Today’s Headlines

  • Metra Ex-CEO Clifford Implicates 2 Board Members in Patronage Complaint (Tribune)
  • About 10% of South Red Line Riders Have Stopped Riding CTA (Tribune, Sun-Times)
  • Sustainable Englewood Wants Neighborhood to Benefit From Rail Yard Expansion (DNA)
  • Cyclists Speak Out for South Side Facilities, Protected Lanes at IDOT Bike Meeting (DNA)
  • Cabbies Gripe About Initiative to Encourage Compressed Natural Gas Taxis (Sun-Times)
  • Wisconsin Woman Charged in Fatal Maywood Motorcycle Hit-and-Run (Tribune)
  • Man Drives Up Ike Embankment Near Oakley, Crashes into Overpass (Sun-Times)
  • West Loop Parking Ban Aims to Keep Suburbanites From Parking All Day (DNA)
  • Divvy Riders Are Not to Use Sidewalks (Except to Get to Docking Stations) (RedEye)
  • With More Ridership Due to Divvy, City Hall Should Encourage Helmet Use (Gapers Block)
  • Lincoln Park Kidical Mass Debuts This Sunday (DNA)

Get National Headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Anne A

    I’m not surprised about the 10% drop in south side red line ridership. I’ve taken less than half a dozen trips so far on the red line detour. A high percentage of my typical summer trips on the south side red line involve bikes. Between the risk of having the bike on a front-mounted bus rack at highway speeds (shuttle), number of transfers and lack of escalator or elevator at the Garfield green line station, I have no desire to take my bike on the red line detour.

    This means that I usually end up riding greater distances on northward trips I do take (sometimes to my destination, sometimes to a different CTA option, such as the orange line) and often skip the north side trip I would otherwise have taken because the Metra schedule doesn’t work for that trip, or Metra is too crowded to accommodate bikes.

    On a trip without bike, the detour has worked fine on the detour trips I’ve taken so far.

  • Ben

    RE: The Gapers Block editorial

    What is it about bicycle helmets that provokes so much irrationality? It’s not like a thin piece of foam will prevent irresponsible drivers from slamming into me. I’m pleased that the Divvy launch has not emphasized helmets, and any effort by the city now to encourage their use would be misguided, as it reinforces the existing magical thinking on this subject.

  • Erik Swedlund

    The Garfield Green Line station has elevators to both platforms, and an escalator going up to the northbound platform, yes? Or are you talking about the new auxiliary staircases that connect to the shuttle bus lot? I haven’t used the shuttle buses, as my destination is Hyde Park.

  • CL

    Yes, taking the CTA to or from south side has become a huge hassle — it’s not worth it if you have another option. Earlier this week, I took the red line to 35th and it was fine — I had to transfer at Roosevelt, which added time, but it was still reasonable. I won’t ride transit south of 63rd though — I hate driving to south side, but I dislike transfers, waiting, and shuttles even more. I cannot wait until the red line reconstruction is finished.

  • Elliott Mason

    Personally, I (almost) always wear a helmet and make my daughter do likewise … not because of potential brain trauma, but because I fall off my bike several times a year even without any vehicular assistance and it keeps me from scraping up my face. :->

  • Fred

    And a seatbelt won’t save your life if you get t-boned by a semi going 50mpg, does that mean you shouldn’t wear one.

    There are plenty of scenarios where a helmet will help that are far less severe and likely than getting plowed into by a city bus. I wear a helmet for those other more likely/less severe scenarios.

    The “I only need to wear a helmet in traffic” mentality is totally mindboggling to me. My father has destroyed more than one helmet in incidents that had nothing to do with cars. I don’t wear a helmet because biking in traffic is dangerous, I wear a helmet because biking is dangerous.

  • I’m certainly not anti-helmet, and I believe people should wear helmets for racing, mountain biking, high-speed commuting, etc. However, relaxed urban commuting at 10 mph is not inherently dangerous. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where biking is more than 17 times more common than it is here and almost nobody wears helmets, there isn’t a serious head injury problem and the crash, injury and fatality rates are only a fraction of ours.

