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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Good question

An alert reader digests this story, and then asks:

Why is it alright to stick three kids in a bucket attached to a bike and ride around on Portland streets, but you get a ticket if you don't have them seat belted in your car?

Comments (44)

OH NO JACK! Motorists are clearly being DISENFRANCHISED and those DIRTY HIPPY BIKERS are GETTING AWAY WITH IT. Those bikers should get OFF THE ROADS and OUTTA the way of our SUVS and OUR TRIPS TO THE SUPERMARKET!

In all seriousness though, I would cite a few reasons:

1 - Much slower speeds.
2 - In a car accident, children are still traveling forward and a harness could save their life, while if the cyclist is in a collision I feel that the physics of the situation would suggest that kids wouldn't go flying out of their crate (unless the crate is hit itself, then I don't know...)
3 - I would hope that the vast majority of people tugging children around on their bikes would be avoiding major traffic arteries. Not exactly a fair comparison, since parents are hopefully putting their children in car seats as well, but just something to think about.

With bike deaths far above car deaths on a distance traveled basis, I have always wondered if letting kids ride a bike should be considered child abuse. Let alone towing a gaggle of them in a tiny trailer behind a bike.

I'll bet unbelted kids are safer in a car than helmeted kids in that crummy little bike trailer.

But it is green, so all is forgiven.

Each toddler serves as an airbag for the others. Next problem?

And why isn't jaywalking with your toddlers or baby carriage considered child endangerment?

With bike deaths far above car deaths on a distance traveled basis,

Citation, please?

David J.: Here are two citations to get you started.

Sonkin, et al. conclude:

"Taking into account distance travelled, there are about 50 times more child cyclist deaths (0.55 deaths/10 million passenger miles; 0.32 to 0.89) and nearly 30 times more child pedestrian deaths (0.27 deaths; 0.20 to 0.35) than there are deaths to child car occupants (0.01 deaths; 0.007 to 0.014)."

Pucher & Dijkstra report:

"American pedestrians and cyclists were much more likely to be killed or injured than were Dutch and German pedestrians and cyclists, both on a per-trip and on a per-kilometer basis."

Sonkin, B., Edwards, P., Roberts, I., and Green, J. (2006). Walking, cycling and transport safety: an analysis of child road deaths. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 99(8):402-405

Pucher, J. and Dijkstra, L. (2003). Promoting safe walking and cycling to improve public health: Lessons from the netherlands and germany. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9):1509-1516.

For the same reason that there's nothing more imperative than the safety of a child...until it comes to buying them a separate airplane ticket and buckling them into their own car seat.

The answer, of course, is that it conflicts with what a parent wants to do at the moment.

I'm glad I wasn't drinking coffee when I read Allan L.'s comment or my screen would be caffeinated.
I bet those kids who ride in that washtub never shout out "Shotgun!"

OOhhh maybe we should pass a law that outlaws bicycling until your say 18....and while we're at it lets ban crossing busy intersections without an adult until your 4' tall...unless of course your wearing your mandatory walking helmet...and pedestrian airbag....

I would hope that the vast majority of people tugging children around on their bikes would be avoiding major traffic arteries.

I dunno, I have seen people pushing strollers down the bike lane of Hall Blvd on the west side (4 lanes, 40mph.) With a perfectly good sidewalk available.

And more and more I have seen people walking their families & pushing their damn strollers down the MIDDLE of the street. I even saw a lady tugging a rolling suitcase down the middle of the left lane of Hall Blvd. And when I came up behind her in my car, she refused to move. Even with a sidewalk 5 feet away.

Now I will say all these incidents involved immigrants, so maybe there is a cultural thing here, but I would hope they knew that the safest place was the sidewalk.

The Mrs. and I rolled our loaded suitcases down the middle of the street once -- and they were dead end streets in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the middle of the night! Now, there's a story I need to blog about one of these days.

But I digress...

In one of those early 1990 ice storms when our cab driver refused to drive down our hellish, steep neighborhood streets returning from our Christmas trip my wife and I sat on top of our suit cases and rode down our steep neighborhood streets right to our home-without helmets.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned necessity.

I know several families that don't own cars. I suppose that when social services can afford to start handing out bus tickets, Geo Metros and gas to low income folk, then the "keep kids off bikes" campaign will at least be practical (if insane).

And please... PLEASE, spare me all arguments that sound like "If you can't afford a car and gas, then maybe you shouldn't be breeding." Unless you're actually willing to consider forced sterilization of the poor, your argument is nonsense.

