I’ve got a bike you can ride it if you like

February 7th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 72 Comments »

The Guardian,
Saturday February 7 2009
Ben Goldacre

Like a lot of people who spend their time thinking about evidence and risk, I’ve always fantasised that the insurance industry must possess a vast repository of useful data: the experience of centuries, carefully tabulated by actuaries into secret commercial databases containing a truth about human behaviour and risk which most epidemiologists and social scientists would kill for.

Here for example is the insurance company LV, who have managed to get their important road safety data analysis onto GMTV.

“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.” It’s topical, it involves death and fear, it’s dressed in the cloak of statistical authority: this is totally going on the telly.

The first thing to note is that LV were comparing accidents in the 6 months leading up to November 2008 against accidents in the 6 months prior to that. What these insurance geniuses have failed to account for here, we might reasonably suspect, is the well-documented seasonal variation in road traffic incidents, since fewer people cycle in winter. I shall not be buying shares in this insurance company.

But better than that, LV have created a small anecdotal window into how wrong survey data can be, by giving us figures that we can compare directly against those that were created with other, probably better methods.

LV paid YouGov to sample 2,193 adults in November 2008, using an online questionnaire. They start by announcing that 43% of adults cycle, which sounds rather high to me. The General Household Survey is produced by the Office of National Statistics. It doggedly interviews all the adults in a random sample of 13,000 addresses, face to face, asking them a huge number of questions in great detail. The latest GHS reckons that 19% have cycled once in the past year, and 9% in the past 4 weeks. So YouGov and LV Insurance with their online questionnaire are disagreeing by a factor of 4 already.

“Of these,” LV go on: “11 per cent have been involved in an accident, 7 per cent of these took place in the last six months = 150,434 accidents.” We will politely brush over the fact that trivial accidents from the very recent past may be more memorable in a single point survey than older ones, and move to the published accident figures from the Department for Transport (whose website has contained not a single use of the word “snow” this week, rather brilliantly).

There were, according to the most recent figures from DfT, 16,230 accidents in the year from October 2007 to September 2008, so YouGovs’ online questionnaire disagrees this time by a factor of 10. You might speculate that DfT data is prone to under-reporting, and I would agree, but I trust this imperfect data more than I trust the opinion of a PR person who misses barn-door seasonal variation and seriously reckons half of you cycle. Also, most of those accidents reported to the DfT were themselves minor.

God I’m boring. Meanwhile the Cyclists Touring Club, who certainly sound like a dapper bunch, have collected data which shows a 91% increase in cycling in London since 2000. Regardless of how you like that figure, we can also go back through the historical DfT tables which show that far from their dramatic increase in accidents, there was in fact a 1% rise comparing the most recent quarter, July to September 2008, with the same quarter in 2007. In case you think this is just noise – and I share your caution – when compared against the average of 1994-1998, by DfT data, bicycle accidents have fallen by 33%.

So it seems accidents have gradually gone down by a third over ten years, but LV insurance and YouGov – using something my colleague Charlton Brooker has helpfully termed “PR-reviewed scientific evidence” – say accidents have gone up by a third in just six months, using data that forgets to account for the usual seasonal variation, and seems to get the prevalence of both cycling and accidents wrong, by an order of magnitude. Most importantly, this gets on the telly, with a nice puff for the LV brand, despite the fact that almost everything I have told you was spelled out to GMTV, by the boys and girls in tweed at the CTC, before it ever went to air.

Once again, there is nothing complicated here, and I will not be charging for courses, vitamin pills, or secret lifestyle programmes: eat fruit and veg, avoid excess alcohol and cigarettes, ride your bike to work, and ignore everything you see in the media.

Please send your bad science to ben@badscience.net

LV’s Press Release


Mounting financial pressures have led to a surge in inexperienced cyclists taking to the roads, resulting in a 29% increase in road accidents involving cyclists in the past six months1.

New research from car insurer LV= reveals that one in 20 Brits2 have got on their bikes in the past 12 months in an attempt to cut costs. Yet the findings show that this has caused a surge in accidents with 150,0003 cyclists saying they have been involved in a road accident in the last six months.

A lack of formal training may be one of the causes of this problem, with more than half (52 per cent) of cyclists admitting they have never read the Highway Code’s advice for cyclists and just 42 per cent have taken a cycling proficiency course.

This is illustrated by British cyclists’ ignorance of basic road rules – with a quarter (24 per cent) unable to identify a ‘cyclists prohibited’ sign and one in five admitting to night cycling without working lights.

Other common errors include cycling on the pavement (41 per cent) – which is currently illegal, and failing to wear a safety helmet (42 per cent) which can drastically reduce the risk of injury.

In the past year one in three cyclists have cycled the wrong way up a one way street, and one in 20 (six per cent) admitted to cycling under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a similar number confessed to using a mobile phone whilst cycling.

