Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: When "common sense" isn't

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  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Between nine and 10 dozens, but still dozens :P

    Heh, yes, I guess you're stuck for plurals in between there. It's not "hundreds". It is "scores", but who knows that term these days?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Thomas Lumley,

    It's true that the Coroner didn't rely on any evidence in making his recommendation (as usual). It's not true that there isn't any evidence

    A brief search on Pubmed finds:
    1. Visibility aids for pedestrians and cyclists: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

    2. A Cochrane Review Interventions for increasing pedestrian and cyclist visibility for the prevention of death and injuries.

    3. Conspicuity and bicycle crashes: preliminary findings of the Taupo Bicycle Study.

    and relevant if not precisely on point
    4 High visibility safety apparel and nighttime conspicuity of pedestrians in work zones.

    Putting these together, there's pretty good evidence that high-visibility clothing really does make you more likely to be seen.

    The observational evidence on actual injuries from the Taupo Bicycle Study is supportive of quite a large benefit, though there are possible biases. The two most obvious (to me) biases are in opposite directions. Firstly, people who ride in more dangerous conditions may be more likely to wear hi-vis clothing (which would lead the study to underestimate the benefit). Secondly, people who wear hi-vis clothing may be more cautious/paranoid/realistic and so have a low crash rate for that reason, which would lead the study to overestimate the benefit).

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner,

    Why not just make all helmets hi-viz?

    Since Nov 2006 • 212 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Thomas Lumley,

    Secondly, people who wear hi-vis clothing may be more cautious/paranoid/realistic and so have a low crash rate for that reason, which would lead the study to overestimate the benefit).

    But we have some of that data already, from the introduction of helmets. The crash and injury rates for cyclists-with-helmets went up somewhat after compulsion, but IIRC that cause wasn't statistically distinguishable from the other ones, most notably the lower numbers on bikes.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Deborah,

    As a cyclist, I stick to the road code, unless immediate safety needs dictate otherwise, because then other road users have a much better chance of predicting what I will do.

    When someone tells me cyclists should obey the road rules, I reply that motorists should first stop killing cyclists. The two things are not equivalent, and lack of the former does not justify the latter.

    So I'm more interested in whether you obey the rules as a motorist, and how often you are the victim of road rage as a result. Even ignoring the multitudinous piffling little regulations that few people know and no-one cares about[1], the overwhelming majority of motorists struggle with the basic skills of staying within lanes and speed limits. Add indicating turns and stopping for orange lights and you can call 99% of motorists habitual scofflaws without fear of being wrong.

    I have a friend who used to not just obey the rules, she would also report people who threatened her for doing so. Commonly just from impatience, but all too often because they knew road rules that were wrong - many motorists think that cyclists must stay strictly within bike lanes if they're present, and may not ever stray from the extreme left hand side of the road in any case. Some are willing to kill to make the point that people who don't obey the rules don't deserve to be protected by them. And since the penalties for that behaviour are small and infrequently applied, why shouldn't they?

    Anyway, her reports were 90% unsuccessful but she became very good at making complaints about the plod. And Ben take note, your own camera footage will generally be regarded as irrelevant, even after your death. Definitely not evidence that could be used to prosecute, but commonly not even as a means to substantiate your complaint.

    [1] I kid you not. Next time you're round a bunch of whining car-owners ask them how they feel about emissions restrictions. Or tyre tread depth requirements. Or who can use pedestrian crossings and when exactly road users are required to stop for them.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Allan MacLachlan,

    My own experience as a cycle commuter and weekend roadie for the last 20 years is that I get less aggression from motorists when cycling on my commuter (mountainbike, wearing fluoro, and baggy shorts), than as a mamil (middle aged male in lycra - also fluoro) during my weekend road rides.

    I object to being forced to wear fluoro mostly on the grounds that I should not be forced to protect myself from other people's negligence. I accept that motorists don't expect to see me, so I'll try my best to make sure they do, both by being as visible as I can, and acting in a way that keeps me safe. But I don't think I should be forced to wear hi-viz as I don't want some motorist running me over then I get a ticket because I wasn't wearing hi-viz/flouro.

    And I don't want someone to come along later and say that all pedestrians should now wear hi-viz clothing. As an aside, while I applaud walking school buses, my heart also sinks a little that they all seem to be wearing hi-viz. They're walking on footpaths and I would like to think that the children would grow up where walking on the street is normal, and not require special clothing. Because, they are our future, walking on the street with hi-viz might also be...

