Bad Cycling? Bad Science

Here is what insurance company LV has to say about cycling safety in the U.K.:

“Mounting financial pressures have led to a surge in inexperienced cyclists taking to the roads,” say LV in their press release: “resulting in a 29% increase in road accidents involving cyclists in the past six months.”

This from a press release titled: “ROAD USERS WARNED OVER INEXPERIENCED CYCLISTS.” Road users aren’t the same as cyclists, inexperienced or not?

And here’s what Bad Science author Ben Goldacre says: “It’s topical, it involves death and fear, it’s dressed in the cloak of statistical authority: this is totally going on the telly.”

Read his full dissection here. The problems seem legion; for beginners, we don’t know that the cyclists hit are indeed the novel cyclists. These sorts of insurance-company led “studies” come up all the time in the media, and I’m not sure whether they’re done as PR stunts (I love that phrase “PR-reviewed scientific evidence”) for a willing media, or to scare us all into buying more insurance (or maybe getting us off the bike and into a car). There are real issues here, but head-line chasing does no one a service.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 at 3:18 pm and is filed under Bicycles, Risk. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Bad Cycling? Bad Science”

  1. Lee Watkins Says:

    Sounds like a dashboard perspective. You could just as easily say that motorists are inexperienced at sharing the road with an increasing percentage of cyclists, or alternatively a reduced percentage of motorists. “resulting in a 29% increase in road accidents involving cyclists in the past six months.” – Couldn’t this simply represent a change in the percentage of travelers using cars? If for example a bad economy resulted in a reduction in automobile miles traveled, but not a reduction in bicycle miles traveled, then bicycles would occupy a greater percentage of traffic, without any increase in the usage of bicycles. Car-on-car accidents would decline because there are less cars, and thus bicycles would occupy a larger slice of the remaining pie of car collisions. The revealing statistic of bicycle safety is not the total number of bicycle accidents, but the percentage of cyclists who are injured. By reducing the percentage of traffic that is motorized, the safety would be increased both to the individual cyclist and the individual motorist. What percentage of cyclists are killed by cars? What percentage of motorists are killed by other cars? What percentage of cyclists are killed by other cyclists?

  2. Jack Says:

    Auto insurance companies too often part of the problem, not solutions (not “PR-reviewed” commentary).

  3. Barry Says:

    Hmm… “…then bicycles would occupy a greater percentage of traffic, without any increase in the usage of bicycles.”

    But for that, you assume that people would not convert from car to bike. I’m not so sure that the car and bike populations are that fixed.
    There are people who really do dig out the rusty Schwinn and dunk it in WD40.
    You never forget how to ride a bike. And when gas goes to five bucks a gallon, you’ll remember a lot faster.

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