With many thousands of inexperienced cyclists taking to the roads, motorists and other road users need to be extra vigilant to avoid collisions and cyclists need to ensure they are aware of and stick to the rules of the roads.

The majority of Brits (64 per cent) would like to see adult cycling proficiency tests become compulsory so LV= is calling on the Government and local councils to increase the availability of training for cyclists.

Emma Holyer, Spokesperson for LV= Car Insurance, said:

“Cycling is a cheap and enjoyable way to get from A to B and great exercise at the same time but it’s essential that cyclists are fully equipped to deal with the busy British roads to ensure their own safety and that of other road users.

“If cycling training was compulsory, and cyclists were better equipped to follow the rules of the roads we believe motorists, pedestrians and cyclists themselves would all benefit from fewer accidents and a safer environment on the road.”

For more information, log on to www.lv.com.

– ends –

Emma Holyer / LV= Press Office

Notes to editors
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,193 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 20th November 2008. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

1. Of the 45,434,897 UK adult population (2001 census), 43 per cent cycle. Of these, 11 per cent have been involved in an accident, 7 per cent of these took place in the last six months = 150,434 accidents. In the year six months previously 4 per cent of all accidents took place = 85,962 accidents. There has therefore been a 29 per cent increase in accidents.

2. Of the UK adult population (45,434,897) 6 per cent have started cycling in the last 12 months = 2.7 million cyclists

3. 150,434 accidents in the last six months (see above for full methodology)

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72 Responses

  1. Michael Grayer said,

    February 7, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    And, as we all know, online surveys are the most reliable survey method, where the respondents are bound to be representative of… the… popula…… oh, wait a minute.

    By the way, does carrying out an online survey really count as “fieldwork”?

  2. pseudomonas said,

    February 7, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    2,193 in the survey * 43% * 11% * 7% = about seven of their respondants (assuming no weighting, I know, I know) had an accident in the last 6 months. Presumably this was repeated from six months ago, when five people had had an accident.

  3. DrRachie said,

    February 7, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I ride a bike in Sydney – probably not the best idea. The roads are terrible, there is a complete lack of bike paths and car drivers toot you just for being on the road.

    When they chase me, cut me off, then open their doors in front of my bike to ensure I stop (true story) I like to politely inform them I have had a car license for 21 years. Therefore, I do know the road rules.

    Speaking of vicious, their behaviour is much, much worse than Yasmin, I can assure you.

  4. DrRachie said,

    February 7, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I have been run-over once, but that was in Adelaide. The driver was more upset that I may have scratched his brother’s Mercedes.

    Never mind that I went over his bonnet, somersaulted mid air, then landed on my bum in the middle of an intersection, so witnesses told me (apparently it was spectacular!).

    The bike was a write-off, the 1 litre (glass) bottle of diet coke in my backpack survived, I was very sore.

  5. pseudomonas said,

    February 7, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    … Pushing the numbers into a chi-squared calculator, it doesn’t look like a significant difference between 5 in 2193 and 7 in 2193. But I Am Not A Statistician (even though I ought to be)

  6. TriathNanEilean said,

    February 7, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    If I remember correctly Ben, this isn’t the first time you’ve mentioned bicycles in your blog.

    The next time an CAM supporter calls you an allopath, tell them you are a cyclepath.

  7. Psychedelia Smith said,

    February 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Damn Grauniad subs changed a perfect headline yet again. Just what have they got against Syd Barrett, eh?

  8. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Er, am I missing something or is the story wrong in its entirety?

    Unless there’s a swarm of cyclists crashing into other cyclists out there in a random effects manner, surely what this ‘research’ is actually stating is that UK drivers of non-pedalling vehicles – ie cars, lorries, buses, and motorbikes – are an ill-judged group of individuals incapable of avoiding a cyclist whilst burning off the chav-chariot alongside/ having a fag/ stuffing a burger into their face/ picking their nose – or whatever excuse is used when it becomes a police incident?

    The sort who fail to recognise –
    a) that bikes do about half the speed of cars (tops) in routine traffic
    b) we have hand brakes not air brakes so can’t stop on a sixpence – especially in rain (so will hit you)
    c)that we’re not mindreaders – we can’t predict your sudden desire to swing left without even indicating (so we will T-bone your door panel)
    d)that we can sail across an empty ‘keep clear’ box in stationary traffic and indeed, have the right to do so without being knocked off by some anxious idiot determined to get their front wheels out from a side road into the line of traffic….

    LV seem also to be confusing ‘cycling errors’ that don’t necessarily result in injury with claims submitted by their policy holders. Have occasionally had to ride on the pavement – hands up. Never been hit by a car in doing so, though!

    LV insurance company
    LV policy holders
    Both rather stupid, then.

  9. biggerpills said,

    February 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    “PR-reviewed scientific evidence”

    I love Charlie Brooker.