As far as the impact of making it illegal or classifying it as child abuse, I'd love to see the circus that play out...

Scenario 1: Mom's bribing sitters with some of their food stamps so they can go to the store and get food without being hassled by cops. "Sorry, no meat on the menu today kids. Have some more juice."

Scenario 2: New mandates require over-burdened social services to either monitor "biker parents" with workers they don't have, or remove the children to an ever-dwindling supply of foster homes...

If these laws were actually in effect, I would expected you, Jack, to be the first to call it wasteful and ridiculous.

oops. Libertarian

I wonder how many ambulance drivers have peeled dead children off of the street on bikes as opposed to automobile crashes?

Whenever I think of these laws, I think of them. They have to deal with all of the blood and broken bones and the tragedy of collisions.

I think bicycle deaths are rare, because in the 10 million miles traveled, it takes a lot longer to get there than by car. Or is my thinking off?

Jeff ~

Wow, with a great "do it for the chil-ren" argument like that, have you considered political lobbyist for a career?

"American pedestrians and cyclists were much more likely to be killed or injured than were Dutch and German pedestrians and cyclists, both on a per-trip and on a per-kilometer basis."

Well, there you go. Since we have no kilometers, that per-km rate is necessarily infinite.

Just because something is less than optimal in an ideal world doesn't make it automatically "wrong".

My old Honda is less safe than a new Volvo; my neighborhood has a higher crime rate than around Reed College; my local public school scores lower than my local private school in test exams. All of these decisions may "harm" my child, yet in all of these situations I'm doing the best can given my circumstance.

As long as a certain minimum of care is met to feed, clothe, etc., parents should be allowed to decide what's best given their current situation.

I find it funny that, upon reading that German and Dutch bikers and pedestrians are safer, some folks here would conclude that the solution is to put more rules and restrictions on US bikes and pedestrians to make them safer.

Annie --

I think I would be a terrible lobbyist. Because I was trying to say that because bicycle deaths and injuries are so rare, there doesn't need to be legislation.

Car wrecks are different. I think there are a lot of people hurt in car wrecks, so laws about passenger restraints aren't a terrible thing.

I really do think that some ambulance drivers should be asked what law would make your job better?

"With bike deaths far above car deaths on a distance traveled basis ..."

I think more accurate comparison for this sample would be hours spent out on the road, not distance traveled.

How any astronauts have died? But they travel a really long way, so that means space travel is statistically safer, right? Uh, no.

re: I find it funny that, upon reading that German and Dutch bikers and pedestrians are safer

Be careful - their death rates are still far above their automobile death rates.

Perhaps by a factor of 10

Anyone read the conclusion to the Sonkin study cited above? Here it is:

Conclusions: More needs to be done to reduce the traffic injury death rates for child pedestrians and cyclists. This might encourage more walking and cycling and also has the potential to reduce social class gradients in injury mortality.

And the Pucher and Dijkstra study: Here are the first few sentences of the Abstract:

"The neglect of pedestrian and bicycling safety in the United States has made these modes dangerous ways of getting around. Pedestrian fatalities are 36 times higher than car occupant fatalities per km traveled, and bicycling fatalities are 11 times higher than car occupant fatalities per km. Walking and bicycling can be made quite safe, however, as clearly shown by the much lower fatality rates in The Netherlands and Germany."

Remember this: most of those people who were killed while riding their bikes . . . they were killed by people driving cars.

Doesn't anybody have any statistics for this country - or even this city - rather than The Netherlands and Germany? The last time I looked, we don't live there.

I don't personally see any harm in expecting a parent towing or pushing children with a bike to secure them in some way. With a Burley or other trailer, they're covered. They could wear a restraint or belt of some kind without affecting their quality of life or enjoyment. I'm seeing more and more home-built carriers and trailers appearing on the road and some of them look difficult to steer and handle, particularly with a lot of weight in them.

The City doesn't allow people to haul uncovered loads of stuff to the dump or kids or adults to ride in the open bed of a pickup on public streets or highways.

I'm not comparing kiddies to trash in an open dump truck but both could go flying if not secured. And a bicycle carrying as many people as the one in the picture is clearly a station wagon on two wheels when it hits city streets.

"I'll bet unbelted kids are safer in a car than helmeted kids in that crummy little bike trailer."

At the same speeds, that's probably correct. However, cars usually go a lot faster than bikes; there's a huge difference between a 10 mph collision and a 30 mph collision. In an automobile collision the car will absorb the energy of the collision to protect the occupant, but that only works if the occupant is strapped down. But in a bike-trailer wreck the trailer is not going to absorb much of the collision energy, so there's probably not much benefit to being strapped down.

