Crime

Stemming the cycling casualty cycle

A cyclist colleague asked CM to look at the stats behind road fatalities of pedal power in Australia. The stats highlight some of the issues.

On the face of it, the authorities would look to the achievements of a reduction in cyclist fatalities and pat each other on the back. 35 cyclist deaths in 2018 is down on the 2013 peak of 50. On balance cyclists are around 2-4% of total road fatalities. Between 2005 and 2009 cyclist fatalities were 2.3% of total and 2010-2014 that rose to 3.2%. In bike friendly ACT, the figures were 2.5% and 7.4% respectively. Total road fatalities fell from 1,600 to around 1,200 over the same period.

A 2015 BITRE report showed that cyclists were 16% of hospitalizations from traffic accidents. The extent of non-fatal crashes is not reported. Note that “fatalities” are only statistically counted when the death occurs inside 30 days. Die in 30 or more days and the stat is not tallied as a road accident.

In 2005/6, 4,370 cyclists were hospitalized nationwide. In 2011 that rose to 5,393 (+23%).

Speed a factor? 45% of crashes according to BITRE happened sub 50km/h. 42% between 50-60 km/h. Of course cyclists aren’t allowed to use dual carriageway which would skew accidents to urban areas.

Cars are responsible for 96% of casualty crashes involving cyclists. 25% of accidents involving a bike and car happen at intersections. No surprises there.

One can get drowned in the analysis but the question is how do we cut the deaths of cyclists if there is a concerted effort to increase their use?

The ‘Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011-2016’ aimed to double cyclist participation. In 2013, another national survey showed cycling numbers drifted down. So if the plan remains to increase usage, it makes sense to allow more shared off-road infrastructure and or dedicated bike lanes.

The question arises on how to tackle the casualty problem. As a motorcyclist it is not hard to be frustrated to see drivers with mobile phone in hand. Cyclists would concur. Whether texting while driving or failing to note a traffic light has changed to green. It is dangerous and frustrating for other road users. Can a social media reply wait 5 minutes? It is often impulsive to pick up the phone and tap away. The punishment for phone use while behind the wheel remains too soft. If drivers don’t focus 100% on conditions then is it any wonder that accidents occur?

ADAS or advanced driver assistance systems (lane guidance, auto braking or wing mirror warning devices) are helping drivers become more alert but at the same time some are becoming too reliant on these devices being failsafe. How often have we seen Tesla drivers crash when the systems don’t work properly? They’re there as a last resort, not a first. Look at the fools who take videos of their Tesla autopilot in action.

It is not to say that cyclists shouldn’t ride with due caution. There are no stats on rogue bikers chopping up cars. We’ve probably encountered an overzealous bike courier who gives the rest a bad reputation. It is fair for drivers to feel frustrated if a cyclist jams himself at speed into a tight gap. Yet it doesn’t justify some drivers whizzing past cyclists in close proximity through pure frustration. Many videos, including those of the late cycling advocate Cameron Frewer, show how selfish some drivers can behave.

Is lowering speed limits the only answer? Perhaps speedo gazers trying to avoid fines create a dangerous loop. Is there an argument to install mobile speed warnings signs that allow drivers to keep eyes glued to the road rather than the speedo needle? At what cost?

Or is it a case or enforcing all vehicles to install drive recorders? In the US more police are wearing body cams to help prove cases against them for excessive force. It wasn’t long ago that dashcam footage helped jail a motorist for 15 years for deliberately ramming a motorcycle. Drive recorders are cheap. Insurance companies would surely approve. Cyclists would do well to wear cameras too.

It ultimately comes down to mutual understanding. While drivers may limit injury through airbags and seatbelts, bikers don’t have that luxury if hit by negligent drivers.

That is not to make cyclists devoid of responsibility but simply having a “Safe System” approach which is a big picture idea of better roads, better conditions and more active/passive safety systems in cars won’t overcome inattentiveness and those keen to check Twitter while moving.

How hardcore are you really?

Once again the pill testing argument will rear it’s ugly head after 14 Australia Day revelers were hospitalized at two events, the HTID and Electric Gardens concerts. 6 remain in critical condition. At what point will we hand responsibility over to ‘legal’ adults?

If voting age party-goers are caught with ‘illegal’ substances then charge them accordingly. If people don’t like the law then put action behind a proposal to change it. Despite police sniffer dogs, people smuggled in drugs in condoms and ziplock bags presumably hidden in the nether regions. Coffee grounds were used to throw off the scent.