  10. Bogusman said,

    February 7, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    How exactly does failing to wear a safety helmet reduce the risk of injury? Possibly by improving visibility a bit or maybe by reducing the feeling of invulnerability conferred by wrapping something like a streamlined styrofoam cup around your head.

    I know – I am being childish – but who started it?

  11. ACH said,

    February 7, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Brave of you to post another audio/video clip Ben. Let’s hope Pink Floyd aren’t as litigious as LBC!

  12. suedehead said,

    February 7, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Don’t worry about whether or not you should buy LV shares. As they are a mutual, there aren’t any shares to buy.

  13. thepoisongarden said,

    February 7, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I’m assuming the LV press release is a straight copy and paste but I can’t find it on their website to check.

    So, I assume, the following sentence is in the press release.

    ‘In the year six months previously 4 per cent of all accidents took place = 85,962 accidents.’

    What does that mean? In the period, whatever period it is, surely 100% of accidents in the period took place. Or does it mean 4% of all accidents EVER took place?

    And how is 150,434 versus 85,962 a 29% increase?

  14. Robin Johnson said,

    February 7, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Bogusman – I’m sure LV didn’t mean what they said, but all the evidence does seem to show that cycle helmets have a slightly negative effect on cyclist safety. This is usually put down to risk compensation on the part of both cyclists and motorists around them. cyclehelmets.org rounds up a lot of data and papers on the subject.

  15. pseudomonas said,

    February 7, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    It occurs to me that we could get the figures as reported in surveys of cyclists down by making sure that cyclists who get bumped don’t survive to answer the survey.

  16. kerledan said,

    February 7, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    In Germany, for example, if there’s a collision between a motor vehicle and a cyclist, the onus is on the driver, as someone in command of a powered vehicle , to show it was the cyclist’s fault.

    In the UK it’s ‘an accident’.

    Go to the middle of Berlin and watch the extreme caution with which drivers proceed, and the happy, safe bands of cyclists, not a helmet to be seen.

  17. EleanorC said,

    February 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Millie, what’s your basis for saying “everyone knows someone who believes … that their child has been damaged by the MMR”? I know a *lot* of parents, including some who have children on the autistic spectrum – and not one of them believes that.

  18. EleanorC said,

    February 7, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    arse, sorry, wrong thread. *cringe*

  19. used to be jdc said,

    February 7, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Brilliant – a link Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and a reference to Charlie Brooker in one Bad Science post. These really are a few of my favourite things.

  20. Pro-reason said,

    February 8, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Argh, don’t get me started on this stuff. It seems every time I open a newspaper (here in Australia), there’s some attack on cyclists. People who sit in cars and collectively kill many thousands of men, women and children on the roads each year get to pontificate in the press, apparently whenever they feel like it, about how bad cyclists and pedestrians are.

    Yeah, I’ll go back up a quiet one-way street if it’s convenient. I’m not in a vehicle for Pete’s sake. On the rare occasions that a car appears up ahead, I’ll just hug the side of the road, or get on the pavement.

    I break every silly rule there is, and yet the only time I’ve had an accident was when I was cycling down a road, with a helmet on, obeying all the rules, and a motorist decided to pull out of a side road without looking. This is typical.

  21. Trikeabout said,

    February 8, 2009 at 3:14 am

    Pro-reason: Actually, you *are* in a vehicle, legally. Bicycles are road vehicles with a few extra supplementary rules, both in the UK, and in Australia (where I also live). But I get the point you’re making.

    I tend to scrupulously act “like a car” (or like a car should, anyway!!!) when I’m on my bike, taking the lane where necessary and so on. In the last two years of riding in Melbourne (I’ve been commuting since I was a schoolkid in the UK, been working in Melbourne 2 years…) I’ve had 3 offs – 1 dropped chain, 1 tram-tracks in the wet, and 1 Mazda SUV crossing a bike-lane when I was in it (classic SMIDNSY moment, given that he’d just overtaken me to then cut me up!).

    Ben, nice work again pointing out the cak that gets reported on telly and other media (possibly “placed” in exchange for “sponsorship” of the program…?).

  22. howfar said,

    February 8, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Pro-reason. Drivers don’t kill anyone collectively, any more than cyclists collectively die. Cycle safely and obey the rules of the road, they are there for a reason.

  23. notzed said,

    February 8, 2009 at 6:11 am

    I dunno, wouldn’t common sense suggest more cyclists == less cars == less (severe) accidents?

    Sticking to the rules isn’t enough – often car (and bus) drivers don’t know them. Go read some of the self-defence from that idiot who stopped in front of some pro cyclists on a highway in Melbourne last year. `They were in my lane, they’re not allowed to ride in my lane, they should ride in the service lane’, for example.

