Today’s Headlines

  • Most Mayoral Candidates Ignorant of Public Process That Produced the PPW Bike Lane (CapNY)
  • CPC Goes For 15-Year MSG Permit as Bloomberg Climbs Aboard (2nd Avenue Sagas, Crain’s 1, 2)
  • Bloomberg Needles MTA on 2nd Avenue Subway, Corrupt Albany Pols About Congestion Pricing (News)
  • Driver Seriously Injures Two Children Riding On Bicycle in Williamsburg (WNBC)
  • Times Square Retail Rents Jump 55 Percent Over Last Year (Real Deal)
  • Atlantic Cities Allays Fears of New Yorkers Freaking Out About Bike-Share
  • Slow Zone Application Moves Forward for Midwood (Ditmas Park Corner)
  • Bklyn Paper Blows the Lid Off E-ZPass Traffic Monitoring Story… From 2009 (NY1)
  • What Would Be the Perfect NYC Transit App? (2nd Avenue Sagas)
  • A Look Inside the Brooklyn High School of Automotive Trades and Its Driver Ed Program (Brownstoner)
  • Turn Left on Red? It’s Legal On This NYC Street (CapNY)
  • Damned PPW Bike Lane (Bklyn Paper)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Pedestrianized Times Square and the Flatiron District post “complete streets” treatment were the two NYC districts with the highest retail rent increases year over year–increases of 50% or more–while the district with the third highest increase, 5th Avenue in midtown, was less than half that. Can we please end this “street improvements decrease property values” nonsense?

  • Joe R.

    And while we’re at it let’s please end this “loss of private car parking hurts business” nonsense as well. The numbers say otherwise. And by the way, am I interpreting those numbers correctly? An average business in Time Square is paying $2175 per square foot per month? Ouch! If so ,then 500 square feet, which is tiny, runs you over a million dollars a month? I know there’s a ton of pedestrian traffic there, but that’s a lot of sales just to make the rent.

  • Voter

    Good to know that all of the current mayoral candidates are against safety and economic growth!

  • chriss

    Per year dummy, not per month.

  • Joe R.

    Rents are generally per month, dummy. In this case, I asked because the figures seemed very high if they were monthly figures, and I’ve seen commercial rents quoted both ways.

    You could have just corrected me without the insult instead of being an f-ing jerk.

  • Anonymous

    Can we nominate Dan Biederman to replace Sean Sweeney? He runs the BID’s for Times Square, Herald’s Square, 34th street and places in between. He’s no rubber stamp for livable streets. But he’s a straight shooter and helped with the pedestrian plazas and other improvements.

    SoHo business owners! Do you love the non-stop congestion outside your buildings. Do you love the over crowded sidewalks inhaling exhaust from the narrow streets.

  • Anonymous

    Except Sal Albanese. I’m starting to like him. Though, is he like the long shot candidate ala Dennis Kucinich?

  • Anonymous

    And just to add to the mix: a pro-helmet study summarized here:
    And given in full behind a paywall here:

    The basic claim:

    The risks of severe head injury were more than five times higher in
    cyclists not wearing a helmet compared to helmeted ones.

  • kevd

    Exactly. clearly the best, but without a chance in hell.

  • Anonymous

    I think rents for commercial are generally quoted per year, unlike rents for apartments.

    What this really shows is how bad many journalists and other writers are at using numbers correctly. You should always include the units (per month, per year, per what?), and say what the number applies to. Very often, numbers that only apply to the US are quoted without any qualification, leaving you wondering what they mean, if you don’t have a sense of what magnitude to expect. For example, you might hear the factoid that there are only 1000 cases of some rare disease per year. But cases _where_?

  • Ian Turner

    That study has the same problem with every study that claims helmet effectiveness, which is that does not control for selection effects. This post describes the problem in (much, much) more detali:

    Also, even if cycle helmets are effective, cycling is no more dangerous for adults than walking on the sidewalk or entering or exiting a bathtub. Do you think people should wear helmets for those activities also?

  • Anonymous

    What selection bias is there here?

  • Joe R.

    Yes, commercial rents are generally but NOT always quoted per year, which is why I asked. And yes, articles should always include units. I’m pretty meticulous about units in all my comments. Then again, anyone with an engineering degree is likely to be anal about units. Back to the subject at hand, that’s still rent of several million annually for any decent-sized shop. They obviously can manage to pay it or they wouldn’t be there, but man I would hate to be one of those shop owners having a slow month.

  • Joe R.

    Besides that, few studies take into account confounding effects. Actually, many of these effects would be next to impossible to take into account in a rigorous manner, but they nonetheless tend to drive the overall efficacy of helmets down. For example, I find a helmet interferes with my hearing and vision. It also makes me sweat far more than I normally would. All of these factors (especially sweat in my eyes) makes it much more likely I’ll get into a crash. Even if I allow that the helmet may provide benefits if I crash, I might be worse overall because of the downsides I mentioned.

