There’s nothing quite like headline writing expressly designed to freak people out, while not necessarily matching article content.
Duluth’s Northland News Center, which is a site for Duluth’s CBS, NBC, CW and ‘MyNetwork’ affiliate television outlets, provokes today’s big headsmack with their article “BICYCLE RIDING DEATHS UP IN MN.”
While the article does include some fatality statistics for the state, I’m relatively sure that the safety message being put out by Susan Koschak, the chair of the Statewide Non-Motorized Advisory Committee, didn’t include the OMG YOU WILL ALL DIE tilt. The DPS official quoted also is quoted on safety, although the fatality figure (average of 8 cyclist deaths/year) is a DPS number.
Just as a comparison, DPS reports 72 motorcyclist deaths in 2008, and 416 car accident deaths in 2009. Obviously, working towards 0 in all columns is important, but you rarely see the attachment of OMG DANGER! attached in the same way to these other modes of transport.
Northland News also inserts a “use bike paths!” comment, even though DPS and MNDOT share the 8 principles of the Share the Road Minnesota campaign, all of which focus on appropriate and legal use of roadways by cyclists.
I’m blaming this all on Northland, as the state agencies quoted are typically right on and supportive of the Share the Road principles and Minnesota statutes on bicyclists. Education of all roadway users – and not breathless sharing of noncontextual fatality statistics – is the key to cyclist safety on the roads. All a headline of this nature does is forward a not-especially-subtle bias against cyclists’ road rights.