    Road design, traffic light setup, terrible parking, poor driver education/knowledge/low licensing standards, ‘jealous’ taxi and bus drivers (they’re the worst – truck drivers are MUCH better, presumably because you’re not costing them a ‘fare’). They all contribute – its really just a miracle that the accident rate is so low.

    Sorry to rant off-topic, but I feel like I put my life in the hands of idiots every day when I ride to work (which is every day I work), and after years it’s starting to get to me. I think every politician and policeman who is in range of their work should have to ride to work several times a year just to see what it’s like out there. They might get an appreciation for the inadequacy of the laws and their poor enforcement.

    PS In Germany it might be the driver’s job to prove fault, in the UK it might just be ‘an accident’. In Australia it’s always reported as `a (motor)cyclist collided with a car’, directly implying fault of the more vulnerable party.

  24. Trikeabout said,

    February 8, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Notzed – I think you’re thinking of the incident near the airport in Sydney, where a car deliberately braked in front of a group of elite club and pro riders (in the service lane!). Although something similar did happen to some club riders on their way to the start of Melbourne’s Around The Bay In A Day ride too. Both times there was stuff in the press about cyclists “shouldn’t have been there”, and a few idiots actually expressing their desire to run cyclists off the road… Nice.

    That’s not to say there aren’t idiot cyclists out there. There are. But when you’ve got a situation where half of all motorists admit running red lights, is it any wonder now that cycling is booming that a lot of cyclists run reds too… It’s about all road users being responsible for their own actions out there (including pedestrians!).

  25. Robin Johnson said,

    February 8, 2009 at 8:56 am

    howfar – “Drivers don’t kill anyone collectively, any more than cyclists collectively die.”

    This is obviously false when you compare the death rates in car/bike and car/pedestrian collisions with bike/bike and bike/pedestrian ones.

  26. Ministry said,

    February 8, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Robin – I think howfar’s point (and mine, anyway) was that drivers aren’t a homogenous class of people, and nor are cyclists. Some drivers can’t drive, and some cyclists can’t cycle, but that doesn’t mean all drivers are incompetent or are the collective enemy of all cyclists. That way lies needless hostility!

  27. humanscience said,

    February 8, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I, too, had always assumed/hoped that insurance companies had the kind of reams of accurate data, fancy computer modelling, PhDs in econometrics, etc., where they could plug my age, postcode and occupation into a computer and immediately tell me how likely I was to get hit by some space debris that day.

    Now it turns out they’re amateur muppets who can’t conduct a simple survey without accounting for response bias and seasonal effects? Devastating. Seriously. One of the most disappointing parts of becoming a grown-up, I’ve found, is discovering that all the experts I naively assumed ran most fields of industry and government don’t actually appear to exist.


  28. Toenex said,

    February 8, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Most of my cycle to work is spent off road which certainly cuts down on traffic based risk. I have a tendency to bounce around a bit but I’m rarely injured (although a helmet is a must off road, if only for low hanging branches!) and I end up at work with a big grin on my face. It makes me laugh when people say they wished they could do the same but they I live in a big city. I live and work in Manchester, studied in Sheffield and grew up in London and have never found off-road cycling difficult to do. You just have to stop thinking like a car driver when you plan your route.

    Sorry, totalling off topic but I reckon (no data, just hope) the NHS bill could be slashed if we all got on our bikes.

    On another point anybody else see the NICE recommendations on backpain imaging [[BBC Backpain article |http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7872062.stm]]. Looks like they are recommending acupuncture.

    My favoured bio-fuel is shreddies.

  29. mikestanton said,

    February 8, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    It beats me how any cyclist can be involved in a road accident when they all ride on the pavement. Or do the accident figures include pedestrians run down by demon bikers?

  30. Robin Johnson said,

    February 8, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Mike Stanton, about 100 pedestrians are killed by people driving cars on pavements per year, compared to slightly less than 1 per year by cyclists.

  31. peterd102 said,

    February 8, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Can Cyclists ever indicate they are turning without losing control of the brakes?

    Personally im not going to trust a transport that falls over if you leave it alone.

    Actually im only saying this because im bitter about not being able to ride one, look at you all, mocking my lack of balance and general tried to ride one, damn you!

    There would probably be less serious injuries if everyone were cyclists, but id say that both cyclists and motorists suffer because of the idiots that use them, causing the majority to branch away from each other.

    On the other hand are there and drink-ride laws for cyclists?

    It would be interesting to see some proper statistics on these rather than the bogus ones here, especially with a loosely stated connection between the accidents and the recession.

  32. peterd102 said,

    February 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    oops that should say ‘ general fear of injury when i tried….’ I had 20 accidents in 10 minutes when i first tried to ride, that must have skewed the figures somewhat.

