Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Transportation Fatalities

Trivia: What transpired during the first automobile accident in the United States?
Answer: In 1896, the first U.S. automobile accident occurred in NYC where a car hit a bicyclist.
After hearing about what happened on the Metro in DC where at least 6 people died in a train collision, it may evoke some hesitation to riding subways and trains. Per year, 800 people die in train accidents. Although that may seem like a shocking figure, rail workers--not passengers--make of for the majority of the 800.
It's a little shocking, but less than 800 cyclist die per year. I expected a higher number. As opposed to a train passenger, a cyclist may have some control over his/her fate by wearing a helmet, being more alert and following traffic rules. By contrast, 35,000 people die in car accidents every year.
To put these number into perspective and the actual likelihood of death, the number of miles traveled should be taken into account. Clearly, airplanes are the safest with 200 deaths per year and a chock-full of miles. Between bicycles and cars, if we compare the 800 and 35,000 deaths to the number of miles traveled, that being 6 billion and 3 trillion respectively, cyclists are 11 times as likely to die as motorists. Adding to the odds against commuter cyclists, two-thirds of bicycle fatalities happen in urban areas.
I'm going to end this downward spiraling circular logic and arrive at some conclusions. I'm not going to stop riding my bike--not now, in fact, most bike deaths happen between June and August. Riding a bicycle can help riders stave off heart disease, America's greatest killer. The asshole in a Hummer is probably safest if it doesn't flip over. No one said verdancy is the safest way to travel, but I do have a heightened appreciation for the Subway. And when I'm behind the wheel of a car, I hope I never face the odds of killing a cyclist.