Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Martyrdom and Herd Immunity

Despite what Tom Stafford may say, cycling is not an inherently selfish activity.

For the bottle-carriers in the peloton, it is a team effort.

Personally, a large part of the reason I don't drive is to increase safety. To all those of you that like to argue whether cycling is nearly as safe as motoring (per hour) or thirty times more dangerous (per mile), that will sound a little crazy.

No, I'm not saying 'I would be more at risk if I drove' ( although they do say an hour's cycling prolongs your life into old age by an extra hour, if no-one kills you !)
... And don't forget to double the driving risk to allow for cancers from exhaust pollution.

What I mean is
  1. I'm less likely to kill someone
  2. The global death rate now is lower than if more people drove
  3. The global death rate would be lower if everyone cycled
Again citations would be welcome - I am not a statistician !

My point is that almost everyone thinks almost exclusively of their own safety, not the risk they pose to others.

  • "Driving is safer ... for me !"
  • "Cycling is safer ... for everyone else!"

'Safety in Numbers' vs Dangerism

"The safest places to cycle are those with high cycle use. More cycling and safer cycling can, and should, go hand in hand." - Cyclists' Touring Club , May 2009
I doubt that "The UK death rate would be lower if a few more people cycled" - I think it needs a lot more cyclists to reach that point. We should have been campaigning like that around 1970-1990, I guess, when the car/bike ratio was still favourable. I'm not sure which side of the tipping-point we are, so I'll presume we're near to the tipping-point - the flat bit where the global effect due to changing from cycling to driving (or vice-versa) is minimal.
I note Google has a very different definition for 'tipping-point' - closer to 'avalanche effect' or catastrophe - the last straw.
'tipping-point' : the point at which a series of small changes ... causes a larger, more important change.
The BBC  uses 'tipping-point' in a similar sense to mine : deaths outnumber births
Elephant poaching deaths reach tipping point in Africa
That's a carefully-considered gut feeling, not rigorous incontrovertible statistics. There are many ways to slice the statistics.

How safe is cycling  - stats on cycle casualties on the Cycling uphill blog look reasonable at a first glance.
Data from here ?

I am worried by cycle safety, and would argue that much more should have been spent on cycle safety and less on motoring safety since about 1970.

Motoring, walking and cycling risks seem to be fairly closely grouped - maybe half, maybe double, depending on year, place, accident- or injury- severity threshold etc.
Motorcycling seems several times worse.

As the blog points out, cyclist deaths are about half that of ladder-users. Not sure if that is 'per mile' !
The cycling charity CTC points out that evidence suggests you are more likely to be injured during an hour of gardening than an hour of cycling.

On the other hand, I agree that the risk to the individual cyclist is greater if there are fewer of us.

It's like bullying, in that one could
  • cave in ( but expect more and more bullying in future)
  • join the bullies
  • fight back
Perhaps we have to be bold, and be prepared to 'take one for the team' ?

‘Safety In Numbers’  Or ‘Numbers from Safety’    [ As Easy As Riding A Bike ]
asks 'which is it':
"Cycling gets safer the more people do it."
"More people cycle when it gets safer."


I hate it when people say
It seems to be 'a truth universally acknowledged' that is not actually true ! Some call it 'Dangerism'. Where does it come from ? Why is it so strong ?

It does seem particularly strong in Australia and New Zealand - I wonder if the helmet laws are a factor ?

Most importantly, what can be done about it, both in terms of therapy for the individual, but also for society as a whole ?

I hear that some drivers suffer from a motoring phobia, and can seek hypnotherapy to rid them of the fears. Come to think of it, I've met a few drivers that seem to have no sense of danger - perhaps they were hypnotised ? It's in Wikipedia - it must be real.

I've also noticed this year that the latest fad in YouTube car advertising is 'inspires confidence' !

'Cyclophobia' seems to be 'fear of bikes' rather than 'fear of cars'. 'Autophobia' is 'fear of being alone'.

A friend was considering cycling a trip of about 5 miles, but was worried about traffic. I pointed out that it could almost all be done off-road, using cycle paths and canal towpaths, but then I could see she was afraid of getting mugged ! My response was "At least we have a choice - whether to be squashed by a car or assaulted !"

I could not really, in good conscience, recommend it.
How did we get to this stage - when and how did this paranoia start ?
I wonder if it could be compared to the disproportionate fear of nuclear power ?
I can't see much in common ...

Anyone want to explore the possibility there's a huge conspiracy to get cyclists off the roads, if not extinct altogether ? It does begin to feel like that sometimes.

Or is the propaganda just click-bait ?

Those that cycle are making it safer for others. Those with headcams and who report incidents to the police give an incentive for better driving.

For those that haven't recently experienced how idyllic cycling can be, here's a lovely little film from 8th May 1955, showing how things used to be.

Conversely, a motorist convicted of an offence that often goes unpunished may regard themself as a 'scape-goat' ! -

Not standing up for our rights means we lose them.
Cyclist forces driver into reversing after stand-off over right of way - [ Daily Mail ]

See also