  33. Jeesh42 said,

    February 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    What beats me is how the YouGov poll managed to be so far out on so many counts. I guess this is perhaps the result of many compounding errors:

    – Online versus F2F methodology (I guess with a slight upward bias for online, these people being more likely to cycle?);
    -Higher sample size (although even with 2,193, you wouldn’t get confidence intervals that explain the massive 43% to 19% difference…); and most importantly
    – Different questions. YouGov are fortunately transparent about these things on their website, but this doesn’t seem to let me see the data yet. I’m guessing they asked something far more general like “Do you know how to cycle?”, or a variant of that. Then 43% doesn’t seem so outlandish.

  34. Delster said,

    February 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    What gets me most about all the protests from cyclists about how dangerous car drivers are is the large helping of hypocrosy that comes with it.

    Let me say that I drive cars and used to ride motorcycles and have also cycled a fair bit before anybody protests i don’t know what i’m talking about.

    Sit in a car at a red light in most cities and you can watch the cyclists quite happily going straight though it. I’ve seen, on several occasions, a cyclist hit a car or pedestrian when doing so. They all then rather vermently blamed the car or pedestrian for getting in their way. I’ve even been hit myself when on a pedestrian crossing. The cyclist came out worst but i was still cut and bruised and he tried to blame me for breaking his bike.

    I commuted by car through the centre of dublin everyday for two years and can say that the MAJORITY of cyclists did this there. In london it seems to be less prevalent, possibly as it’s a bit more suicidal here so leading to darwinian pressures on the surviving ones.

    Yes i agree car drivers are not perfect but the cyclists should certainly carry their share of the blame.

  35. Delster said,

    February 8, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Regarding the stats quoted from the survey, it’d be handy to see the actual survey used to determine exactly what was asked.

    I think that without that interpreting the numbers is problematic.

  36. kerledan said,

    February 8, 2009 at 5:19 pm


    You’re right, some cyclists are hopeless, and do go through red lights and so on.

    But even these hopeless cyclists, do they deserve what they get from people in control of powered vehicles?

    Cyclists are very vulnerable, they can pretty easily be killed or severely injured. People driving powered vehicles can do untold damage.

    So even the bad cyclists don’t deserve to be run over.

    Cyclists need to be very careful, yes, but drivers of powered vehicles need to be very careful indeed. Roll on a change to the German system where the drivers need to show the cyclist or pedestrian (which could be a little kiddie) was at fault….think how many lives would be saved and how many fewer injuries there would be…

  37. ambrosen said,

    February 8, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    evidencebasedeating: I’m pretty sure it’s you who’s wrong on all points here: Let’s Fisk it.

    a) that bikes do about half the speed of cars (tops) in routine traffic

    That’ll be why nearly every day on my commute someone starts pulling in well before they’re finished passing me. I guess they are going about twice my speed on the flat, though.

    b) we have hand brakes not air brakes so can’t stop on a sixpence – especially in rain (so will hit you)

    I you can’t stop your bike at maximum efficiency (i.e. the back wheel’s at the point of lifting up) in wet or dry weather, then your bike or your riding skills aren’t good enough. It doesn’t need fancy brakes, and it doesn’t need much practice. Added to that, there’s a good few 10ths of a second advantage cyclists have over car drivers in that hands react much more quickly than feet.

    c)that we’re not mindreaders – we can’t predict your sudden desire to swing left without even indicating (so we will T-bone your door panel)

    Actually, infuriating, dangerous and unpleasant though this behaviour is, it’s rarely unpredictable. Easily prevented by riding further out from the curb, too.

    d)that we can sail across an empty ‘keep clear’ box in stationary traffic and indeed, have the right to do so without being knocked off by some anxious idiot determined to get their front wheels out from a side road into the line of traffic….

    I’d call that a distinctly “proceed with caution” situation rather than a “sail across” one. I’m not sure who’s the anxious idiot here.

    Comments like these are as full of unsubstantiated chips on shoulders as the LV’s survey. What happens is that some instution which makes money out of cars being driven (cars being driven badly, in this case) puts out one of these press releases blaming cyclists for cycling badly, and then some cyclist responds saying they have the right to cycle badly, because, err, quite a lot of people drive badly. So everyone’s prejudices are neatly confirmed, and the truth – that everyone (myself included) could stand to cycle and drive better – gets lost.

    Which is fine, because everyone feels vindicated, and no one has to re-evaluate their prejudices, and, oh, people keep on getting killed violently, or by obesity.

  38. kerledan said,

    February 8, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    ambrosen said:

    “…and then some cyclist responds saying they have the right to cycle badly, because, err, quite a lot of people drive badly.”

    Just to clarify, in case it’s needed, that I don’t think cyclists have the right to cycle badly.

    But vehicle drivers are in charge of machines that can take lives and cause terrible injury.

  39. mirelle said,

    February 9, 2009 at 4:16 am

    At the moment people think of as out of this critical situation but they still need your insurance, whether life or medical, as many still need their medicines as tramadol, vicodin, etc. .. and now the same location by the medicines are expensive, and second findrxonline.com for this reason people are in crisis especially emotional.

