Daily Bike Forecast — by Bike Snob NYC

September 7th, 2017: Propaganda

The weather should revert back to "delightful" today:


Thursday A 30 percent chance of showers before 9am. Partly sunny, with a high near 76. West wind 8 to 11 mph.

Thursday Night Mostly clear, with a low around 60. West wind 7 to 10 mph.

Sunrise: 6:29am

Sunset: 7:18pm

And as of now it looks like it's going to stay that way right through NYC Century Weekend:

century weekend

The ride is this Sunday and it's filling up quickly, so be sure to register.  It's also the only all-urban century in the entire country, which means you're never more than ten blocks from a bodega:

Not that you'll need one, since there are plenty of rest areas, but it's comforting nonetheless.

Moving on, Tuesday I mentioned the man and two teens who were charged for walking without wearing reflective clothing after a driver ran them down in Ville Platte, LA.  (Sign the petition if you haven't already.)  Well, in the spirit of reducing humans to traffic cones, Ford has rebranded pedestrians as "petextrians:"

Back in the 20th century the auto industry criminalized the act of walking by inventing the idea of "jaywalking," so in this sense the concept of the "Petextrian" is basically "Jaywalker 2.0."  Yes, pity the poor innocent motorist, responsible to a fault yet beset on all sides by hapless bipeds:

And if that video doesn't disturb you, consider that this is how a Ford "safety engineer" thinks:


That's funny, because I'm often startled by how oblivious the driver of a 4,000-pound vehicle can be when they're bearing down on me as I'm crossing the street or riding my bicycle.

Anyway, I just assumed that "Petextrian" was a Ford marketing department coinage, but it looks like they merely picked it up and ran with it.  Over the past couple of years the NHTSA has also used it:

As have the sorts of people who think texting is something only "hipsters" do:

His naiveté is kind of adorable, because everybody knows that any self-respecting hipster only communicates via quill pen and carrier pigeon.

But as far as when it first entered the lexicon (to the extent that it has, anyway), that happened when the Governors Highway Safety Association released a study about how we're all texting ourselves to death:


Between the mid-1970s and early 2000s, pedestrian deaths steadily declined, eventually dipping to around 11 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report. But since 2009, pedestrian fatalities have actually increased by 15 percent -- climbing to 4,735 in 2013.

That’s one pedestrian death every two hours.

Meanwhile, the percentage of pedestrians killed while using cell phones has risen, from less than 1 percent in 2004 to more than 3.5 percent in 2010, according to a study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, cited by the GHSA report. And the number of pedestrians injured while on their cells has more than doubled since 2005, the report shows.

The idea that we were on the path to eliminating pedestrian deaths until we all started texting while walking is a seductive one--until you consider that, you know, the drivers are also texting.  Plus, just because someone gets killed while using a phone doesn't mean that's why they got killed, and because phones are a lot more pervasive now than they were in 2004 it's simply more likely a victim will be using one regardless of who's at fault.  Similarly, a hell of a lot more people have tattoos now than they did 20 years ago, which means you're more likely to find those on a victim too, but that doesn't mean they were the determining factor.

Sure, you've got to watch where you're going, but think it through.

In any event, here's where the word "petextrian" comes up in the actual report:

new phrase


And here's that Urban Dictionary entry which as far as I can tell is the earliest usage:

urban dic

It's worth noting that "petextrian" is this user's sole contribution to the Urban Dictionary, which seems odd, but I can neither confirm nor deny at this time that Gnemo is an auto industry sock puppet.

Either way, Ford is clearly hoping it sticks.

Oh, and yes, the GHSA also recently released a report on bicycling, and like the one citied above this one too is sponsored by State Farm:

right to road


Unsurprisingly, it contains the usual helmet propaganda:


The positive impact of wearing a helmet absolutely can be overstated, and it is here.  Firstly, that's a big chunk of "unknown."  Secondly, what does any of this even mean if we don't know what percentage of the total number of cyclists wear helmets?  Sure, the report cites a study that says "slightly more than half" never do:

The value of wearing a bicycle helmet cannot be overstated, since in a majority of bicyclist deaths the most serious injuries are head-related (Sacks et al., as cited in IIHS, 2016). Helmets are estimated to reduce the risk of head injury by 50 percent, and head, face or neck injury by slightly more than 33 percent (Sacks et. al, as cited in IIHS, 2016). However, a 2012 national survey of adults found that slightly more than half reported never wearing a helmet (Schroeder & Wilbur, 2013). 

But even if that's true, all it tells us is that slightly less than half of cyclists do wear helmets at least some of the time--and according to the pie chart, slightly less than half of dead cyclists may or may not have been wearing a helmet.  So the only logical conclusion to draw is that when you get creamed by that texting driver, it probably doesn't matter what you're wearing on your head.

Here's the bottom line:

In a country where there are more bikes than people — 22.5 million vs. 18 million — daily usage has grown by 11 percent in the last decade, mostly because of the introduction of electric bikes, which lengthens the time many older people can use two-wheel transportation.

Deadly bike accidents have decreased, by 21 percent, over the last two decades, according to state figures. Much of that is attributed to less competition with motor vehicles — the more people ride, the safer it gets.

More important for the nation’s bottom line, the country’s preference for the bicycle could save its economy 19 billion euros each year, according to a recent study done at Utrecht University and published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study suggested that the Netherlands’ vigorous cycling habits prevented 6,500 premature deaths each year.

Maybe it's time to stop blaming and start building.