The first bicycle fatality in the U.S.
happened in 1896 in New York City.

Well once again we have to sit through all the paranoia associated with
infectious diseases, this time in the form of the Swine Flu. As of the
time of this writing approximately 80 people had died in Mexico of Swine
Flu, with another 20 in the U.S. and a dozen or so in Canada. Turning on
any of the cable news channels such as CNN today it was virtually all I
heard about. Swine Flu. Beware. It's coming to kill us all. Put on your
masks and hide in your homes.

Let's put this in perspective a little bit, okay? In 2007, the most recent
data available to me, 698 people were killed in the U.S. in bicycle accidents.

Here's the fast skinny about infectious diseases. First, they happen
all the time. It's just the clustering effect that people notice. Second,
if there really were some highly contagious pathogen develop someplace
in the world, of the kind that would be capable of killing millions of
people, then it would spread and kill so quickly* that there would be
virtually nothing we could do about it anyway except to send trucks down
the streets to collect the dead bodies.

NEXT MONTH: People who die by slipping in the bathtub.

* HIV/AIDS is a contagious disease of epidemic proportions that has
killed millions. But it travels slower than most killer pathogens and
takes longer to kill its victims. So I have chosen not to go into that
one here — it is a specialized case.