So unless you're planning to limit your car to bike speeds, you'd better buckle up the kids.

Let's try not to get all xenophobic, NWP. If you read the earlier posts, you'll see that there were comparisons of statistics in the US with those in Germany and Holland. So, since they were comparisons, US statistics were given, you see? I think the comparisons are interesting, because they suggest some differences in the way things are done that (unless you like higher fatality rates for pedestrians and cyclists) suggest other countries may be doing something better. In this case, I believe what you'd find in Germany and The Netherlands is a combination of more intensive driver training, stricter licensing standards for car drivers, and much more aggressive enforcement of laws against drunk driving. You might also find that a higher proportion of bicycle and pedestrian traffic makes for a safer environment for everyone.

And will everyone please note that in Holland and Germany and Denmark (just to name a few countries) the bike and pedestrian areas are separate from the cars. It really IS safe to ride a bike and walk in those countries.
I feel sorry for those kids. They could really get squished in that wagon by an suv.

And will everyone please note that in Holland and Germany and Denmark (just to name a few countries) the bike and pedestrian areas are separate from the cars. It really IS safe to ride a bike and walk in those countries.
I feel sorry for those kids. They could really get squished in that wagon by an suv.

Kids can be killed by a cyclist as well. Its has already happened here. A few years back, on the sidewalk outside the Convention Center. It doesnt take much, even at 10 mph.

Allan L. says: Well, there you go. Since we have no kilometers, that per-km rate is necessarily infinite.

I hear NASA is hiring for their Mars mission.

Allan - no intention of appearing xenophobic; just missed the references to US stats.

I served on Portland's first bike/pedestrian advisory committee, was once a bicycle racer (road, not mountain), commuter and activist and have ridden in the Netherlands, chiefly in and outside Amsterdam. LOTS of bikes and clearly a part of the culture. Bicycles are ridden on the street and on the many miles of bicycle pathways on dikes and along canals. People accept and accommodate the use of bicycles as transportation there which is unfortunately not true of many US cities. One of my favorite postcards purchased in Amsterdam is of an old bike in less than stellar condition, parked along a canal with the word, AMSTERDAM, in huge red letters across the top.

Kids can be killed by a cyclist as well. Its has already happened here. A few years back, on the sidewalk outside the Convention Center. It doesnt take much, even at 10 mph.

The kid wasn't killed, he was injured. And it was the Rose Garden, not the Convention Center.

The short answer to the original question:

The reason kids in cars need to be belted is that tens of thousands, if not hundreds or thousands, were splatted against the dashboard on inside of the windshield in car collisions - or simply thrown from cars and crushed. In contrast, find any significant number of injuries to kids in bike carriers and get back to us.

Eye-rolling reply to the original "alert reader:"

When your concern actually relates to kid health & safety rather than tired, repetitive bashing of cyclists, let's talk. We can discuss bike safety, childhood obesity & diabetes, etc.

The comparison to injury rates per mile traveled:

Nice obfuscation. Most bike trips are much, much shorter than car trips. Using miles traveled as the equalizer understates the risk of driving on a per-trip basis.

Citation of child cycling injury rates:

Another nice obfuscation. Notice that it's an adult pedaling the bike, not a kid. Bicycling injury rates for kids are much higher than for adults because young children are not as careful or as experienced as adults.

Cycling injury rate overall:

The cycling injury rate in Portland is about 1/3 what it was in 1991 -- roughly the same number of bike crashes with a tripling of bicycle ridership. The report is here:

I'm not sure what sort of car-obsessed concern-trolling corner of the internet I've wandered into here, but for the record, the bike in the photo from the article in question? With the bucket (it's a Madsen)? It has seat belts. And they seem to be in use. Which seems more than adequate for the trip up and down the sidewalk they were doing for the photo op.

But thanks to all for your great concern for the children on bikes. If you'd really like them to be safe, please don't drive into them with your freedom-mobiles.

Make the infrastructure safe and people are safe. In the Netherlands, cycling is safe.

Umm being German i must say that our drivers might have stricter Tests for getting their drivers license but there isn't enough controlling after you get the license, people grow habits bad habits like passing bikers really close, driving far too fast, ignoring redlights etc.

Seperation of bikes and cars makes nothing safer, did you know that moste bika accidents in Germany happen because of the seperate bike lanes ?

