos of cars, including what looked like out-of-service cabs, parked in the Vernon Boulevard bikeway. “Vernon Boulevard needs barrier protection,” Clarence wrote. “This is ridiculous!”

A few hours later, DOT responded with a tweet that said there is “community support” to replace flex posts with Jersey barriers to keep drivers out, and that DOT is “currently scheduling installation.”

This is great news for people who ride on Vernon Boulevard and will pair nicely with the widened Pulaski Bridge bike path, scheduled for completion later this year.

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De Blasio Deputy Anthony Shorris Ducks Questions on MTA Funding

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s One New York plan, focused on the intersection of income inequality and the environment, doesn’t hesitate to make big recommendations to the MTA, like a new subway line. To pay for those plans, de Blasio will need Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to take action, but the mayor isn’t putting forward his own ideas about how to fund the MTA.

First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. Photo: Wikipedia

While the Move NY toll reform plan aligns with the mayor’s environmental and equity goals, de Blasio has avoided taking a position on it. Today, his top deputy wouldn’t elaborate on City Hall’s position except to note that the mayor is “leading the fight” to pass a federal transportation bill.

After his morning keynote at the annual Regional Plan Association assembly at the Waldorf-Astoria, First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris continued the administration’s waltz around the Move NY Fair Plan during a press scrum.

“Look, I think one thing we’ve said from the beginning is the full funding of the MTA capital program is essential to the city, to this mayor’s agenda, and to the whole One New York plan, and even more broadly, to the whole region,” Shorris said. “Everybody’s going to have to figure out how to come together and do that. That’s the city, the state, the MTA itself.”

Then Shorris shifted to Congress.

“It’s also very important that the transportation bill in Washington be passed. There’s actually a critical federal component,” Shorris said.

I asked if that meant the city wouldn’t talk about its transit funding preferences until a new transportation bill passes Congress. “No, it means that we all, though, have to fight to get that transportation bill funded,” Shorris replied, “and the mayor’s leading that fight right now.”

When it comes to funding the MTA, however, federal policy is the wrong place to focus. With power in Washington split between the Obama White House and the GOP Congress, federal transit funding isn’t about to change much. The arena where the mayor has allies and can actually make a difference is Albany.

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