>> This would imply that there are only 5 times more car
>> participants than bike participants. It would seem that
>> their choice of how a participant of cycling is defined is
>> rather liberal.
I share your curiosity. Wish there was a URL for the
source of the figures.
On a (much) lighter note, and to keep a sense of perspective
on the ballyhooed "dangers" of cycling or walking in America:
Bill Bryson, _I'm a Stranger Here Myself_
"Well, Doctor, I was just trying to lie down..."
Here's a fact for you. According to the latest _Statistical
Abstract of the United States_, every year more than 400,000
Americans suffer injuries involving beds, mattresses, or
pillows. Think about that for a minute. That is almost
2,000 bed, mattress, or pillow injuries a day. In the time
it takes you to read this article, four of my fellow citizens
will somehow manage to be wounded by their bedding.
My point in raising this is not to suggest that we are
somehow more inept than the rest of the world when it comes
to lying down for the night (though clearly there are thousands
of us who could do with additional practice), but rather to
observe that there is scarcely a statistic to do with this
vast and scattered nation that doesn't in some way give one
I had this brought bome to me the other day when I was in the
local library looking up something else altogether in the
aforesaid _Abstract_ and happened across "Table No. 206: Injuries
Associated with Consumer Products." I have seldom passed a
more diverting half hour.
Consider this intriguing fact: Almost 50,000 people in the
United States are injured each year by pencils, pens and
other desk accessories. How _do_ they do it? I have spent
many hours seated at desks where I would have greeted almost
any kind of injury as a welcome diversion, but never once
have I come close to achieving actual bodily harm.
So I ask again: How _do_ they do it? These are, bear in mind,
injuries severe enough to warrant a trip to an emergency room.
Putting a staple in the tip of your index finger (which I have
done quite a lot, sometimes only semi-accidentally) doesn't
count. I am looking around my desk now and unless I put my
head in the laser printer or stab myself with the scissors
I cannot see a single source of potential harm within ten feet.
But that's the thing about household injuries if Table No. 206
is any guide -- they can come at you from almost anywhere.
Consider this one. In 1992 (the latest year for which figures
are available) more than 400,000 people in the United States
were injured by chairs, sofas, and sofa beds. What are we to
make of this? Does it tell us something trenchant about the
design of modern furniture or merely that we have become
exceptionally careless sitters? What is certain is that the
problem is worsening. The number of chair, sofa, and sofa bed
injuries showed an increase of 30,000 over the previous year,
which is quite a worrying trend even for those of us who are
frankly fearless with regard to soft furnishings. (That may of
course be the nub of the problem -- overconfidence).
Predictably, "stairs, ramps, and landings" was the most lively
category, with almost two million startled victims, but in
other respects dangerous objects were far more benign than
their reputations might lead you to predict. More people were
injured by sound-recording equipment (46,022) than by
skateboards (44,068), trampolines (43,655), or even razors and
razor blades (43,365). A mere 16,670 overexuberant choppers
ended up injured by hatchets and axes, and even saws and
chainsaws claimed a relatively modest 38,692 victims.
Paper money and coins (30,274) claimed nearly as many victims
as did scissors (34,062). I can just about conceive how you
might swallow a dime and then wish you hadn't ("You guys want
to see a neat trick?"), but I cannnot for the life of me
construct hypothetical circumstances involving folding money
and a subsequent trip to the E.R. It would be interesting to
meet some of these people.
I would also welcome a meeting with almost any of the 263,000
people injured by ceilings, walls, and inside panels. I can't
imagine being hurt by a ceiling and not having a story worth
hearing. Likewise, I could find time for any of the 31,000
people injured by their "grooming devices".
But the people I would really like to meet are the 142,000
hapless souls who received emergency room treatment for
injuries inflicted by their clothing. What _can_ they be
suffering from? Compound pajama fracture? Sweatpants
hematoma? I am powerless to speculate.
I have a friend who is an orthopedic surgeon, and he told me
the other day that one of the incidental occupational hazards
of his job is that you get a skewed sense of everyday risks
since you are constantly repairing people who have come a
cropper in unlikely and unpredictable ways... Suddenly, thanks
to Table 206, I began to see what he meant...
so almost a million people a year are injured by beds, pillows,
blankets, chairs, rockers, couches, etc -- but we don't
conclude that "furniture is terribly dangerous."
I think Bryson's last para is very telling. medicos are always
repairing people who have come to grief -- the only cyclists
they see are injured cyclists. perhaps this explains their
consistent support of the Cycling Is Dangerous campaign? it is
only in the last 5 years or so that some physicians have
started to admit that the health benefits of cycling or walking
regularly more than outweigh the risks.
[apologies for typos in previous (Shaffner) text... was typing
rather rapidly at the time.]
[the Stat Abs US is available online, free, in PDF form,
:De Clarke, Software Engineer UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
:Web: www.ucolick.org | Don't Fear the Penguins :