The number one killer is a car turning right without looking for a coming biker on the oh so safe seperate bikelanes.
Kepp the bikes on the road and in view, sure cars have to pass them, but that means they realize they are there, being behind parking cars and trees etc. means the driver doesn't even realize there is a biker he should be wary of.

Bike lanes in the street are the way to go, if drivers refuse to accept bikes on the regular road, don't but the bikers in danger by giving them a piece of the sidewalk.

As a PDX native living in the Netherlands I would seriously think twice before cycling in Portland. It scares me to death! Most drivers have not been trained to drive with and look out for cyclists. It takes about 600 euros in driving lessons to get a driver license here in Holland. Not very many people pass the test on the first try either. Always, always, always look over your shoulder and check your mirrors before making turns!

I'll be in PDX for Christmas...driving...watching out for bikes!

Looks like the study is about kids riding their own bikes, not being towed by adults riding bikes.

There are many studies that link asthma in children to car exhaust, which raises the more important questions than whether kids are safe on a bike: Will you still drive when you can't breathe? Will you still drive when your kid can't breathe?

Biking in the US isn't dangerous because bikes are dangerous, it's the cars that cause the deaths. You can, in theory, kill yourself on a bike without involving a couple of tons of automotive steel moving at high speed, but it's pretty hard.

It's like the argument that small cars are dangerous - it's just not true. Large cars are the dangerous ones - they're just dangerous to other cars, not themselves.

That's the nice thing about the internet, you can find a stupid person for every viewpoint. The reason you don't have kids wearing seatbelts on bikes is because the most likely thing to kill them is being hit by a car. Wearing a seatbelt on a bike is certainly not going to improve your chances, and may in fact be harmful.

After reading the comments here it seems pretty obvious that spending to much time in an automobile will make you stupid.

Yes let's add more laws to people on bicycles so that it is harder for you to kill them with your cars. Or you could just perform your legal obligation and pay attention and obey the speed limit while driving your 3000 pound death mobile.

Last your over 40,000 people were killed by people driving automobiles. If you want to save lives then that is where your focus should be. But that is not your real objective is it? Or maybe it is and you've just spent to much time in your car.

Bicycles travel at speeds where seat belts would not be beneficial, and would be more likely to do harm.

Those bakfeits and cargo bikes (the buckets attached to bikes) don't go very fast generally. Well, anything can go fast down hill - but for the most part, those things are pretty slow.

An average speed of 10mph is no need to demand seat belts.

Why target bicycles? What about motor scooters and motorcycles?

I just thought I'd post this information about myself, being a native Oregonian who has lived in the state for most of my life.

I started riding a bicycle when I was 6 years old, riding weekly down rural county roads and gravel roads with speed limits of 55 mph.

I have been riding my bicycle for 22 years, and drove a car for about 9 years. For several years now I gave up my car and bicycle almost exclusively.

Interestingly, I have been involved in 5 car accidents while driving or being a passenger (never my fault). I have never been in any sort of crash, at all, on a bicycle.

I have to chime in... I have 2 kids. I carry them in seats on my bike as well as in a trailer (till they are too big). I am diligent as hell when I ride to be as safe as possible. I try to ride in neighborhoods and on slower roads that have ample facilities.

There have been way too many comments here that are way wrong so I'll try to clear things up.

1. Tarped loads: You tarp a load in a pickup truck because no one wants you garbage blowing out on the freeway. The tarp and bungee cords won't contain your 500lbs of garbage in an accident. No kid is going to be blown out of a clever cycle at 10MPH (let alone #2 below).

2. The main point of having restraints in a kid seat/bucket on a bike is to keep the kid from doing something dumb while riding. Like standing up or leaning over too far and falling out or being clobbered by a mail box. It's not to save them from a collision at 30MPH like in a car.

3. Comparing US stats on injury and death to those of other countries is exactly what we should be doing. It’s what we do with nearly all other data. If you look at the data they are people with bikes and cars etc just like us. The difference is their infrastructure.

The problem is the myopic viewpoint that all aspects of our lives should revolve around the car. The comments about pedestrians daring to cross a road with a stroller or cyclists with kids or what have you. (there once was a time when cars had to stop for pedestrians... remember that?) How dare anyone mess with our beloved road and cars? The problem is that for two long the ONLY consideration had been cars. If you get out of Oregon or the NW you realize real quick that we have it good as far as infrastructure and we still need more. We have a long way to go.

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The Occasional Book

Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
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Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
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William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 8
At this date last year: 0
Total run in 2018: 10
In 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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