The Chainlink

Dear Seasoned Chicago Cyclists,
Please try to impart the patience and compassion you would have for a first time bike commuter. Having experienced the roll out in DC and already had one scooter fatality, there's definitely a concern about safety. Basically, scooter users will likely be pedestrians (not cyclists) turned scooter riders so they won't know the ins and outs like a seasoned cyclist. Think first time Divvy user. So yes, you'll see them on the sidewalks (even though they aren't supposed to), bike lanes, and streets. Lots of patience will be necessary. While scooters can be a good addition to the non-car commuter, they do pose risks to themselves (mostly) and other vulnerable users of the roads.

Here's an article with the details of the scooter roll-out:

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What motivation would the IIHS have for skewing its conclusion one way or another?   Fatality rates per 10,000 vehicles driven in the U.S. rose 4.2 percent between 2011 and 2017, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the CDC.  Fatalities per mile driven rose commensurately.  Or is the Center For Disease Control part of the conspiracy as well?  And Consumer Reports, which also did a study and came to the conclusion that more speed kills?  As they stated:  "CR has analyzed the causes of persistent traffic deaths and the reasons behind stubbornly high annual totals despite the advent of advanced vehicle safety systems, such as automatic emergency braking. Speed remains a significant reason, CR found.

While the statistics for speed alone are scary, it’s expected that they could have been much worse if cars hadn’t made so many gains in terms of performance and overall safety, says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center."

Every year, as aging vehicles are retired, more of the vehicles on the roadways are newer and better engineered for safety.  For 1984 vehicles, the percentage of vehicle occupants dying when involved in a crash with fatalities is 55%.  For 2017 vehicles, that figure is 26%.  Yet, the rate of overall fatalities is increasing.  

As far as the 85th percentile rule goes, "[T]here is not strong evidence that the 85th percentile speed within a given traffic flow equates to the speed with the lowest crash involvement rate."  Of course, this is only the NHTSA writing again.  The 85th percentile rule grew out of a 1964 study on  the effect of speed limit increases on crash rates on rural two-lane highways in Louisiana.  Those conditions have little or nothing to do with driving in Chicago or on interstate highways at speeds far greater than any encountered at that time.   

Just because drivers think a given speed is safe doesn't mean it is safe.  Should we set speed limits in Chicago by having no speed limit on a street for a year and then setting it at 85%?  Or maybe just put it to a popular vote or referendum?  And how many of those engineers still clinging to the 85% rule work for lobbyists for higher speed limits, or for companies that do the 85% testing and would lose business if it was discontinued?  

Vehicle safety has improved, but weather, road quality, and probably competency of the average driver, as well as human reflexes and response times, have not.  The faster a vehicle is driven, regardless of the relative speeds of other vehicles, the less time is available to the driver to react to a dangerous situation.  What do relative speeds have to do with one-car crashes, for example?  We now have speed limits in some places 60% higher than they were in the 1990s.  Despite all the advances in safety, more people are dying now because of that. 

Finally, on another note, fuel consumption of motor vehicles increases rapidly at speeds above 55 miles an hour.  At 75, it can decline by 20%.  At 85, the new Grail of speed limits, it's down by 33%.  Is it worth it, in any way? 



Seriously? The insurance industry makes money by charging higher rates for "speeders". When limits are set too low, compliance is abysmal.

Yes, the rates from 2014 to 2017 went up. They also went down in 2013 and 2014 before heading back up. There have been no significant changes in speed limits during that time. There is no evidence that the rate changes are related to speed. Overall, the rates are significantly lower than in the period of artificially low speed limits, i.e. pre-NMSL. The reason more people are dying now than in the 90's is that people are driving more miles. The fatality rate now, while higher than in 2011, is still significantly lower than in the 90's, 11.4 vs. 15.X.

Speed limits should be set by transportation engineers after conducting a proper engineering study. As the DOT report found, drivers are not out to kill themselves. They will select a speed that is generally safe. The speed that allows for the least number of fatalities is 0 mph. Should we go there? How about 5 mph? Setting low speed limits is ridiculous. A speed limit that is violated by 80% of the drivers, as the 55 mph limit was, does nobody any good except for the state collecting ticket money, and insurance companies charging higher rates for safe drivers caught in speed traps.

Wasted time spent needlessly in vehicle costs the country billions. The 55 mph speed limit was an utter failure, similar to the so-called war on drugs.

I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!

Six states raised their speed limits in 2013.  Rates then went up.  This is what is called a "causal connection".  How hard is it to understand that the only reason fatalities are not much higher is that cars preserve human lives much better these days?  Because cars were safer, fatality rates were going down until a bunch of states started raising their speed limits, after which the rates began going back up, regardless of how much safer the automobiles were.  If speed limits had not escalated like they have, fatality rates would be much more significantly lower than in the 90's than they are, because of the superior safety design of today's cars.  For most of the 90s, highway speeds were still regulated by the feds.  After 1996, that restriction vanished, which gradually led to higher speed limits and higher fatality rates.  Causal connection, again.  Also, insurance companies spend their money paying claims for collisions and injuries.  They want speeds to be lower so that there are fewer collisions and less severe injuries resulting from them.  Nothing wrong with that, and I'm no fan of insurance companies.  

The 55 mph speed limit is comparable to the war on drugs?  What?  Quite simply, it's people who want to drive really fast or who have been caught speeding who crave ever-higher speed limits.

I’m wondering what the connection is between highway design and scooters on city streets?

Ah, the 85th percentile... I love the invisible hand as much as the next guy, it’s just too weird that speeding has been linked to the deaths of so many pedestrians and cyclists. I mean, if the driver thinks they’re traveling at a safe speed, what could be the problem? Surely no-one in this community has ever encountered a driver whose perception didn’t perfectly mesh with reality, have they?!?

Huh? The fatality rate went down in 2014. If higher speed limits lead to more fatalities, how could the rate decrease in the year after the speed limits were raised?

Besides, the rates quoted are for the entire country. You have any evidence that the fatality rate went up on the highways where the speed limit was raised, and went down on the highways where the speed limits remained the same?

You keep blabbering about rates increasing after 1996. The fatality rate in 1996 was 15.86. In 2017 it was 11.4. At its lowest point in 2014 it was 10.28. The long term trend since 1996 is down. Way down.

Thanks for sharing this Doug.

Let's all try to help out fellow cyclist Allyson Medeiros who was injured, hit head on, in the bike lane, by a person who was salmoning on a rental e-scooter on Thursday June 20.

Appreciate the share - I kicked in a little bit, it would be nice to see cyclists rally for this guy.

He doesn't think he needs insurance so why should anybody chip in? He probably doesn't give tattoos for free.

Hey Tony, I posted this Go Fund Me to FB because it felt like the right thing to do. One thing I love about the cycling community is how people help when a fellow cyclist is in need. If you disagree, you be you.

Insurance is kinda important and not having it is a risk. Having a job and earning a paycheck and not having insurance is a mite foolish, especially if it's a good paying job. And a tattooist that's worth his or her salt should be making a fair wage, and the responsible thing is to insure oneself so as not to be a burden on others.



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