Thursday, March 12, 2009

KTVU Sal Castaneda says "Cycling is dangerous"

Commenting on the cyclist vs car collision this morning in Hayward, CA in the East Bay, KTVU journalist Sal Castenada said: "This just shows how dangerous cycling on the road can be."

Never mind the teens "burned beyond recognition" when their car crashed last weekend in Oakland, the two men killed inside of their SUV on West Tasman in San Jose Saturday night, Mauro Garcia inside of his Chevy Cavalier on I-280 two weeks ago, Kamran Kahn of Daly City inside his pickup truck Sunday morning, Brandt Cannici of San Francisco in a Toyota Landcruiser, and the beat goes on. This just shows how dangerous riding in a car on the road can be.

Cycling in traffic has its risks, as does any other activity, but to call out cycling on the roads as an especially dangerous activity is irresponsible journalism, Mr. Castenada.

The reason it's news, of course, is because injury accidents for cyclists are rare. Take a look at the CHP real time traffic updates for the Bay Area at almost any time of the day and you will see the CHP responding to an injury accident. At this moment, I see two "Ambulance Responding" notations, including one with the heartbreaking report, "CHILD IS UP AND ALERT, PARENT IS NOT."

About 100 to 150 cyclists are killed every year, about a dozen in them in the 9 County San Francisco Bay Area. I support work to decrease the risk of cycling, but compare that against more than 4,000 killed in traffic collisions in California (500 in the Bay Area). The cyclists killed represent slightly more than their modal share would indicate, but it's not anything close to an order of magnitude difference.

A hat tip to my cycling buddies Kit and Murph for the tip. The cyclist was crossing over I-880 on Winton Avenue early this morning when he was struck at speed by a motorist and thrown into the windshield of the car. The cyclist was transported to a hospital with serious injuries. No word on if the cyclist was using lights (it's still dark at 6:30) or how he was positioned in the lane.

Update: Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt notes the passive text used in traffic accident reporting:
Note the passive tense here, rather common in newspaper reporting: It was his Tahoe 'that veered,' deaths 'were caused.' Not, 'he swerved, killing the two drivers.'


Tony Rocha said...

Sal may notice some angry email's in the inbox real soon.

murphstahoe said...

I watched this on Channel 2 this AM. Sal definitely said words to that effect but it wasn't exactly Limbaugh-esque. But he should still get some emails - I don't think they need to be angry, just "educational".

It was sort of bizarre that they gave so much coverage to this accident - it was taking a good 15% of the total airtime. Most likely due to the fact they had their helicopter nearby and got good "money shots" - bicycle lying in roadway with paint around it, car with windshield bashed in, and about 50 cops. The actually sent a reporter to the scene.

If I ever get hit badly, I want it to happen 6 blocks from a police station. It was crazy how many cops were on scene investigating this one.

Brent said...

Are there any stats as to number of cyclists vs. injuries?

I used to have similar discussions with a friend about (private pilot) flying. The statistics generally show that driving is a good deal safer than flying oneself in a small plane. I found it ironic that small plane flying has a safety record roughly comparable to motorcycle riding.

(Please note that commercial aviation is a good deal safer than driving, however.)

Are bicycles safer than motorcycles, if one accounts for the reduction in speed?

Yokota Fritz said...

Tom Vanderbilt happened to comment a little today on the passive text used to describe traffic collisions.

Yokota Fritz said...

Brent: Bay Area cyclist reported injuries are 2,500 to 3,000/year; 10,000 to 12,000 statewide. These can be anything from a scraped knee to life altering injuries but I don't know the ratios on that. Data from CHP Integrated Traffic Records System.

Steve Saeedi said...

According to Channel 4 news, the Hayward cyclist has not died. He is seriously hurt with life threatening injuries. 37 year old male.

Anonymous said...

Howdy, Fritz--

I love that point by Vanderbilt. One of the lessons I remember best from journalism school was that I should avoid the passive voice like the plague--a sentence without a subject is vague and allows for too much interpretation. Ironically, it's too subjective. That was drummed into my head for five years (so I'm a slow learner).

In his book, "Traffic," Vanderbilt also criticizes the press for the word "accident". I think this is apropos here:

"The problem with the word, as the British Medical Journal pointed out in 2001 when it announced it would no longer use it, is that 'accidents are often understood to be unpredictable,' and are thus unpreventable...The word 'accident' has been sent skittering down a slippery slope, to the point where it seems to provide protective cover for the worst and most negligent driving behaviors. This in turn suggests that so much of the everyday carnage on the road is mysteriously out of our hands and can be stopped or lessened only by adding more air bags (pedestrians, unfortunately, lack this safety feature)."

Just add "bicyclists" to that last parenthetical comment.
Happy Trails,
Ron Georg

Alison Chaiken said...

4250 Americans dead in Iraq as of yesterday: driving is dangerous!

ibexinator said...

Here's a little information on the cyclist hit and killed in Hayward. It is a sad sad tragic situation. The guy, I don't know his name was a fixture in the local area. He used his bike for transportation everyday. I don't think he had a car. He used to ride by my office window every morning. The people that have been here the longest say that he has ridden by just like that for at least the last 12 years, since our facility went in. Back many years ago he was very overweight. He had lost a lot of weight over the years cycling. He was still a large man. He rode along the streets here, Lincoln Ave and Winton Ave, ploddingly in an upright posture. He had bar ends on his flat handle bars that were turned straight up so he could ride heads up. He was hit in an unlikely location, a dead end street. He was a block from where it ended. I don't know if this is true or not but the word from the lady the drives the Roach coach in the industrial park here says it was one of his co-workers that hit him. I am deeply affected by this accident. I ride these same roads everyday. I take the same short cuts this man did through the buildings where the cars can't go. But then I'm back on the road where the cars can go again. I will never ever stop riding but today I am sad at the loss of a man I didn't know but in a way did as he was a cyclist.