    Once you take dangerous traffic out of the equation, relaxed bike commuting is safe. You should definitely wear a helmet if you feel you need one, but better engineering, education and enforcement are far more important than helmet promotion for improving safety.

  • Ben

    Great, you probably should wear one if you’re riding at high speeds and have difficulty handling a bicycle. All helmets do is further stigmatize everyday cycling as a dangerous activity, which as John says below, is certainly not inherently dangerous. As far as I can tell, the primary function of helmets is shift safety responsibility from motorists to cyclists.

  • I wouldn’t say that’s the primary function of them but, yes, that does seem to be a major reason why many motorists seem to care so much about bike helmet use.

  • Fred

    So you have never once misjudged a curb, hit a patch of slick leaves or gravel, or gotten whacked in the head by a tree branch?

    We will forever disagree about the dangers of cycling. In any condition or environment.

  • What, they don’t have curbs, leaves, gravel or branches in Denmark or the Netherlands? Assuming they do, since there are tons of cyclists riding without helmets, where is the resulting bloodbath?

  • Fred

    I never said anything about a bloodbath. People fall on bikes. Some of those falls result in head on ground collisions. Helmets help in head meets ground scenarios.

    People crash cars. Some of those crashes result in occupants going through windshields. Seatbelts prevent going through windshields.

    Are you claiming that not a single person has ever sustained a head injury while riding a bicycle in one of those countries?

  • BlueFairlane

    What are the rates of bicyclist head injury in Denmark and the Netherlands? How do they compare with the rates here? I’d be interested in the numbers.

  • Nope, just like I wouldn’t claim that no one in those countries has sustained a head injury from falling down the stairs. I’m just pointing out that the Dutch and Danes aren’t crazy for biking at moderate speeds without wearing helmets, because they’ve made their streets so safe that a bike crash resulting in a head injury would basically be a freak accident.

  • CL

    I think it’s pretty reasonable to motorists to care about this, though — if I’m sharing the road with people who are much more vulnerable to injury, it’s in my interest that they be as protected as possible if, god forbid, something happens. There’s the selfish reason that we don’t want to be legally liable for someone’s head splitting open. But just as humans, most drivers are decent enough that they don’t want to be involved in anything causing serious injury even if the law finds that the cyclist was at fault. It doesn’t mean we think collisions are okay if the cyclist is wearing a helmet — we still really, really don’t want to be involved in an accident with anyone — car, cyclist, or pedestrian — even if those people are wearing seat belts and helmets.

  • I calculated the fatality rate in Denmark a while ago. Apples-to-apples, when you take into consideration the amount of cycling, they have about a tenth of our fatality rate.

  • It would be terrific if more drivers operated their vehicles as if they really, really don’t want to be involved in a crash, but sadly it seems like most of them don’t. But then again, CL, you’re the poster child for car-centric people who care about the safety of other road users.

  • BlueFairlane

    Did you do a post on it? I’d like seeing the data.

  • BlueFairlane, here you go:

    Using numbers from the Pedestrian and Bicycling Info Center, the LAB and the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, I found numbers that show that, despite the fact that that only 15% of Danish cyclists wear helmets, their cycling fatality rate is a fraction of ours:

    There are 56 times as many people in the U.S. (313.9 million) as Denmark (5.6 million).

    But In 2008 there were only 13.3 times as many cycling fatalities in the U.S. (718) as there were in Denmark (54).

    Therefore, there are 4.2 times as many cycling deaths per person in Denmark as the U.S.

    However, Denmark’s bike mode share (16%) is 42 times that of the U.S. (.38%).

    Therefore, the Danish cycling fatality rate is only 1/10 of ours.

  • BlueFairlane, here you go. I double-checked my math with a statistician friend:

    Using numbers from the Pedestrian and Bicycling Info Center, the LAB and the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, I found that, despite the fact that that only 15% of Danish cyclists wear helmets, their cycling fatality rate is a fraction of ours:

    There are 56 times as many people in the U.S. (313.9 million) as Denmark (5.6 million).

