Monday 9 October 2017

Dangerous Cycling Epidemic?

The problem with the English language, or, I suppose, most languages, is we don't always have the right antonym when someone hurls an accusation at us. And boy have we got a doozy of an example today.

There's an epidemic of dangerous cycling. Apparently. Look, LBC tell us that two people are being injured per week by dangerous cyclists. Really that shite-mongering flay-dio shock jock excuse for a station is merely channeling the Express - you'll excuse me for not linking to a hate-site but they're also telling us that two people a week are being maimed or killed by cyclists. Likewise the Telegraph has delved for dodgy stats so it can similarly misrepresent the problem, and sadly Matthew Briggs (who increasingly seems to be campaigning against cycling as an act of vengeance I can entirely understand) has fallen for that hook, line and sinker.

It shouldn't be necessary to second-guess supposed journalists and question their use of statistics. One would hope that among their number would at least be a few with the integrity to speak the truth. But no. we don't have that kind of journalism in the UK any more and its down to us as individuals to call them out on this nonsense.

So lets ask the question - are two people being 'maimed or killed' by cyclists a week? Well, no. There are two people per week, roughly, admitted for hospital treatment in such collisions. They aren't 'maimed'. 'Seriously injured' in British accident stats means admitted to hospital, i.e. taken to A&E. It doesn't mean 'maimed' - such a statement isn't so much an over-statement as an outright lie. 

Has the number of people killed or 'maimed' by cyclists in the UK doubled? Not demonstrably. Firstly, the data analyzed by the Telegraph doesn't apportion blame - we don't know who caused the incidents linked to. That wouldn't be a big deal if talking about thousands, but we're not. We're talking about small numbers who are killed and very few injured - when you're looking at 1, 2, or 3 per year attributing responsibility is crucial in understanding the data. No newspaper source has attempted to do so. But more crucially, doubling accident or injury rate from a low-point in the data (2006) to the present very much risks over-analyzing statistical noise. In 2016 we're only looking at 108 injuries - and tiny changes in awareness in reporting or accident report form wording are sufficient to skew these numbers enormously if we merely look at percentage changes.

To get this right we need to look at a wider context if we're going to understand what this means with over 60 million people. Nearly 60 times more people are hospitalised by tea. You are 100 times more likely to be hospitalised putting your socks on than by a cyclist. Motorised vehicles kill around 70,000 times more than cyclists

Look, no one discussing this topic is a proponent of dangerous cycling - but we're facing a backlash against cyclists based on injury events that kill fewer than half the number bee stings cause. This near obsessive focus on a group whose activity has a colossal net positive impact on the nation by saving money, reducing carbon emission, reducing pollution, easing congestion and taking colossally more hazardous vehicles off the road. By focusing on those whose actions reduce risk at the expense of dealing with those who hospitalise tens of thousands we can only increase the net harm caused on our roads. This is not a route to 'greater good', it is demonstrably the opposite. 

There isn't an antomym for 'epidemic' that we can fall back on when discussing this alleged 'epidemic' of people 'maimed' by cyclists. All we can say is that the claim is a shameless lie.


  1. This is the first bit of sense I've read since this hysterical nonsense hit the media. A first-rate analysis of a "non-problem".

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