  40. brainduck said,

    February 9, 2009 at 4:54 am

    Join the CTC, they rock.

    V helpful when last year Cross Country trains decided to chuck me off a train I had a bike space booked on, because some prats had put their suitcases in the bike spaces instead of luggage racks.

    Also behind the useful www.fillthathole.org.uk/ website, to get annoying potholes fixed. Always a good source of which cafes will happily feed good tea & cake to smelly cyclists, & generally all sorts of useful stuff.

    No, I don’t own any tweed, and nor do I have steel mudguards.

  41. NorthernBoy said,

    February 9, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Ambrosen, Cyclists to are in charge of machines that can kill.

    I ride, motorbike, and drive, and am still frequently appalled at the dangerous and impolite moves pulled by some cyclists. Very frequently in London, when I am going through a green light, I have to take avoiding action for a cyclist who decided to ride pretty hard through a red light after not looking out for motorbikes.

  42. rogerhyam said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I cycle and am frequently scared by other crazy cyclists. I note they are usually between 18-25 and think they are immortal. This is the age group we normally send into front line combat. They probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars either. I think there is good statistical evidence for this as reflected in insurance premiums.

  43. RocketEddy said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I was particularly amused by the “one in 20 (six per cent)” part of their press release. Also by the inevitable “cyclists vs drivers” comment war which takes place on any post even remotely linked to accidents involving cycles and cars.

  44. pseudomonas said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:53 am

    RocketEddy: Yes, the comment-war thing annoys me too. Neither cyclists nor drivers are homogenously good or bad road-users.

    That said, as a cyclist I enjoyed hearing from a friend: Motorists are homicidal, pedestrians are suicidal; cyclists are both.

  45. bagpuss said,

    February 9, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I think it’s fair to say that the actuarial departments of insurance companies do indeed have a great deal of useful data, as well as a good number of actuaries who understand what to do with that data.

    Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the same companies’ marketing and PR teams. For my sins, I once worked in the marketing team of an insurance company (as the resident data geek and marketer/actuary translator) and I can say from experience that marketers and actuaries do not mix well. Marketers will not, by choice, have anything to do with actuaries (and, I’m sure, the opposite is probably true!). I think it’s highly unlikely that any actuaries were consulted in the putting together of the data contained in LV’s press release. I’m afraid we probably have to blame the marketers and PR people. And they clearly don’t have an even half-competent resident data geek. I’d offer my services, if only I hadn’t sworn never to work in insurance again.

  46. Symball said,

    February 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    One thing to note- I very much doubt that LG use the same people to do their risk calculations as do their PR puff pieces. they wouldn’t be in business for long if they did!

  47. Symball said,

    February 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    curses- I should have looked more carefully- wot bagpuss said

  48. The Biologista said,

    February 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Seems roughly analogous to the science of certain laboratories and the PR-equations attributed to them in the press for the purposes of putting them on the map. Whose map is anyone’s guess… I guess it would make sense if one had a book to sell.

  49. Skizz said,

    February 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I ride a bike every day. I wear a helmet too. I’m still shit scared when riding near cars, especially if there’s any chance they can knock me off.

    But there is an interesting point: ex-car drivers that now cycle are finally realising, through ‘accidents’, just how badly cyclist are treated by many drivers. Conversely, it becomes apparent just how skilled cyclists need to be to avoid collisions and that we’re not all reckless as many drivers assume.


  50. Actuary said,

    February 9, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    As a UK qualified actuary, I’m horrified.

    I feel for those actuaries at LV who probably feel somewhat tainted.

  51. pseudomonas said,

    February 9, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Skizz: I suspect that drivers need to be skilled as well to avoid collisions. Thing is, a minor everyday bump that between two cars would be a little scratch on someone’s bodywork, maybe re-aligning a wing-mirror, can be rather more unpleasant between a car and a bike.

  52. NorthernBoy said,

    February 9, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    On the subject of there being a war between cyclists and motorists, it does sometimes seem that way. TFL has recently started a trial to see the effect of allowing motorcyclists to use their bus lanes, alongside cyclists, buses and taxis. This is following a pilot trial that strongly suggested that deaths and serious injuries would be reduced in ALL groups concerned (tht is, in each group individually, not only overall).

    Despite this being a trial, to more fully assess the effects, and despite earlier evidence being that it will make life safer for cyclists, there has been an organised campaign by cycling groups to protest the move. I can’t really see what can have motivated this other than antipathy towards people with private motorised transport.

    Motorbike groups have responded by asking bikers to follow a voluntary code of conduct that will stop cyclists feeling harassed, endangered, or inconvenienced by the change.