The real question is if one is hospitalized, why should tax payers pick up the tab for their selfish, reckless behaviour? Would it be a deterrent to let them know that any medical treatment (likely expensive) would not be covered by the state? Put measures in place to ensure the bill is paid for out of future income tax or lowered dole payments. Then let these adults work out the risk reward ratio of taking illicit drugs. Instead of having OD survivors tell horrid tales, they might talk of the financial penalties that followed which have made life considerably tougher than going cold turkey.

If you take illegal pills, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Let’s see how hardcore you really are.” That should be the slogan. Flash up the average cost of an OD treatment on the big screens.

Terrorism strikes Tokyo

Japan and terrorism tend to be though of as mutually exclusive terms. Not so. The lady pictured above, Fusako Shigenobu, was the founder of the Japanese Red Army who masterminded countless hijackings and shot up Lod International Airport. Back in March 2016, CM wrote a report on terrorism in The land of the rising sun.

On this New Years Eve, a Japanese man, Kazuhiro Kusakabe, sought revenge over the execution of members of the Aum Shinrikyo, a cult which will live in infamy over the Tokyo Subway sarin attack,

He has apparently admitted he wanted to set the car alight with 20 liters of kerosene (he doused himself as well) but if that failed he wanted to run down people in the often crowded Takeshita-dori in Harajuku, It is a narrow street with little way of escape so had he managed to get going the damage would have been unspeakable.

As Japan faces the Rugby World Cup this year followed by the Summer Olympic Games in 2020, it appears poorly prepared to counter terrorist threats. Japan’s airports are perhaps the softest targets as the 2016 report noted.

The Tokyo Olympics is already being touted as the “omotenashi” (polite/courteous) games. The last time a country tried to approach an Olympiad with visible softness with respect to security was Munich in 1972. That tragedy left 11 Israeli athletes and one German police officer dead and another seriously wounded in crossfire because of the amateur hour siege at Furstenfeldbruck.

Japan is putting together an 80 member all female riot squad. They’d be better off fielding 80 sumo wrestlers to show they were serious. The Tokyo Met Police might site they are using smart technologies (eg facial recognition) but there is little sign of putting together a visible special forces unit should serious trouble ensue.

If terrorists wanted a soft global target to get maximum exposure, 2020 is perhaps their best bet. Security companies Alsok & Secom may brag about their protective credentials but the reality is their upside is zero and downside unlimited if terrorist acts are committed.

A sad way to begin the New Year. Japan mustn’t look backwards but focus on how they can avoid trouble at two major global events.

UN hit with yet another scandal

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Michel Sidibé

Independent experts have concluded that UN AIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé,  has been responsible for creating a toxic environment that promoted “favoritism, preferment and ethical blindness.” Sidibé accepted no reponsibility for any sexual harassment, bullying or abuse of power that occured under his watch.

The investigation started after Sidibé’s deputy was accused of  forcibly kissing, groping and trying to drag a colleague into his Bangkok hotel room in 2015.

In a survey of the 670 staff members at the UN agency conducted by the independent investigators, 18 admitted they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the previous year and a further 201 said they were on the wrong end of workplace abuse.

One staff member went on the record saying, “U.N.AIDS is like a predators’ prey ground…You have access to all sorts of people, especially the vulnerable: You can use promises of jobs, contracts and all sorts of opportunities and abuse your power to get whatever you want, especially in terms of sexual favors. I have seen senior colleagues dating local young interns or using U.N.AIDS resources to access sex workers.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who made it clear he had a zero tolerance policy with regards to sexual harassment when he took office,  has refused to fire him. Despite his term ending in January 2020, Sidibé has offered to quit in June 2019 in order to ensure a stable transition period! In what world does a person outed for turning a blind eye to such a poisonous culture get to leave on his own terms? Sacred cows.

Sidibe admitted in an email after the investigation was published, “not all of our staff, in all their diversity, are experiencing the inclusive work culture to which we aspire.” Choice words.

Why do governments continue to fund the UN when it shows time and time again that it operates without any form of governance or ethical code? Remember it wasn’t that long ago that certain people at the UN thought former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe would make a sensible ambassador for the World Health Organization (WHO). Why would any country seriously want to sign over sovereign powers to the UN with respect to the compact on migration? The UN isn’t fit to run anything of substance.

