If you spend much time perusing the available safety publications for Michigan, it becomes fairly evident that not much serious effort is put into bicycle and pedestrian analysis.
One example is SEMCOG’s Crash Facts report where more analysis and pages are devoted to vehicle-deer crashes than either pedestrian crashes or bicycle crashes. This is despite the fact that deer caused just one driver fatality in 2007. There were 65 pedestrian fatalities and 7 bicyclist fatalities in 2007.
For 2008, SEMCOG issued a cheery press release because overall fatalities and crashes were down.
“We are extremely happy to report this continuing decline in traffic crashes in Southeast Michigan,” notes SEMCOG Executive Director Paul Tait.
SEMCOG failed to note that both bicycle and pedestrian fatalities were up. In fact, 18% of all fatalities were pedestrians and bicyclists in 2007. In 2008 that pecentage jumped to 24%.
It seems the “analysis” is simply plugging this year’s numbers into the same old template.
A worthwhile analysis would look at trends within the region and where within the roadway these crashes are occuring.
Do we really need SEMCOG telling us that “bicycle crashes were more common in warmer months…likely due to the difficulties of bicycling in snowy or icy conditions?” They’ve been recycling this same text since 2002.
To their credit, MDOT has supported some pedestrian safety studies within the city of Detroit. The city of Detroit’s Traffic Engineering department is has applied for safety funding to make improvements that should reduced pedestrian crashes.
Also, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Council includes some good analysis within the Michigan Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan.
One interesting analysis from the Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) compares 2007 bicycle crash injury severity for helmeted and non-helmeted riders. We’ve rebuilt their data table as follows:
|2007 Bicycle Crashes
||Fatal or serious injury
||Minor or no injury
(Note that it is unreported whether helmets were worn in a little over half of the crashes.)
Among bicyclists wearing helmets in crashes, a significantly higher percentage suffered serious injury or death when compared those without helmets. One would expect the helmeted riders would have a reduced percentage of serious injury or death.
Can this be explained by risk compensation or demographics?
Nonetheless, the OSHP apparently didn’t do much analysis since they’ve cut-and-pasted a quote that’s unsupported by their own data: “Making the use of helmets the single most effective countermeasure available to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes.”
And just to be sure that 2007 wasn’t simply a unique year, we looked at this data back to 2004. For every year, bicyclists wearing helmets in crashes suffered an equal or greater percentage of serious injury or death.
For what it’s worth, there is not a trend towards increased helmet use among those involved in reported bicyclist accidents within Michigan.