  53. Robert Carnegie said,

    February 9, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    My guess where this came from: someone in the office said “I bet more people are riding bicycles now because of the credit crunch, I bet they’re not very good at it,” and the rest was made up to fit that. And presumably there’s something about insuring your bike for theft or for injury, although that may be only a matter of listing it on contents, for both.

    Be careful out there!

  54. carl parisien said,

    February 9, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    I agree Robert. This seems rather arcane. Robert Carl Parisien

  55. jsymes said,

    February 10, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Dr Goldacre concludes:…”and ignore everything you see in the media.” And as the wise Professor Sir Muir Gray might add: “…including here”.

  56. Psychedelia Smith said,

    February 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Has anyone got LV Insurance’s number? I just came off my bike this morning…

    ‘Tis a bad omen, I tell thee!

  57. leob said,

    February 10, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Can anyone find any more info on the poll/results? As a pollster, I could have some fun picking it apart…

  58. Pro-reason said,

    February 11, 2009 at 7:10 am


    “Drivers don’t kill anyone collectively, any more than cyclists collectively die.”

    That is utterly stupid and meaningless.

    “Cycle safely”

    We’ve already established that I cycle safely, shit-for-brains.

    “and obey the rules of the road, they are there for a reason.”

    They are there to stop cars killing people. They are then mindlessly applied (by motorists) to people not in vehicles. If it’s not appropriate for me to walk/cycle/skate in the road in a given situation, I’ll do it on the pavement. The fact that it’s virtually never appropriate for a car to do the same is not my problem.

  59. NorthernBoy said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Pro-reason, your infantile insults only emphasise the points others have made against cyclists like you. If you cycle as you say, then you are cycling selfishly and illegally. Although this does not remove your right to whine like a bitch, it does however mean that no-one is really going to listen to it when you do.

    People like you give cyclists a bad name, and give bad drivers an excuse not to care when they take one of you out, and to act in ways that make it more probable. Sadly, it is as likely to be a polite cyclist as one like you.

  60. Pro-reason said,

    February 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    NorthernBoy, the idea that a swearword weakens a point is such a tired argument. Are you going to use it against Ben, who says “ricockulous” in his mini-blog?

    I’ve stated that I cycle safely, with the only accident I’ve ever had being due to a motorist pulling out of a side road without looking. He had to pay compensation, by the way. Those are the facts, and if you contradict them without evidence, then you are insulting me for no reason, and can expect a response.

  61. NorthernBoy said,

    February 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Your response makes no sense at all. I did not say that swearing weakened your point, so why did you make that up?

    I said that the insults emphasise the points others have made about the attitude of many cyclists (i.e. that you come on the internet and act like arrogant cocks whose shit does not stink). I said nothing about how strong or weak your argument was.

    It is also funny that you believe that you stating something (i.e. that you are a safe cyclist) also “establishes” it. Assertion and proof are really not even similar concepts. Again, you seem to be getting a bit confused here.

    I am afraid that you are conforming to the internet-cyclist stereotype now, so I’ll leave you to your whining. Cheerio.

  62. kerledan said,

    February 11, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Crikey! A bit of a Daily Mail moment going on here.

    As I said before, let’s look forward to the day when the law is changed in the UK to be like in Germany or the Netherlands, where if you hit a cyclist or pedestrian when you’re in charge of a powered vehicle, the onus is on you to show it was their fault. I certainly don’t support bad cycling, and with this change in the law bad cyclists would be held much more to account as case law would build up laying down when a cyclist was behaving unreasonably (ie going through red lights).

    A simple change in the law would dramatically reduce the deaths and injury to cyclists.

  63. Pro-reason said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Howfar was being stupid, and I called him up on it. You attacked this as infantile, doubtless because I used a swearword. Now you’re backpedalling on this.

    You’re now talking nonsense about shit not stinking, when all I did was reject the baseless assertion that I don’t cycle safely.

    I’m the only person on here who knows me, so if I say that I’m a non-smoker, or a safe cyclist, or have green eyes, then that establishes it as a reasonable fact to go on, until such time as you have some particular reason to dispute it.

    The example of rule-breaking that I gave before involved the fact that it doesn’t matter which way you travel along a street designated as one-way if there is ample room for traffic both ways, and there is no one else there anyway. It’s less dangerous than riding down a normal road with cars on!

    Here’s another one: it’s pointless to stop all by yourself at a red light when it’s 2am and you could hear a pin drop.

    You basically have to be a motorist to think that any of these silly rules ought to rigidly apply to cyclists. As our society becomes more rational, and the number of people driving decreases, we will see your sort of opinions die out.


  64. Pro-reason said,

    February 11, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Kerledan, I don’t think that that change in the law would reduce deaths. I doubt that as motorists are mowing down us pedestrians and cyclists they are pondering the criteria the court will use to decide culpability.

