False Equivalence and Our Roads

8. October 2018 19:23 by olops in Cycling  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

I am fed up of coming across examples of false equivalence on social media, so eventually I wrote this ...

Consider the relative danger a cyclist poses to other road users compared to the driver of a car. 

A driver is sitting in 2000kgs of car, A heavy bike is 15kgs and you can add 80kgs of human to that if you are me;) 95kgs. Let's round it up to 100kgs. On this basis you might argue that a driver provides 20x more danger to other road users than a bike. Of course the difference is much greater than this as the car can travel much faster than the bike.

Consider the fairly extreme, but not uncommon, case of a car overtaking a cyclist at 50mph on a road where the cyclist is travelling at 15mph. Where are we up to on the relative danger caused by each individual now? 50x more danger? More? Well, let's try and work it out based on their kinetic energy: 

Driver: 0.5 * 2000 * 50*50 = 2,500,000

Cyclist: 0.5 * 90 * 15 *15 = 10,125

Noting that I'm not worrying too much here about using the correct units (feel free to convert yourselves) to ascertain exactly the correct energy value in joules as I am only interested in relative figures here.

Divide one by the other and you get the relative kinetic energies one to the other and I'll initially posit that this equates to the of relative danger the driver of the car poses to other road users in this scenario: 246.91.

So the driver of the car provides approximately 250 more danger than the cyclist. Aside: see that speed being squared as part of the equation. This is why sticking to speed limits and the roll out of 20 limits to all urban areas is so important.

But we've not finished. There is another angle - the driver is in a metal box while the cyclist is almost completely exposed. How does this affect the relative danger posed by each. Well, just from a common sense point of view take this example - a driver in a car hits a cyclist on a bike head on at the aforementioned speeds? You multiple that relative danger by multiple factors of 10?

Next, think about a 10tonne lorry …

Finally, think about the relative danger a cyclist and a driver cause towards a pedestrian crossing the road. We can approximate the pedestrian's kinetic energy 0.5 * 75  * 5 * 5= 938 given the relative dangers of each:

Pedestrian 1

Cyclist 11

Driver 2665


Hmm ...


Equating the danger to other road users caused by cyclists to that caused by drivers is false equivalence. It is wrong. It is dangerous. It is ignorant. Don't do it.


We need to focus road safety improvements on those that cause the most danger. These are the bad drivers. There is no point wasting resources on cyclists who cause minimal danger to other road users.


A Too many drivers run red lights.

B But I see lots of cyclists running red lights.

This is false equivalence. B is ignorant. Don't be like B.


A Too many drivers pass cyclists dangerously, not giving them enough room. 

B But what about the cyclists who go on the pavement, eh?

This is false equivalence and whataboutery. B is ignorant. Don't be like B.



Further Reading 



Giant Escape 3 Hybrid (Update)

12. December 2017 12:16 by Chris in Cycling  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

This is a brief update to my initial 'review' of my Escape 3 hybrid, the base model in Escape series of bikes from Giant. I'm now approaching 2 years of ownership involving use 3 or 4 times per week on average, for smaller, utility rides, and I could hardly be happier with the bike. There've been very few punctures - one at most, from memory though I get bikes mixed up so it could easily be none, and this compares very well with the previous Saracen (which, incidentally, I had properly serviced at my local bike shop and have handed on to my daughter for use). The Giant could now probably do with a fuller service but seems happy enough with my own very limited maintenance thus far. I've replaced the brake blocks once over the period. They are due another change. 

As mentioned in my initial review the bike does cycle pretty heavy and I wouldn't put it in the 'sports' category of hybrid bike. This is not a big issue with the poor condition of Cardiff roads and I might even consider the additional weight of suspension forks for my next hybrid. Though the Giant has plenty of life left in it, I do like new toys.

I haven't explained my bike purchasing policy. I tend to buy last year's model or demo bikes to save a bit of money. I don't like to spend much more than £300 on bike, preferably less, mainly due to the level of activity of bike thieves in Cardiff. I picked up a 29" MTB with suspension and hydraulic discs for not much more than £200, so it can be done. Though that was pretty lucky, admittedly. That MTB has only been ridden once so far, by the way, so I really shouldn't be buying any more bikes! I wanted to give disc brakes a go and see if they were worth it but I'm not actually using the bike enough yet. Partly as it looks more like a £450 bike so I am reluctant to leave it anywhere! See my earlier point.

Still no close fitting mudguards by the way - my only real annoyance that the recommended mudguards didn't fit remains!

In summary, if another, higher spec'd Giant comes up at 40% off it would be rude not to.

Giant Escape 3 Hybrid

7. February 2016 19:28 by Chris in Cycling  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I bought a Giant Escape 3 hybrid as a late birthday present for myself late last year. It was the 2015 model at a decent discount in the Tredz sales, having had good service from Tredz in the past when I bought a Saracen Esc hybrid a couple of years ago. I bought the Giant with a view to replacing the Saracen mid term and as a back up bike in the interim but as it happens, the Saracen chainset developed an issue which had pressed the Giant into full time action earlier than expected. I say 'full time' but as I work from home it really is a couple of miles with my boy to school and on to the gym and back in the morning, as well as the collect school run/ cycle in the afternoon.

First impressions of the Giant included that it was a little heavier than expected, certainly heavier than the Saracen, but perhaps unsurprisingly a little more solid accordingly. Surprisingly therefore I find the Giant a little more 'twitchy' than the Saracen - a little more difficult to manouevre. The Saracen was/ is a lovely ride but has needed a fair bit of maintenance, despite relatively light, though daily use. I hope the Giant will be better in this regard, though the chainset has already developed an intermittent clicking which isnl't the best of signs. Question for Tredz on this - can I take the bike into my local Cardiff store for a 3 month service/ to look at these issues.