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    However, the law is an ass. It requires cyclists to ride as far left as possible, then declares them lawbreakers if they pass on the left.

    I just want to note that it's not illegal to pass stationary vehicles on the left. It's also not illegal to pass (on the left) a vehicle that is turning right or signalling to turn right.

    Since Sep 2009 • 444 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to SteveH,

    I just want to note that it’s not illegal to pass stationary vehicles on the left.

    It becomes questionable when you're passing a queue of traffic, however, because the moment that traffic starts to move you're absolutely breaking the law. Which was the situation in which Jane Bishop found herself being attributed a level of blame for her own death, because she was passing traffic to the left.

    That particular bit of donkey law is utterly confounding, because the moment-to-moment legality of an entirely sane act is so dynamic. It's downright dangerous to try and stick with the flow of summer Sunday afternoon traffic along Tamaki Drive (stop-start at 15-20km/h), but if one is to try and pass to the left one is alternatively complying with and then breaking the law.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Thomas Lumley,

    It's not true that there isn't any evidence

    Hmm....The first two are the same publication with this Author conclusion:

    Although these visibility measures help drivers see pedestrians and cyclists, more research should be done to determine whether the increased visibility actually does prevent deaths and serious injuries.

    No 3 concluded:

    Increased use of high-visibility clothing is a simple intervention that may have a large impact on the safety of cycling.

    No 4 has this interesting conclusion:

    Of equal importance is the finding that including retroreflective trim on the sleeves of a garment significantly improves a pedestrian's conspicuity, and further research has shown that placing trim on the sleeves is particularly effective when the pedestrian is moving his or her arms. In line with results reported elsewhere on what has been termed the biomotion effect, the idea that drivers can more readily detect a retroreflective garment in motion relative to its stationary surround, also makes intuitive sense.

    The highlighted bit may be of use to cyclists and those who advocate retroreflective bits on pedals and wheels.

    It is noted that none of the papers refer to any measurable and reliable evidence that injury or death will be reduced.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Ross Mason,

    advocate retroreflective bits on pedals and wheels.

    It's an unchallenged fact of human physiology that our eyes are drawn to movement, especially when light levels are diminished. That moving reflective material is more effective as a protective device than the same material in a static configuration makes intuitive sense. The challenge is how to get that retrofitted to bicycles. My clipless pedals have no reflectors, for example, and really no way to install them because of the tiny surface area. I could, in theory, apply reflective tape, but it'd only be a very few mm^2 so the value would be negligible. My shoes have a reflective strip up the heel which is probably more use.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ross Mason,

    The highlighted bit may be of use to cyclists and those who advocate retroreflective bits on pedals and wheels.

    I thought most pedals have retroreflective strips already. Every bike I've owned since the early 80s has.

    How does retroreflective on the wheels work? Is it on the tyre itself? It can't be sticking out, there's no room between spoke and fork for anything sticking out.

    For rear visibility, does anything really beat a bright red light, something that is already mandatory on bicycles at night? I personally see those well before I see anything else on cyclists.

    ETA: I set mine to flash. I think that's the most eye catching, and it saves power, makes the light batteries last way longer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Moz,

    camera footage will generally be regarded as irrelevant, even after your death. Definitely not evidence that could be used to prosecute, but commonly not even as a means to substantiate your complaint.

    Really? Understand not enough for a court process but (unless you're a video editing whiz) surely it can establish a vehicle doing something illegal, for an enforcement agency to follow up?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick, in reply to Moz,

    camera footage will generally be regarded as irrelevant, even after your death. Definitely not evidence that could be used to prosecute, but commonly not even as a means to substantiate your complaint.

    I haven't found that to be the case at all. In fact I've used it twice successfully

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Moz,

    your own camera footage will generally be regarded as irrelevant, even after your death. Definitely not evidence that could be used to prosecute, but commonly not even as a means to substantiate your complaint.

    [citation needed]
    If the police took custody of the camera immediately they attended the scene, it would be entirely admissible as evidence. It would only be if the footage was obtained after the fact that they might face questions as to its authenticity.