Why after all the scandals with the IPCC do people put faith in their ability to manage climate change summits? The Delinquent Teenager, written by Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise chronicles how the IPCC participants are picked by governments, not for their scientific knowledge and expertise, but for their political connections and for “diversity.” You can read some of the ridiculous selection processes for lead authors here.

Note the UN promised to streamline. As CM noted 15 months ago,

“The latest U.N. regular budget, while superficially smaller than the previous budget, made no fundamental programmatic or structural adjustments—e.g., reducing permanent staff, freezing or reducing salaries and other benefits, and permanently eliminating a significant number of mandates, programs, or other activities—that would lower the baseline for future U.N. budget negotiations. Despite the Secretary-General’s proposal to eliminate 44 permanent posts, the 2012–2013 budget actually increased the number of permanent posts by more than a score compared with the previous budget. The failure to arrest growth in U.N. employment, salaries, and benefits is especially problematic because personnel costs account for 74% of U.N. spending according to the U.N.’s Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). Without a significant reduction in the number of permanent U.N. posts or a significant reduction in staff compensation and related costs, real and lasting reductions in the U.N. regular budget will remain out of reach.”

Hard Brexit in a Tweet

Sometimes perspective on a No Deal Brexit is this simple. Nary a Leave voter wanted to have any political ties or rules set in Brussels. That’s kind of what “Leave the EU” on a ballot means. There were no other interpretations.

Despite PM May’s warning that changing Conservative leaders would “put our country’s future at risk and create uncertainty when we can least afford it given the deal she has managed to achieve many Brits would welcome it all the same. CM has been a huge seller of May since she called an early election.

Time to put a leader in charge that will throw it back at Brussels. No Deal for the EU is a disastrous outcome for the continent. It is the deal they least want because it would reveal how impotent Juncker and Tusk are. Time to find a spine and tell the hostage takers their ransom demands won’t be met.

Brexit – Jonathan Pie does it again

Whether you’re a Remainer or Leaver, Jonathan Pie explains in his trademark profanity-laced way why the Brexit deal of UK PM Theresa May is such a dud. What is the point of having a referendum which garners the highest ever voter turn out only to throw it back in the faces of both sides? In what world would a collective constituency want their parliamentarians to vote for a deal that makes everyone worse off? Why did May fold to every EU demand? She should have channeled the leader across the pond as to how to negotiate with Brussels.

Last week the Bank of England (BoE) ditched its independence charter to aid-and-abet the PM by producing a document stating a “No Deal” Brexit would hit UK economic growth by 8%.  What a joke. Would the EU seriously try to stitch up the economy of the second largest car market for German auto makers? It is preposterous in the extreme. Obama threatened in 2016 that the 5th largest economy would be at the back the queue when it came to trade deals. Trump would happily move it to the front. Canada and Australia too…can the BoE honestly come up with credible reasons why the ROW would spurn the UK in unison to get to an 8% slump?

Why only now has the BoE discovered this potential economic apocalypse? After all, the scare stories leading into the referendum about how the UK would plunge into the abyss should “Leave” succeed have simply not manifested. None of it. Why believe it now when its forecasts have been so off reservation? After all it did not advise the HM Treasury not to dump all of its gold at the very bottom.

Yet the Brits aren’t so stupid to see the deal being offered is the only one going. They have heard Minister for European Parliament (MEP) Guy Verhofstadt demand that member states hand over more sovereign powers to the EU. They saw EC President Juncker stagger blind drunk across a NATO stage BEFORE the dinner. There was little doubt in their minds when they checked the ballot square as to what was at stake. A No Deal Brexit is the one that should be pursued. The EU has so many disaffected member states that it is the one that needs to play nice with the UK, not the other way around.

 

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Take this chart, which shows the level of apathy member states have to show up and vote at European Parliamentary elections. Were the Brits so gung-ho to stay in the EU, why have only one-third of Brits ever shown up to express their love and affection for federalism? Is it any surprise that Italy, Spain, France & Greece have shown similar disdain over time as the EU fails to deliver for them? Surely the trend since 1979 has shown the underlying mood of member state constituents about how they value EU membership.

Perhaps Verhofstadt put the Brexit discussion into perspective (from 6:20) – after member states ratified the May plan in 38 minutes (a sure sign it is a great deal for the EU) – when he stated the hope that in the not too distant future, “a new generation of British…decide to come back into the great political European family

Tells us all we need to know. This week will show beyond a doubt about whether the island nation will have the very democracy it has shed so much blood to defend will be protected.

As Baroness Margaret Thatcher said of Europe,

 “During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or other, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it.”