Summary: Your life expectancy is higher if you get in traffic on a bike instead of in a car. Biking alongside cars might seem dangerous – and this misconception may deter potential cyclists or lead them to risky behavior like riding on the sidewalk – but the health benefits greatly exceed the dangers of crashes and other risks.
Last week, The Ann (an Ann Arbor magazine) showcased a story by a local NPR station about bikes and cars co-existing on the road. The Ann added their own more-provocative title: “Who owns the road: drivers or cyclists?”
Their framing succeeded in drumming up conflict-oriented comments from readers. Reading the comments, I was struck by two things:
Continue reading Ride Your Bike In Traffic and Live Longer
Summary: in 2015 I created a Twitter bot, @AnnArborVotes (code on GitHub). (2018 Sam says: after this project ceased I gave the Twitter handle to local civics hero Mary Morgan at A2CivCity). I searched Twitter for 52,000 unique voter names, matching names from the Ann Arbor, MI voter rolls to Twitter accounts based nearby. The bot then tweeted messages to a randomly-selected half of those 2,091 matched individuals, encouraging them to vote in a local primary election that is ordinarily very low-turnout.
I then examined who actually voted (a matter of public record). There was no overall difference between the treatment and control groups. I observed a promising difference in the voting rate when looking only at active Twitter users, i.e., those who had tweeted in the month before I visited their profile. These active users only comprised 7% of my matched voters, however, and the difference in this small subgroup was not statistically significant (n = 150, voting rates of 23% vs 15%, p = 0.28).
I gave a talk summarizing the experiment at Nerd Nite Ann Arbor that is accessible to laypeople (it was at a bar and meant to be entertainment):
This video is hosted by the amazing Ann Arbor District Library – here is their page with multiple formats of this video and a summary of the talk. Here are the slides from the talk (PDF), but they’ll make more sense with the video’s voiceover.
The full write-up:
I love the R programming language (#rstats) and wanted a side project. I’d been curious about Twitter bots. And I’m vexed by how low voter turnout is in local elections. Thus, this experiment.
Continue reading Can a Twitter bot increase voter turnout?
Removed from scientific context, vaccinating your kid sounds crazy. Let’s stick a needle in their arm and put disease and chemicals into their body. To prevent an illness nobody you know has ever gotten. And on top of your kid crying, and your own lack of experience with the disease, you have neighbors whispering in your ear (or posting loudly on social media) how dangerous vaccines are.
Instead of putting it to a popular vote, though, or listening to the loudest voices on your Facebook feed, you listen to your child’s pediatrician (I hope) and bodies of experts like the AMA and CDC, who unanimously cite overwhelming evidence in favor of vaccinations.
For every decision, there are gut feelings and personal opinions about the issue, and then there are the scientific arguments – what does the evidence say? Most often, these come from experts in the field, who have devoted years to mastering the topic.
Would #a2council vaccinate?
The greatest conflicts in Ann Arbor politics are often driven by clashes between gut feelings (either voiced by citizens or held by CMs) and expert opinions.
Continue reading Expertise vs. Emotion at Ann Arbor City Council