Go to content Go to navigation Go to search

War on Bicyclism
3.09.09 by City Cyclist

City Cycling gives MT an exclusive with their take on bicycles vs terrorism hoo-ha

“… if you asked which killed more people in the last 10 years in London, international terrorism, or bicycles, the answer would definitely be bicycles”

It must be true, a scientist said it. Professor Peter Ayton to be exact, who lead a study looking at casualties on London’s roads in 1999 compared to the stats available for 2008/2009. And it seems those crafty terrorists had a grander plan all along. Why kill thousands of people in a skyscraper when you can simply terrify people away from public transport, onto bikes, and have the bikes kill everyone?!? It’s a work of absolute genius.

We need George Dubya back to declare a War on Bicyclism.

The study was presented to the British Psychological Society’s Cognitive Psychology section annual conference, and as such doesn’t appear to have made it into the public domain yet (we’ll be keeping our eyes open for a copy). The 20 minute slot alloted to “Terrorism, dread risk and the bicycle” has, however, sparked the usual comments you’ll see surrounding anything that suggests that cyclists are a danger on the roads.

The very language used (assuming Professor Ayton has not been misquoted) hints at cyclists somehow being responsible for a rise in deaths on the roads, with those on bikes actively killing people. just read that first quote again. ‘bicycles’ “… killed more people in the last 10 years.” Yep, it was the bikes (strangely here the usual wording for deaths involving motorised vehicles is employed where the ‘car’ is to blame rather than the ‘driver’ – I must have missed the news that came out when bikes and cars became self-aware).

Later in the article it becomes clear that bikes aren’t killing people willy-nilly in London (phew) but rather more cyclists are being killed. There was a spike in these amounts after the London bombings in July 2005. The ‘dread effect’, whereby something seems more dangerous and so people switch to something they see as less dangerous is perfectly plausible, because it’s absolutely logical. In this case traveling in large numbers in a confined space such as a bus or the tube suddenly looked a dangerous thing to do.

But to extend that initial psychological concept to say that ‘bikes kill people’ feels a stretch too far that hints at ulterior motives. Would it be too much to be suggesting it was for publicity reasons? Is it because of the ‘surprise’ element that more people die cycling (as opposed to killed by bikes) than in terror attacks? Maybe this does get the point of the ‘dread effect’ across better, and certainly there is far too much emphasis put on ‘terrorism’ in the media, which filters to Joe Public.

What is odd, however, is that cycling is also seen as being a terribly dangerous thing to do. Wear a helmet, you might get hit by a car. Put lights on, it’s your own fault if you’re run over. You CYCLE?!? In THAT traffic?!?!? If ever there was a transport choice that suffered from the ‘dread effect’ it would be cycling. Undoubtedly more people take their cars and public transport on the daily commute, and for a large proportion (over basic laziness) this is because cycling is seen as a dangerous pursuit to body and mind.

And from a purely statistical point of view the study results are simply logical. More cyclists on the roads will certainly mean more incidents. Proportionately cycling on London’s roads is actually probably safer now than in 1999, but by focusing on the bare figures, as the ‘dread effect’ study appears to do, casualties are up, there are more bikes on the road, they’re there because people are avoiding the public transport terrorists, ergo terrorists are bad but the real risk are cyclists.


In the meantime expect the anti-cycling brigade to latch onto this as more ‘proof’ that cyclists are a danger to others, and stupid to be taking the risks with their own lives. Perhaps this is the only time you’ll find the media not scaremongering about terrorism, because as we all know, bicycles are the real world menace.

_Read more from city cycling on their web-site.

  1. Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the world. Regular cycling is not only a good source of exercise, but a good release of stress for the average London, desk bound, commuter. Therefore, more lives are prolonged, vs the few more deaths that occur. I shall be presenting my findings at Oxford uni in late Sept, all are welcome. Except Overdrive.

    — Dr Speedfast    4 September 2009, 11:40    #
  Textile help

<  ·  >