I took a deep dive into 10 years of bicyclist crash data from Oregon. Bicyclists and would-be bicyclists are concerned with the risk of injury. Many assume that the main danger is being hit from behind by a motor vehicle, but the Oregon data show dramatically that the main danger to bicyclists is turning and crossing movements at intersections and driveways. I confirm my previous finding that motorist speeding and impairment, darkness, rural location, higher speed limits, and turning trucks at intersections are the best predictors of severe crashes. I find that most motorist-caused bicyclist fatalities are associated with criminally negligent behavior, not unavoidable accidents — with the notable exception of turns across bike lanes. …

Bicyclists and would-be bicyclists are often concerned with the risk of injury. Yet what do we know about bicycling crashes and injuries? In this article I examine 30,000 bicycle crashes to understand the types of crashes that occur (e.g. rear-end vs. angle) and I use a logistic model to understand the factors that make crashes more severe. I compare these results to a recent study from the National Transportation Safety Board which, I find, has been over-emphasizing bicycle facilities such as separated bike lanes and under-emphasizing the role of user behavior.

Image of bicycle on road at night, suggesting that the bicyclist may have fallen off.
Image of bicycle on road at night, suggesting that the bicyclist may have fallen off.
Photo by Ian Valerio on Unsplash

Project Background

Even though every state and the U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keep databases of police-reported road crashes, the data with regard to bicycling is limited and therefore sometimes misleading. Most bicycling injuries are excluded from these databases because crashes are only reportable if they involve a motor vehicle in transport. Collisions between a bicyclist and a pedestrian, animal, or other bicyclist, or a single-bicycle crash (a fall or a collision with a fixed object) are excluded, even though hospital data shows that they account for the majority of emergency department visits by bicyclists. Furthermore, bicyclists are often treated differently in the crash reporting forms or crash database compared to motorists, which means that key fields with regard to crash circumstance and operator behavior are not reported, not coded, or not coded clearly. …

In search of family recreation, a substitute for closed gyms, or a way of getting around when public transportation is unsafe, Americans are rediscovering the bicycle (again). The New York Times, NPR, CNN, and the Guardian have all taken note of the new bike boom, which is also occurring in Germany, the UK and probably other countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are lots of great reasons to start bicycling, including fun, fitness, and transportation. The reduction in car traffic during the pandemic has made streets more accessible.

There are still millions who have not yet acquired the equipment, information, and skills to make bicycling practical, enjoyable, and safe. Let’s fix that! I’m assuming you are an adult who knows how to balance and steer a bicycle, but who has minimal riding experience. I will walk you through what you need to know to get bicycling safely, comfortably, and efficiently. …

How to Unlock Democracy in the United States

The most glaring deficiency of the U.S. Constitution is its failure to follow democratic norms. This has become apparent this century with two Presidents elected despite more votes going to another candidate. We are also still fighting for the right of citizens to vote as the Supreme Court has thwarted laws passed by Congress to prevent states from denying voting rights. Properly fixing these deficiencies requires an amendment. But another democratic deficiency is that the Constitution is “practically unamendable.”

I would like to propose a way out of this dilemma. It is increasingly likely that the Democrats will have full control of the Federal Government as of January 20, 2021. They must use that opportunity to secure democracy through legislation — but also by amending the Constitution. Here’s how: conduct a national referendum by mail asking citizens if they would like to amend the Constitution to guarantee voting rights, directly elect the President, and permit constitutional amendment by national referendum. This last element will legitimize the change: if a majority votes in favor, as I expect they will, Congress will declare the amendment to be part of the Constitution. …

It’s becoming increasingly likely that the US will see widespread cases of COVID-19, overwhelmed hospitals, and many deaths. There are many ways that the new coronavirus could affect the 2020 U.S. elections — none of them good.

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No candidate will want to campaign wearing personal protective equipment.

Here are some of the bad things that could happen to our national elections over the next 10 months:

The primaries are disrupted.

Already, some states that voted on March 3 took extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus at polling places. Washington State, currently home to the worst known outbreak, votes entirely by mail — luckily for them. Oregon and Hawaii are the only two states that will vote by mail in the remaining primaries. The other states almost certainly do not have the capacity for everyone to vote absentee. …

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No one has managed to get elected to the U.S. Congress with a label other than “Democrat” or “Republican” for 72 years. Yet virtually every other democracy has more than two political parties represented in the national legislature— even countries using the same electoral system as the US.

Electoral reform has become part of the American political dialogue, and ranked choice voting is the favorite fix. In Breaking the Two Party Doom Loop, Lee Drutman argues that RCV will lead to the development of a multiparty system, and is therefore an essential step in overcoming today’s “toxic” politics.

Certainly the development of multiple political parties would, by definition, eliminate binary, polarized politics. And changing the rules to permit new and stronger political parties is, in my opinion, an essential reform. But the history of electoral reform shows that first you need multiple parties to promote changes to voting rules. That sounds like a paradox, but there is a way forward. America’s onerous and discriminatory “ballot access” rules and mandatory party primaries prevent the development of parties. …

Every presidential election cycle, people and pundits complain: why Iowa and New Hampshire? Inevitably, they offer improved ways of nominating presidential candidates. Just as regularly, nothing changes.

In the world of the party nomination process, the delay in releasing the 2020 Iowa caucus results is completely irrelevant. The precinct caucuses elect delegates to county caucuses, which in turn elect delegates to a state convention, which in turn elect 41 delegates to the national convention — in July. There is no problem if it takes several days to tabulate the results.

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But in the world created by the media and public expectations, the caucus is not about delegates, it is the first “official” vote on the candidates, a make-or-break factor in the flow of money and volunteers. Whoever the media anoints as the “winner” — by having a small plurality of the vote or perhaps merely by doing better than expected — gets more and better coverage. Candidates faring poorly often drop out before hearing from any other voters. …

President Trump’s assassination of General Suleimani, the second most important Iranian government official, has been called an act of war and a declaration of war. Under the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war. But Presidents have come to completely dominate foreign policy, despite the text of the Constitution, with the result that enormously important policy decisions are subject to the whims of one person — even if that person is rash, ill-informed, and easily angered. Fixing this defect is more obviously important than ever — but no easier.

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An Angry Trump, Afraid of Looking Weak, Makes an Impulsive Decision that Stuns His Military Advisers

Trump and his Secretary of State have claimed that the killing was necessary to prevent an “imminent” attack on Americans and to stop a war. Insider accounts of the decision-making process make this claim impossible to believe. …

With all the attention given to the ups and downs of the presidential contenders for an election which is “only” 11 months away, what can get overlooked is the most important question: will the majority rule in America come January 2021?

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Who will control the U.S. Government in 2021? The majority or the minority?

By wide margins, America doesn’t like Trump. Other than a one-week honeymoon around his inauguration, throughout his presidency more Americans have disapproved of Trump than approved, usually by wide margins, according to polling averages compiled by Real Clear Politics (FiveThirtyEight has similar data). The gap is more pronounced considering depth of feeling: 42% strongly disapprove compared to 26% who strongly approve (Nov 24–26 YouGov poll, p. …

The United States is governed by a powerful president elected under archaic rules that violate democratic norms. But it’s not just the November election that is deficient: the way presidential candidates are nominated is also problematic. Due to state and Federal laws that discriminate against new and small parties, the Presidential nomination process of the Democratic and Republican parties is an essential part of the process — effectively the only way to get elected. In 2016 Donald Trump took advantage of the openness to outsiders to take over the Republican Party and thereby become President as a minority winner, both in the nomination process and in the actual election. …


Paul Schimek, Ph.D.

data scientist, democracy advocate, transportation analyst

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