    As for sustaining a complaint, provided that the videographer is prepared to testify under oath as to the veracity of the footage the police will happily bring charges for things like "boy racer" offences based entirely on home video. They're even on record in the media as saying that neighbourhoods where there are plagues of hoons should break out the video cameras and keep notes of times and dates so that prosecutions can be brought.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    @Moz, I am afraid you are in danger of outing yourself as a self-righteous cyclist with this tirade:

    the overwhelming majority of motorists struggle with the basic skills of staying within lanes and speed limits. Add indicating turns and stopping for orange lights and you can call 99% of motorists habitual scofflaws without fear of being wrong…

    Some are willing to kill to make the point that people who don't obey the rules don't deserve to be protected by them...

    Next time you're round a bunch of whining car-owners ask them how they feel about emissions restrictions. Or tyre tread depth requirements. Or who can use pedestrian crossings and when exactly road users are required to stop for them...

    Sure, you feel strongly about this, but this little rant has debased all your previous posts on this thread for me.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Thomas Lumley,

    The observational evidence on actual injuries from the Taupo Bicycle Study is supportive of quite a large benefit, though there are possible biases. The two most obvious (to me) biases are in opposite directions. Firstly, people who ride in more dangerous conditions may be more likely to wear hi-vis clothing (which would lead the study to underestimate the benefit). Secondly, people who wear hi-vis clothing may be more cautious/paranoid/realistic and so have a low crash rate for that reason, which would lead the study to overestimate the benefit).

    There are others. Drawing your sample from people who ride in the Taupo Challenge means excluding even most regular cyclists.

    I ride nearly every day, but I wouldn’t consider myself trained for Taupo. That really means many hours out on the open road, or dicing with cars on city roads like Tamaki Drive, where maybe it’s a sound choice to wear hi-viz. And as you say, to be more aware of the value of doing so, given the cumulative risks of the hours they spend riding. The average distance ridden per week among the 2469 people who responded to the once-only questionnaire (44% of the 2006 entrants) was 130km a week! (Tbh, I'm sure that's not typical of many Taupo cyclists, including the ones who ride in relay, but it's the profile of the sample.)

    The researchers did correct for exposure (number of hours on the road) and other things. They’re not mugs. But what they’ve got to work with is the self-reporting of a highly-exposed group of cyclists quite unlike the vast majority of the the 1.27 million cyclists and 750,000 regular cyclists in New Zealand.

    Also, a minority of those crashes seem to have involved a motor vehicle:

    Most of the epidemiological literature describing bicycle crashes and injury comes from uncontrolled case series data from emergency department presentations, hospitalizations, and records of traffic safety authorities.101213 Some studies suggest that the vast majority of injuries arise from rider-only crashes (74% in one series), with only a small proportion (6%) attributable to collisions with motor vehicles.13 In this study, 40/636 (6.3%) participants who had at least one crash (disrupting daily activities for more than 24 h) attributed not being seen by traffic as “important” or “extremely important”. However, the other two outcomes were more often attributed to not being seen by a motor vehicle. For those reporting at least one presentation to a health professional resulting from a bicycle crash, the proportion was 73/266 (27.4%), and, for those who had at least one day off work due to a bicycle crash, this proportion was higher still: 28/86 (33%).

    Trials of driver recognition have shown that cyclist and pedestrian use of fluorescent colors increases detection and recognition time by drivers,14 but, to our knowledge, no observational or experimental studies have previously shown a reduction in rate of bicycle crashes. We suggest that an intervention study is warranted, with randomization of fluorescent colour use to control for potentially confounding factors, particularly risk-taking behavior. The case-crossover study design may also be applied to assess the effect of wearing fluorescent colors, considering the reversibility of risk, and the distal nature of the exposure in the causal pathway. This approach allows control of between-person confounding factors, although recall bias of the control exposure period is a potential threat to validity.

    And the authors very prominently say this 2007 paper is intended as the foundation of a longitudinal study. I’d be keen to see the rest of it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    This proposal may be of interest when it comes out:

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/39

    "The use of conspicuity aids by cyclists and risk of crashes involving other road users: a protocol for a population based case-control study"

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1588 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Oh, here's the full text of Conspicuity and bicycle crashes: preliminary findings of the Taupo Bicycle Study if anyone else wants to read it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Stewart,

    Sure, you feel strongly about this, but this little rant has debased all your previous posts on this thread for me

    And for me.
    I was a postie in CHCH & the West Coast for nearly 4 years.
    Do I know about riding a bike in hazardous streets ?(try the Riccarton Road run!)
    Your post was just -shit, really-

    I have been a licenced driver for over 50 years. Most drivers I know are careful, watchful, and road-knowledgable. Our vehicles are warranted, we pay our road user charges & our insurance fees, and we drive to the road & conditions because - y'know? - we like being alive?
    So: maybe go examine your own strange attitude-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The average distance ridden per week among the 2469 people who responded to the once-only questionnaire (44% of the 2006 entrants) was 130km a week!