    My take on helmets is the same as it’s been for a long time. If wearing one makes you feel safer or gives you confidence, then by all means wear one. If not, then don’t feel pressured to wear one. That goes double if you find a helmet uncomfortable enough to be distracting.

  • Ian Turner

    People who choose to wear helmets are also more likely to avoid risks in other ways.

  • Anonymous

    What does that have to do with *this* study? This is about cyclists with head injuries admitted to trauma centers. There are two categories: those who were wearing helmets and those who weren’t.

    Those–plus the geographical restrictions of the study–are the selection criteria. Please explain how those criteria are biased in terms of this specific study.

    And then present the evidence for your notably unconditional assertion about people who wear helmets and people who avoid risk.

  • If we didn’t have a tabloid press, we wouldn’t have a “bike-share freakout.” Because an actual freakout does not exist.

  • Bolwerk

    Reformers didn’t learn much from the CP fight, either. The first move after losing should have been a push to make a simple change to the rules about home rule: if Albany doesn’t act on a home rule request from the city within a certain time frame, it should simply pass by default.

    It’s a good idea in general, because it makes Albany pols go on record when they screw local government. The way it turned out, I’m not even sure we are entirely sure who cowed Sheldon Silver into scuttling the bill.

  • jrab

    Nobody doubts that helmets provide some protection in case of injury, but there are very few studies of an entire regional population of people on bikes comparing injuries and fatalities for those riders who wear helmets versus those who do not. This study only examines people who are taken to the hospital, and excludes people who ride without incident as well as those who are killed instantly.

    Consider this: are safety shoes effective in preventing foot injuries? Certainly! Should we wear safety shoes at all times? Kinda depends on what we are doing. Moving heavy radiators, yes; walking to and from the office, maybe not.

    Demanding that bicyclists wear helmets all the time creates the impression that bicycling (even to and from the office) resembles moving heavy radiators more than walking to and from the office.

  • Ian Turner

    I understand what the study is about. Did you read the link that I provided?

    Looking at hospital admissions can easily yield the wrong conclusion due to confounding factors. For example, most people who are admitted to hospitals with gunshot wounds are of African ethnicity. Would you then conclude that the best way to prevent gunshot deaths is to paint people white?

    It’s not really necessary for me to prove that people who choose to wear helmets are more risk averse. The mere possibility that such is the case, combined with the fact that all studies which do not carry this assumption have found no or minimal effect of bicycle helmet use, is enough to make the present study questionable, with or without evidence of specific selection biases.

    That said, this page provides a summary of some research that does indicate that helmet wearers are different from non-wearers in other ways than the presence or absence of a helmet:

  • Anonymous

    The study is about the nature and intensity of injuries by the type of injury. You imagine a wholly different kind of study, one that has to do with the *causes* of injury–and causes from a single source. I’m sure that if anyone saw a difference in how *intensely* different ethnicities were injured under apparently similar situations, they would be very interested, but that’s not what you’re describing. (I’ll set aside for the moment the very doubtful claim about rates of admission for gunshot wounds and what you could possibly mean by the phrase “African ethnicity.”)

    Finally, I do think you’re obligated to support highly doubtful claims such as the one above about risk aversion. You made an unconditional assertion. Support it with irrefutable evidence.

    And that last link you posted does a great job of . . . supporting the research above. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    A) I think plenty of people doubt that they provide any protection–Joe above even arguing, as some people do, that they might increase one’s likelihood of injury.

    B) The study suggests that helmets don’t just provide “some protection” to injured cyclists, it suggests they provide a great deal of protection from severe head injuries.

    C) The shoe analogy is very poor. We use our feet for a wide variety of activities. We use bikes to . . . ride bikes. Not always under the same conditions, but apparently if we use them and get head trauma injuries, it’s better to have a helmet than not.

    D) Who’s suggesting the mandating of anything here? Not me. This is about anti-helmet evangelicizing based on some very doubtful pseudo-skepticism.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t doubt that helmets provide protection in certain types of crashes, probably mostly low speed crashes of the type either novice cyclist or a child cyclist is more likely to have. What I’m saying is when you look at the overall injury rate, the most recent studies are showing helmets range from marginally effective to statistically neutral. Note than none of these studies even account for all of the confounding factors I mentioned. If they did, the results could only be skewed further in the negative direction. Most only account for rotational injury. In rare cases you’re trading severe brain injury due to rotational forces for what otherwise might have been a minor scalp laceration. In others the larger helmeted head may hit the ground and cause some type of less severe injury, while a smaller, unhelmeted head may have cleanly missed hitting the ground entirely. That’s why you need to look at the overall injury rate with and without helmets.

    A second, larger question is if helmets don’t lower overall injury rates, do they at least lower severe injury rates? I think most people would trade a broken finger for traumatic brain injury, for example. Unfortunately, a controlled study to determine this would be impossible in the real world. All we can really do is look at who is wearing a helmet after the fact. A true controlled study would involve putting helmeted and unhelmeted cyclists into carefully controlled crashes of various types, and seeing what the relative injury rate of each group is. Besides being unethical in that such a study would intentionally kill or injure people, it would also be difficult to recreate crashes exactly. In short, the fundamental flaw is that the test and control groups are not the same. You can correct for this to some extent, but often after you do so there is a large margin of error.

