May 8, 2012

Annals of Cycling – 56

An occasional update on items from the Velo-city.



New York has bike share; even Houston, for heaven’s sake, has bike share.  Vancouver ?… well, we have a helmet law.




From Ken Ohrn:

Piet de Jong has written a useful companion piece to the wonderful cycling health meta-study published recently by Prof. Kay Teschke of UBC.  Both papers find that the overall health benefit of cycling outweighs any increase in health risks.

Mr. de Jong’s paper argues more specifically that helmet laws discourage cycling, reduce the exercise benefits, and society as a whole bears higher health costs as a result.

My favourite quote from the paper:  “DeMarco(9) opines ‘Ultimately, helmet laws save a few brains but destroy many hearts’ .”

Be warned, this is a nuanced academic paper, and it contains mathematics festooned with Greek alphabet symbols.  Reading it is not for the faint of heart or the simplistic polemicist.

This article seeks to answer the question whether mandatory bicycle helmet laws deliver a net societal health benefit. The question is addressed using a simple model. The model recognizes a single health benefit — reduced head injuries, and a single health cost — increased morbidity due to foregone exercise from reduced cycling.

Using estimates suggested in the literature of the effectiveness of helmets, the health benefits of cycling, head injury rates, and reductions in cycling, leads to the following conclusions. In jurisdictions where cycling is safe, a helmet law is likely to have a large unintended negative health impact. In jurisdiction where cycling is relatively unsafe, helmets will do little to make it safer and a helmet law, under relatively extreme assumptions may make a small positive contribution to net societal health.




From Evolution Coaching:

Have you signed up for a cycling event, have a new road bike and want to feel confident on the road? The Beginner Road Bike Clinic is designed to help you feel safe and confident on your bike and on the road. We will practice what to do before, during and after each ride.




A National Public Radio interview, with transcript: David Darlington talks about his Bicycling article, “Why Johnny Can’t Ride.”

… we’re talking about a lot of big broad cultural changes that have taken place. That statistic that you mentioned – in 1969, 48 percent of kids walked to school. Today it’s 13 percent. And part of that is suburban sprawl.

Today’s schools are – they build schools bigger and further from the center of town with more kids, so it’s further away. I personally think that’s all the more reason for kids to ride bikes. It’s a good reason for them not to walk. It’s pretty far.

But a bicycle is a good solution to that. And then there’s all the other stuff that, you know, adults are prey to these days, mostly, as Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, puts it, things involving a small screen, namely computers and video games and things like that.

More here.




One more from Ken Ohrn:

While out on a meandering bike ride today in the glorious sunshine, I came across this sad example of how crude and nasty some of our fellow humans can be.


This mural is a treasure, and is located at 1249 Adanac.  Called “Crossings”, it was painted in 2009.  Further detail on it HERE, and HERE.

It’s a disheartening thing to see, and took some of the joy out of my day.

But some good news in response from the artist:

I will be reworking/cleaning and resealing the mural within a month…had to wait for weather. Same person(s) hit several others in town at the same time.

Richard Tetrault


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  1. As The Church of Sit-Up Cycling pointed out, the City of Vancouver sometimes likes to blame Minister Shirley Bond and the provincial MLAs in Victoria for the helmet law, and says their hands are tied. Mayor Robertson, Geoff Meggs, Andrea Reimer, and Heather Deal have all indicated that they have NO intention of addressing this issue.


    1. The City of Vancouver has its own helmet by-law, which applies to the seawall. The City could make a statement by repealing that, or amending it for adults riding sit-up bikes.

    2. The City of Vancouver happily passes motions calling on the province to do things, like save the Rio. The mayor signed a call for cannabis legalisation.

    3. The City of Vancouver has its own charter, so is less a creature of the province than other municipalities.

    4. The City of Maple Ridge has allowed cycling on sidewalks, which the province does not.

    We need to continue to push our elected officials for change, before automated helmet-washing machines and low ridership become a global embarrassment. Otherwise, it will ultimately doom the Vancouver bikeshare experiment to failure before it even begins.

  2. Thanks for highlighting this issue Gordon, and for the hat-tip Chris. Interested readers may wish to weigh in on my two forecast scenarios for any eventual Vancouver bikeshare in the continued presence of the BC adult hat law.

    The hopeful version goes like this. Vancouver bike share brings hundreds of well-designed, practical, comfortable, sit-up bikes to Vancouver’s streets, allowing normal people to just grab and go. With more casual cyclists on the streets, drivers become more attentive, and the inadequacies in bike signage, intersection design and path provision are made even more obvious, giving the city a mandate finally to complete the streets. VPD ignores the mass “civil disobedience” in wearing headphones and not wearing helmets (which are somehow cleanly, safely and frictionlessly provided with every bike – this is the hopeful version, remember) because people realize that riding sit-up bikes on quiet streets is as safe as walking.

    The less hopeful version goes like this. As in Melbourne and Vancouver currently, VPD continues to arbitrarily ticket perfectly safe hat-less riders on quiet streets or separated bike lanes. Word gets around, and no-one bothers to use the bikes. The City of Vancouver, having been forced to underwrite the scheme because, frankly, the operator saw this coming, ends up on the hook for another olympic-village sized debt.

    G-Rob is voted out, the Vancouver Sun declares his hippy sustainable-city ideas a pipe dream, and the next mayor completes the Chinatown-razing freeway job of the 70s.

  3. And since you mention NPR and bike share, your readers might also be interested in this illogical twaddle from the once-respected media outlet

    The author goes from “the problem is obvious” to “Bikeshare has a stellar safety record” within barely half-a-dozen paragraphs. Such double-think would be laughable, if the insidious lie of equivalence between Mary Poppins and Lance Armstrong didn’t result in disastrous laws, wasteful infrastructure investments and unhealthy, polluting, child-maiming, poorer cities.

  4. So.. has anyone heard any news on the bike share program for Vancouver? I was under the impression we’d have a supplier picked by now, if not operating.