    That's actually not very much. A commuter who has a 10km ride to work does 100km/week, and 10km is nothing. A serious cyclist will be pushing down over 200km a week. I've only been out twice this week and my total is already nearly 70km. If I manage to do a double airport circuit I'll double that, and I'm just doing it for exercise. People who ride Taupo are doing a 160km ride in a single hit. You don't just up and do that kind of distance, you work up to triple-figure rides as a regular thing before you start.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Drawing your sample from people who ride in the Taupo Challenge means excluding even most regular cyclists.

    Just realised that I took part in that survey. Ha!

    Worth pointing out that 1/5 of the survey respondents did the relay, rather than the full ride (see fig 2 of the full report Russell links above). The relay has four legs, so these riders would have ridden either 40 or 80k, rather than the full whack. Yes, these are a minority of the survey sample, but it does mean that not everyone responding was a shaven-legged whippet. I've done Taupo a few times since and I can confirm that there are a large contingent of "average" bike riders who do it as well, particularly in the relay sections.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    That’s actually not very much. A commuter who has a 10km ride to work does 100km/week, and 10km is nothing.

    It might not be uncommon amongst Taupo riders, but but only a tiny proportion of even the 750,000 “regular” (at least once a month) cyclists ride 130km a week. I ride about five days a week both for exercise and to substitute car journeys and I often wouldn’t do that. (In my defence, I deliberately ride up volcanoes.)

    And very, very few people cycle-commute 20km daily. Most actual NZ cycle commutes are a fraction of that, if only because riding 10km on city streets at commuter hour takes a fair bit of time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Zach Bagnall,

    Cyclists jumping red lights is a whole other kettle of turnips. I see it every day.. the full tilt after-the-red weaving through cross traffic, the furtive scuttle to the median strip during a lull, the bold dash before the green. Every type - young, old, frumpy, lycra, hipster fixed. The only common factor is the reasons they give:

    1. stopping and starting sucks man
    2. genuine fear of traffic

    Which is a bit sad really. Viewing every journey as a pursuit with your life at stake, fighting for space on the road, trying to get to the front to create a gap at every opportunity sounds grim.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    In my defence, I deliberately ride up volcanoes

    have to love Auckland

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And very, very few people cycle-commute 20km daily. Most actual NZ cycle commutes are a fraction of that, if only because riding 10km on city streets at commuter hour takes a fair bit of time.

    Yup, time is my greatest barrier. My commute to university is 11km from home each way. My average time is 30 mins on-road, plus 7 mins bike-related-stuffing-around, each way, making it 74 mins per day on average. I've done it in as little as 21 with a strong tailwind, going hammers. But even going hard out, it's taken me as long as 40 mins with a strong headwind. Given that I drop off and pick up kids, I've got hard limits at each end of the day, so I've got to give myself 45 mins each side as a safety margin, which means my commute costs 90 mins if I go the whole way on the bike. That's a big slice to eat out of a 6 hour day, when only 60 mins of it is healthy exercise.

    If, however, I park and ride, it becomes much less malicious. The route is 4km each way, so about 15 mins with safety margin, and the stuffing around drops to around 2 minutes, since I don't have to get changed. Then it's the van (with bike inside), which takes about 10 each way, cutting total time down to 52 mins. The 38 mins saved every day gives me three more hours every week to study, and I'm still getting a nice 20-30 mins of hard exercise each day, at little cost (parking is free, petrol cost around $2.50, similar to bus).

    At that kind of distance, the bicycle as a commuter solution really comes into its own. It's easy enough that nearly anyone can manage it, regardless of physical fitness. It's a big cost saver over using a car to drive the entire way (since parking costs heaps), and it's a time and cost saver over using a bus. The exercise is not huge, but if you're prone to not doing any at all, it's a massive improvement.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

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