    Putting aside for a moment the question of helmet efficacy, the larger issue is that rates for traumatic brain injury while cycling are lower than those for pedestrians and motorists. That’s really the fundamental issue I have with either mandating or strongly suggesting helmet use. If we’re going to do so for cyclists, then in order to be consistent we must also do so for pedestrians and motorists. To not do so is to be intellectually dishonest.

  • Driver

    It looks like wearing a helmet might have helped this cyclist.

    I actually just started wearing one again after watching this video. I have no doubt in my own cycling ability, but plenty of doubt about the competence of drivers I am sharing the road with.

  • Ian Turner

    Hi dporpentine,

    Here’s the thing: A case-control study such as this one cannot (by design) distinguish between effects which arise from the object of study (use of bicycle helmets) and effects which arise from unrelated factors associated with the object of study (risk avoidance being an example). It doesn’t really matter whether you are looking at count of injuries or severity of injuries; this limitation is inherent in the case-control approach. The only thing you can do to mitigate this problem is try to identify and eliminate potential confounding factors. It’s incumbent on whoever is making the claim to do this, because without this work the whole method falls apart.

    With respect to bicycle helmets, case-control studies usually find beneficial effects; but population studies, which track helmet use over time, generally show no effect. This does not eliminate the validity of the case-control studies, but it does strongly suggest the possibility of a hidden factor which is influencing the case-control studies but not the population studies. One such factor may (or may not) be a correlation between helmet use and other risk-avoiding behaviors. In my opinion, this is the most plausible confounding factor, but it is not the only possible one. In the end, it doesn’t really matter; the reality is that case-control studies have this limitation, and their results should not be accepted without a reasonable explanation for the divergence.

    At the very least, the highly conflicting results on helmet research should cast grave doubt on the idea that the question of helmet efficacy is settled. Remember that most published research conclusions are false.

    With respect to the page I linked to earlier, the key text in my mind is this bit: “Within that set of injured bicyclists, Spaite found that unhelmeted
    bicyclists had more severe injuries to non-head areas. This implies
    that the presence or absence of the helmet isn’t the controlling factor
    in the outcome. It’s the ‘choice vs. chooser’ problem, or in
    epidemiological terms, confounding.”

    With respect to people of African descent, in the US, African Americans are far more likely to be victims of gun violence; an African American man has roughly a 5% of dying from a gunshot wound. But I don’t think anyone would try to claim that skin color is actually the result of this effect, correlations notwithstanding.

  • Ian Turner
  • Ian Turner

    You’re right, in fact maybe we should also encourage pedestrians to wear helmets:

    In fact, I guess we should also wear helmets while fishing:

    Also stage performers should wear helmets:

  • Ian Turner

    Sadly not all engineers are sticklers for units…

  • Keith

    You can make a U turn / Left turn on red in Manhattan, at 7th Avenue (ACP) Southbound and 152nd Street.

    I would have written this on the CapNY page, but the feature to post doesn’t work properly there. Perhaps someone can forward this to Ms. Rubenstein.

  • jrab

    On the contrary, the shoe analogy is extremely apt. We use bikes to travel from place to place, just like we use our feet. The helmet question I would like to have answered is this:

    In ordinary bicycling in urban areas under ordinary conditions, how many thousand hours does the ordinary rider cycle before having an accident that would require transport to a hospital for evaluation for traumatic brain injury?

  • Joe R.

    As far as I know, there are no stats kept where they type of cycling is mentioned. I did find this:

    The fatality rate of cycling is anywhere from 0.37 to 1.26 deaths per 10 million miles. Or put another way, if you ride 3000 miles per year, statistically you could ride for at least 2600 years on average before dying. Injury rates are of course quite a bit higher than death rates. In 2009 51,000 people were injured cycling versus 630 killed. That gives an injury rate of 29.95 to 102 per 10 million miles. That’s still not bad. You could ride 3000 miles per year and on average only suffer an injury at most every ~33 years. Of the 51,000 injuries, I have no idea what percent are traumatic brain injuries but I would be surprised if it’s over 10%. Therefore, you could 3000 miles annually for over 300 years on average before suffering TBI.

    Of course, these figures are averages for all cyclists, including reckless ones, inexperienced ones, and those who engage in higher risk type of cycling (i.e. mountain biking on rocky trails and/or fast group riding). If you’re not in either group, I’ve little doubt the injury/death rates could be a factor of ten lower. Any way you look at it, cycling is an exceedingly safe activity which actually gets much safer as you gain in experience. Quite a few of my early falls were due to potholes (~90%), or getting doored (~10%). Once I learned how to avoid both, I stopped falling for any reason. Even when I was relatively inexperienced, I still didn’t have mishaps all that often. Maybe once a year I wiped out in the course of riding 3000 to 4000 miles. None of my crashes resulted in any injury worse than minor lacerations on the knees/elbows.