    But In 2008 there were only 13.3 times as many cycling fatalities in the U.S. (718) as there were in Denmark (54).

    Therefore, there are 4.2 times as many cycling deaths per person in Denmark as the U.S.

    However, Denmark’s bike mode share (16%) is 42 times that of the U.S. (.38%).

    Therefore, the Danish cycling fatality rate is only 1/10 of ours.

  • BlueFairlane

    Considering the infrastructure differences, the difference in fatality rate makes sense. I don’t think anybody would dispute that bicycling as a whole is safer there. I find it difficult to take anything from that involving head injuries, though. For instance, fewer fatalities occurred, but what percentage of those fatalities that did occur were the result of head injuries? How many head injuries would helmets have prevented? Is it possible that after reducing almost every other danger, deaths are still happening in part because nobody wears helmets? Are those deaths not worth preventing?

  • BlueFairlane, true, but then you have to ask yourself, if helmets were considered necessary for cycling in those countries, i.e., if biking without one was considered unsafe, how many fewer people would choose to ride, for various reasons, and what would be the net impact on public health? I’d argue that biking without a helmet is far better for your health than not biking at all.

  • CL

    I appreciate that, but I think even reckless drivers very much don’t want to be involved in an accident — if only for selfish reasons. They might foolishly think it won’t happen to them even though they’re drunk and speeding, but they still really don’t want to be in an accident.

  • BlueFairlane

    That’s a different argument, though, than saying that bicycling in and of itself doesn’t have danger. The example of Denmark, which has removed nearly every outside danger there is, proves that point.

    Now, as for the question of whether people in a culture that felt helmets were necessary would stop riding, I’d say the assumption is debatable. Thirty years ago when seatbelt laws first came about in the US, people didn’t stop riding in cars. Bicycling is a far more necessary part of transportation in Denmark than it is here, and I don’t think incorporating helmets into the scenario would change that. People would still need to ride.

    I want to reiterate a point I’ve said before, though, that I don’t want helmet laws. I don’t think people should be required to wear them. I just think they should be aware of the dangers to which they’re exposing themselves.

  • Well, if wishes were horses, beggers would ride. Let’s force these drivers to curb their dangerous behavior, instead of putting the onus on cyclists to armor themselves against this threat.

  • Joseph Musco

    You make some excellent points.

    Questions about safety and mode share are difficult and should not be considered in a linear fashion, with Chicago at one end of a continuum and Copenhagen on the other. Beijing has both a much higher bicycle mode share AND a much worse fatality rate. Basel, Switzerland and Osaka, Japan are both Top 20 bicycling friendly cities according to Copenhagenize.com but they have only 1/2 the bicycle mode share of Copenhagen. Somehow Copenhagen is always mentioned as the ideal, even as other top European bicycling cities still pale in comparison. Outliers of all types should be avoided in this discussion, in both mode and safety.

    There are elements like income inequality and sociology at play here — how much do you value the other guy? — how much does the other guy value you? — what is the pool of resources? — what veto points are there in the policy process? — that rarely get discussed.

  • The City likely will NOT encourage helmet use more than they already do. Here’s CDOT’s stance:

    http://www.stevencanplan.com/2012/cdots-response-to-helmet-inquiry-at-mbac/

  • Have you taken advantage of any of the service changes – with or without a bike – on the Rock Island line? I know you posted the other day about continually degrading service on that line (through tricky means like not opening all the ADA cars), but has Metra come through on their changes because of the Red South rebuilding?

  • Anonymous

    My commute from Ravenswood to 79th is currently 1.5 hours. Huge pain.

  • Funny, when the rehab started, I read several interviews with South Siders who said their commute was actually shorter now because the shuttle buses were faster than the previous slow train service.

  • Anonymous

    I only started working here in June so I wouldn’t know. For me, the thing that makes the commute so long is the Garfield stop is already away from my workplace (right by the 79th station) which necessitates a shuttle bus trip that’s normally not necessary and on top of that, the transfer takes 10 minutes.