Sunday, September 25, 2011

Are Traffic Calming Devices Killing Bike Racers?

The NY Times has a story about an increase is danger, including death, in professional cycling. Here's how one racer describes the problem:
“When I started racing, they told me that crashes are part of the contract,” said Marco Pinotti, a prominent Italian rider who broke his pelvis in another crash in this year’s Giro and was hospitalized for several weeks. “This is a dangerous sport, and it will always be a dangerous sport. But I think in the last few years, it looks like crashes have increased and become more severe because the speed is higher, the technology of the bikes has changed, and the level and size of the peloton is higher, much higher.”
Pinotti recovered from a crash he had, though his teammate Craig Lewis has had a harder time. Here the Times floats a hypothesis about why danger is increasing:
Pinotti and Lewis were brought down by a common problem. In a bid to slow auto traffic, towns, cities and villages throughout Europe have narrowed roads near their entrances, added speed bumps and introduced islands and traffic circles. In the Giro, Pinotti and Lewis came around a corner on a descent and struck a small metal pole on an island in the middle of the road.
This seems like a testable hypothesis, except the cycling organizations oddly don't keep crash statistics. But this may be an unintended consequence of traffic calming! (Note: I generally support traffic calming techniques.)
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