One annoyance was a related mudguard purchase. I've had problems with ill-fitting mudguards before and a generic set I had hanging around didn't fit so I popped straight on the Tredz website to order  a mudguard set from Giant that was supposedly specificaly designed to fit my new bike, i.e. http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-gb/gear/product/giant.speedshield.700.tour/592/44544/ from Tredz at http://www.tredz.co.uk/.Giant-Speedshield-700-Tour-Mudguards_50158.htm (Giant Speedshield 700 Tour mudguards). 'Fitting is simple and quick so you can get out riding straight away.' No, these mudguards do not fit the Giant Escape 3 2015! Also annoyingly you have to pay the postage if you want to return them to Tredz.

Are cyclists invisible to drivers?

2. June 2014 10:47 by Chris in Cycling, ForTheRecod  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I cycle a lot, though not great distances: I cycle the kids to school, I cycle to the gym, I cycle to Welsh classes. I used to cycle to work before I worked from home. In the summer I prefer to get out on a Sunday morning in the fresh air while it is quiet and go out on a bike for a couple of hours rather than being stuck in a dark gym to get my exercise . 

I have a car. I'm not entirely sure why we are a two car family - historical I think when I did need to travel with work a bit more and once you are used to two cars ... I have a problem with the car, particularly in the summer, as I can end up not needing/ wanting to drive for weeks on end and I've had to call the AA equivalent twice now because the battery was dead when I did actually need to use it. My car is not the most financially efficient proposition. Particularly when compared to my bikes.

But maybe I should be using my car more in Cardiff because I'm getting a bit fed up now with car drivers ploughing into me. Maybe I've been lucky previously but after a 2nd incident this morning that makes 2 in a month or so. In both cases the driver has admitted responsibility 100%. Though maybe I should start cycling more 'defensively'. I should also count my lucky stars as I was hardly injured and it was only this morning I heard the news of another cyclist death in London.

In the first accident a mini hit me square from behind at I was waiting at a junction going onto Column Road from Cardiff University buildings where I have my Welsh course 7-9 , 2 evenings a week. It was dusk, I had lights and reflective clothing on. He didn't see me. The wheel took the full, minor impact - I was still standing wondering what had happened immediately after - the wheel had complete buckled. It was my wife's cheap Raleigh I was using that day as I don't like leaving more expensive bikes locked in public places if I can help it. So we 'negotiated' and he give me £40 as approximately the cost of getting a new wheel fitted. Though, I may just jettison the bike as it only cost about twice this new.

The second happened today, 02/06/14, at 9.30 as I came back from my gym in Leckwith at the junction of Cowbridge Road East and Llandaff Road in Canton. The annoying thing with this one is that I've previously reported this junction to the council as dangerous, having had a near misses before and observed near misses between cars as well. There are a few problems with this junction but the pertinent one is drivers turning right onto Cowbridge Road coming from the Llandaff direction seemingly either thinking they have priority over road users on Cowbridge Road turning right, to the Llandaff direction. Or often, I think, rushing to make the turn in the gap between the traffic as the lights have just changed, focussing on the cars and not seeing the bike in front of the cars also making that same turn. In fact in this instance I think the driver was focussing on the slow lorry behind me rather than me, and thought he had enough time before the lorry arrived. He may have done, but there was another vehicle in front of the lorry he didn't see, which I was riding.

I've had a near miss in exactly this way previously and this time couldn't avoid the car and was hit from the side. Fortunately the chap broke in time, hit my front wheel, I think, to the right hand side, based on the damage, and I tumbled to the left getting away with a bruised knee/ leg. The chap was fine about it, admitting he hadn't seem me at all, providing his details and offering to pay for any damage. I didn't think there was any initially but it seems the front wheel will need to be straightened, though I'll get away without needing a new wheel according to my local bike shop. Hopefully the chap will just pay so the hassle can be kept to a minimum.

What next, more generally?

  • I'm keen to get the incident reported to do my bit to raise awareness of issues such as this to improve the lot of cyclists in Cardiff. Perversely this comes days after I was admiring the new layouts for cyclists in Cardiff Bay that the council have provided. So I will pursue this.
  • I'm going to avoid that junction on my way home and/ or get the brightest, day-glo cycling jacket I can find so we can mitigate this seeming issue of cyclists being invisible

I may be back with an update.


My update is that the chap has paid for the wheel to be repaired but the local bike shop are taking an age to fix it so I am cycling slowly around on the wife's purple, sparkly mountain bike I picked up on Gumtree the other day for £15. On the plus side I've sold the remnants of the Raleigh on Gumtree for £30.

Also, more interestingly,  there is limited research that hi-vis vests don't work: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2013/jan/10/cycling-high-visibility-safe-fluorescent. This is counter-intuitive? Really, particularly for my 2nd accident above? Ta to @coshgirl for the link, care of @cyclingcardiff.



About the author

I am Dr Christopher Sully (MCPD, MCSD) and I am a Cardiff, UK based IT Consultant/ Developer and have been involved in the industry since 1996 though I started programming considerably earlier than that. During the intervening period I've worked mainly on web application projects utilising Microsoft products and technologies: principally ASP.NET and SQL Server and working on all phases of the project lifecycle. If you might like to utilise some of the aforementioned experience I would strongly recommend that you contact me. I am also trying to improve my Welsh so am likely to blog about this as well as IT matters.

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