Lies, Damn Lies and …Statistics

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This is certainly true when people come to talking about cycling. They measure cycling by “trips”. Now, what on earth is a trip? Apparently it’s a calculation of how many times you get on and off your bike – as simple as that. If I ride round the park starting from home, coming back to home and not stopping en route, that equals one trip. If I ride to the post office, stop to post a letter, ride on to the supermarket and stop to shop, then ride home – that is not one but three trips. Home to Post Office, Post Office to supermarket, supermarket to home. The total mileage might be considerably less than I did going to the park but for the purposes of statistics I have done 3 times as as much! How’s that for massaging the figures!

To take a more extreme example: The official record for a non-stop end-to-end (Land’s End to John O’Groats) is 44 hours 4 minutes on a conventional bike and 41 hours 4 minutes on a recumbent tricycle. Both these did the journey without a break, so I assume their epic rides count as single trips!

When the government talk about increasing cycling they measure it in number of “trips” per cyclist. Much better to look at distance, For example in September last year I rode a total of 300 miles; this year I did 250. (I’m getting old, you see.) But there are all sorts of other things – maybe I went on a (non-cycling) holiday for a couple of weeeks, maybe I was ill and didn’t get out on my trike as much as usual, maybe all sorts of other things affected the number of miles I rode.

Another way statistics are so often skewed is the confusion between “frequent” and “regular”. A frequent worshipper attends church every Sunday; a regular attender could be someone who never misses Christmas Day or Easter Sunday. Spot the difference?

You also find newspaper headlines that make things seem worse than they are. Here is an example from the Lancashire Evening Post:
ONE cyclist every day is killed or injured by motorists on Lancashire roads, shock new figures reveal.
Reading this, you might be forgiven for thinking “one cyclist a day! Wow! Does that mean 365 in a year?”

In fact when we look at the figures, things don’t seem so drastic. “KILLED OR INJURED” doesn’t even specify seriously injured, so in these stats, a cyclist lying dead at the roadside is counted alongside one who falls off his bike and bruises his knee and rides away otherwise unscathed.

I don’t know what is the best way to present cycling statistics. Should we talk about numbers of people riding bikes? Should this include the person with a bike in their garage that gets used perhaps twice a year when the weather is good and the grandchildren have come to visit? If we try to estimate distances ridden that’s a whole new problem. Very few, even among the keen cyclists keep a meticulous record of distances ridden. (But it you once get hooked on taking readings from a cycle computer it can be addictive. I’ve been there.)

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Love at First Sight

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It was love at first sight.
There was sheer delight
In the look on his face.

He squeezed my hand tight,
Till I felt that he might
Take off on a flight,
Disappear into space.

I asked him “Please tell me
Is this what you like? ”
He said, “Mum, can’t you see
I adore my new bike?”

I knew  I was right
It was love at first sight.

DANGER!

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DANGER!

Why do people go on about “dangerous roads”? A road itself, the tarmac surface, the kerbs and the pavement isn’t dangerous. It might be rough or smooth, brightly lit or unlit, pitted with pot-holes or covered in debris, but a road per se isn’t dangerous.
Even traffic, cars, lorries, buses and coaches aren’t dangerous. What is dangerous is the way they are used.
DANGER on our roads comes from drivers and driver 
behaviour, not the roads or the vehicles.
A knife isn’t dangerous unless you use it to stab someone.
I’d like to see road safety discussions putting less stress on dangerous roads and more on dangerous driving. A bad driver can transform any road into a dangerous road by simple carelessness and inattention to the Highway Code. 

Not Exactly Gourmet, but some of my Favourite Foods

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A Few Of My Favourite Foods

Sugar on pie crusts and custard on crumble,
Aroma of hotpot that makes the tum rumble,
Freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly brewed tea,
These are a few of the foods that please me.

Fish and chips from a paper, well sprinkled with salt,
Not forgetting the pepper and vinegar (malt),
Cheese sarnies with pickle when out on my bike,
These are a few of the foods that I like.

Baked beans on toast is a dish I adore
I’ll eat a whole plateful and come back for more.
Warm soup in the winter, beside a warm fire,
And a big mug of cocoa before we retire

THE ICE AGE

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This is the ICE AGE. The age of the infernal internal combustion engine, the era when the car rules OK?

This is a time when a tenyearold lad complains that as the youngest of his group of friends he will be the last to get a driving licence; not last to be able to vote or able to watch adult-rated films or to drink (legally) in a pub. Sad isn’t it that kids so young are already obsessed with the car.

Oldies can be equally obsessed, though perhaps with more excuse. Some of my contemporaries, people well into retirement have become totally car-dependent. They drive everywhere, walk nowhere, haven’t been on a bike since they got a driving licence and wouldn’t dream of using their bus pass.

Then old age or illness hits them and the doctor tells them not to drive. It’s a drastic sentence, for some literally a death sentence.  Once these sort stop driving they are stuck, often housebound, unable to visit friends and family and liable to sink into isolation and depression.

What is the solution? NOT, definitely not to carry on driving when your sight is failing, your hearing not as acute as it once was – OK for pottering round the house or going to the shop but not for recognising the approach of an emergency vehicle on the main road with sirens blaring.  Reaction times are slower and spatial awareness falls off as you get older. Many oldies think, “I’ll be OK going just a short distance, just down to the shop or to the surgery.” Don’t risk it. The majority of accidents happen within a short distance of home.

I firmly believe this is one area where pensioners can show the way.  Very few retired people HAVE to drive. Most drive because they want to, because it is convenient. For short distances, walk. For slightly longer distances ride a bike or a trike. I find my recumbent trike a godsend. Use the buses – while we still have a bus service, use it or lose it.  Bus passes are not some sort of reward from a generous government – they are an entitlement, just as much as free prescriptions or the winter fuel allowance. I think that local public transport – buses and trams – should be regarded as a social service, paid for out of general taxation and free at the point of use. This would bring it into line with other services such as schools, hospitals, libraries, roads and parks. Everyone who pays income tax or council tax contributes to these services and those who wish to or need to use them.

REMEMBER – WALK, if you can. CYCLE, if you like, CATCH A BUS, if you can fine one, DRIVE, only if you must.

This  would be one small step towards weaning us off our dismal dependence on the car.