Rinkonomics and Traffic Justice


Fewer injuries occur on the rink than on trampolines, skateboards, or baseball fields, despite the seemingly chaotic atmosphere. I was also shocked to see so many kids wearing helmets despite their proven lack of effectiveness in the most common types of ice skating injuries.

I just listened to a fascinating (as always) Freakonomics podcast about a concept developed by Economics Professor Daniel Klein called Rinkonomics.  On an ice skating rink, a few simple rules (everyone skating in the same general direction, no cell phones allowed, etc.) suffice to keep everyone relatively happy and safe.  Given the lack of central control and direction, someone unfamiliar with a rink might think that collisions would be extremely common.  In fact, as I can attest from recent experience, collisions are very rare and the most common type of injury is self-inflicted and involves only one skater.

Klein goes on to make the case for the rink as an analogy for economic life in general, and against central planning.  However, I was most struck by the following quote explaining why the rink functions as it does:

An important quality of collision is mutuality. If I collide with you, then you collide with me. And if I don’t collide with you, you don’t collide with me. In promoting my interest in avoiding collision with you, I also promote your interest in avoiding collision with me.

Therein lies the key to understanding, and potentially solving, one of the biggest public health crises (and undoubtedly the biggest public health crisis facing children) of our era.

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NYC Traffic Violence, Stop de Kindermoord, and Right of Way

It wasn’t until I started cycling that I got interested in popularizing and expanding cycling infrastructure.  It wasn’t until I started following multiple blogs and news sites devoted to cycling that I started learning about the broader “livable streets” agenda, “new urbanism,” and pedestrian/bike advocacy more generally.  And it wasn’t until I moved to the City that these causes became so deeply meaningful and personal.

Photo courtesy of Right of Way

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Accidents Happen

I’ve hesitated to post thus far about this unfortunate side effect of bike commuting.  Bike commuting has so many great things going for it, and I fear that even mentioning accident or injury might dissuade someone on the fence from ever trying it out.  But for whatever reason, the past month or so has been unlucky for me on the injury front, so I’ve decided to write about it.

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On Greenways and Roads


A seemingly never-ending stretch of wide open greenway in Lower Manhattan.

Greenways are the absolute best way to get around by bike when they’re available.  With beautiful scenery, smooth pavement, and no car traffic, what more could you ask for?  But that last caveat, “when they’re available”, underscores a major hurdle to the wider acceptance of cycling for transportation.

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Tips for Novices for Long-Distance Bike Rides

It was not too long ago that I was clueless about riding a bike any longer than about 5 miles.  As I mentioned before, I’ve ridden somewhat long distances in the past, but always very slowly and never regularly.  Commuting at least 11 miles each way every day successfully requires a bit more knowledge and preparation. Continue reading