  65. kerledan said,

    February 12, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Pro-reason, I think a change in the law would be a major plus. It would hold drivers to account for deaths and injuries to vulnerable people (cyclists and pedestrians).

    An old article in the Daily Mirror whinges about a European Union initiative to implement such a law across Europe and conforms to the usual piss-poor standard of public responsibility of what passes for journalism in large sectors of the British media. This article actually shows just why this law would be excellent (while spitting bile about it). But this law was never introduced into the UK, of course. It would save lives and reduce suffering from injuries.


    The facts remain: if you are in control of a powered vehicle you can kill or seriously injure cyclists or pedestrians. If you hit a pedestrian or cyclist, then, you should be held accountable. A defence would be that the cyclist or pedestrian was at fault. But, like at sea where a vessel under steam has to account for running down a sailing boat, so on the roads.

    One thing I see a lot is people driving too fast down a narrow street with parked cars on either side. 20 mph should be the rule in cities, this way if a child steps out from behind a parked car, the driver has a chance of braking in time or if he or she hits the child the child may well survive. When we have a change in the law in the UK, in this scenario, there could be no defence if the driver was driving at 40 or 45 mph (or indeed 30 mph) following a death or injury. And rightly so!

    Go to Berlin and watch the vehicles proceeding sooo decorously and slooowly.

  66. Pro-reason said,

    February 12, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Ah, Tony Parsons. I’d happily forgotten about him, here in Oz. Amazing he hasn’t been committed to some sort of institution yet.

  67. kerledan said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Yes, Pro-reason, in this piece Tony Parsons is being provocative rather than really trying to actually discuss reasonably, IMO, I mean, he wants to be ‘edgy’ as the fashionable term has it.

    But it’s not very good really, is it?

    We can however read it as a piece which actually shows the value of the proposal, rather than as an ‘argument’ against. Why is this bloke laying into a perfectly sensible proposal, we wonder?

    I remember young Tone when he and Julie Birchall were writing ‘edgy’ stuff for the New Musical Express.

    Plus ca change….

  68. Delster said,

    February 13, 2009 at 10:31 am

    @ Pro-reason

    To quote you “Here’s another one: it’s pointless to stop all by yourself at a red light when it’s 2am and you could hear a pin drop.”

    I was sat waiting for a light to go green…at 2:30am…when a car went sailing straight through the red light that was showing on their direction….and ploughed straight into a car coming through the light that was currently green.

    I ended up calling the police & ambulance and keeping the guy who’d been hit alive till they got there.

    There is a reason for these rules which is why you should follow them.

    Just because it’s 2am it doesn’t mean it’s safe to go through the red light….it just means it’s a lower risk than in rush hour.

    Quite frankly if somebody is dumb enough to do something like this and get’s killed then it’s just Darwin in action as far as i’m concerned.

    PS…you might want to look up what an assertion is as opposed to a fact

  69. Pro-reason said,

    February 14, 2009 at 3:05 am


    “I was sat waiting for a light to go green…at 2:30am…when a car went sailing straight through the red light that was showing on their direction….and ploughed straight into a car coming through the light that was currently green.”

    There’s no talking to you if you just conveniently ignore the important parts of what I say and focus on a part you feel you can twist.

    The time only served to emphasise just how quiet it was. If there are no vehicles in the vicinity, there is no danger. You can’t do anything about that fact.

    Assertions and facts are not mutually exclusive.

  70. kerledan said,

    February 14, 2009 at 8:28 am

    @Delster, I agree with you, the rules are there for a reason and I think all roads users need to keep to them.

    @Pro-reason, I think you’re obviously a cyclist like me and have an antipathy to some drivers because of their behaviour and the danger they pose. Me too. But I don’t agree with you about not observing red lights in certain circumstances.

    I also don’t actually think that Delster was twisting your words, it seemed to me that you were stating clearly that there are circumstances in which you think it would be ok to go through a red light: I don’t agree. Delster gives a clear example of one reason why it’s a bad idea to do this.

    Delster was a bit ascerbic of course with his or her apposite reference to the Darwin awards (apposite in that it was the anniversary of Darwin’s birth this week). But he has a point, I think.

  71. Pro-reason said,

    February 14, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    The idea that risk increases when you break a rule is simply magical thinking, and you are not going to be able to get me to indulge in it. It rather reminds me of the notion that succussion imparts qualities to homœopathic water that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

    I can just imagine you all, sitting for fifteen minutes at a malfunctioning traffic light, given that there are apparently no circumstances in which you think it would be OK to go through a red light.

    You choose obedience, and I choose sanity.

    Would riding on the pavement be another cardinal sin in your book? The knowledge that I spent 20 hours this week doing so perfectly safely and also *legally* will surely send your head spinning with cognitive dissonance. I’ll make a mental note to do it for a few minutes illegally to. By your standards, those minutes will be more foolhardy and Darwin-tempting than the 20 hours.

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