The most risible rant against cyclists so far

American political satirist and author P. J. O...
He don't know what he's talking about. (Image via Wikipedia)

It’s just  amazing how much nonsense about cycling and cyclists is being written by  rather well-educated people at the moment. It started with John Cassidy in the New Yorker, followed by Celia Walden in the “Daily Telegraph” and now P.J. O’ Rourke in the “Wall Street Journal”.

I’ve just added a new category to the blog which deals with this kind of  for this kind of rubbish.

The piece by P.J. is the most ridiculous one so far. I’m still wondering if it was intended to be an April Fool’s Day hoax and someone at the Journal just bungled his job and forget to publish it on time. J.P. writes:

The bicycle is a parody of a wheeled vehicle—a donkey cart without the cart, where you do the work of the donkey. Although the technology necessary to build a bicycle has been around since ancient Egypt, bikes didn’t appear until the 19th century. The reason it took mankind 5,000 years to get the idea for the bicycle is that it was a bad idea. The bicycle is the only method of conveyance worse than feet. You can walk up three flights of stairs carrying one end of a sofa. Try that on a bicycle.

That’s such an utter nonsense that I always have to grin when I’m re-reading it. Try to walk up three flights of stairs carrying a sofa in a car. Or in an airplane.

Another fantastic passage is this:

Bike lane advocates also claim that bicycles are environmentally friendly, producing less pollution and fewer carbon emissions than automobiles. But bicycle riders do a lot of huffing and puffing, exhaling large amounts of CO2.

If the means what he says, I really commiserate with him.

Continue reading “The most risible rant against cyclists so far”

A reply to Celia Walden: You owe Tom Barrett a profound apology

I’ve never heard of Celia Walden* before, but my Google Alert on “cyclist” and “killed” has just drawn my attention to her. She’s the author of just another rant against cyclists which has been published in the “Daily Telegraph”.

Celia is describing a close call with a female cyclist who

swerved into the middle of my lane without signalling. There was no helmet, of course, and no high-visibility gear – which would have marred the whole sunny tableau. The worst accident she could think of was that her skirt might flutter up to reveal a charming pair of white cotton knickers.

In the next paragraph Celia confesses:

basically I loathe all London cyclists. (…) these people live in a fantasy world. (…) Traffic signals don’t apply to London cyclists, up there as they are on the moral high ground with their officially endorsed sense of righteousness. Sociologically, polls have shown that they tend to be a preening, upper-middle class bunch.

The most shocking sentence comes in the third paragraph:

At least she, after a near-death experience with a London bus or the onset of a little light drizzle, will permanently withdraw from the roads.

Apparantly, this Celia Walden thinks that near-death experiences for cyclists are a good thing which teach them a lesson. I wonder what she would tell the father of Jayne Helliwell, 25, who had a more-than-near-death experience with a bus last year (the bus driver was charged with dangerous driving after the crash).

Reading Celias article in a week where another London cyclist has been killed by a lorry is not just unsettling. It’s utterly disgusting. Until today, according to my statistics at least seven cyclists have been killed on London roads in 2011.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from a Telegraph journalist but some research before writing an article might be a nice idea. Well, I’m here to help:

Celia, do you seriously think that Barrett (he commanded a squadron in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded an Order of the British Empire), Mason ( he was “notable for his iron chin, stout heart and thunderous punching power”, according to the Telegraph) and Hawkes ( “one of Britain’s leading child protection experts”, listen to him on Radio 4 ) “have lived in a “fantasy world”?

Do you think they deseve to be loathed?

Do I deserve to be loathed?

One thing is for sure: Tom, Gary and Colin have permanently been withdrawn from the roads, if I may use your words.

Celia, I’m really shocked by your degree of callousness. I don’t understand how the editors of the “Daily Telegraph” dare to print such highly cynical stuff.

In the name of Tom Barrett, Gary Mason and Colin Hawkes (as well as all those other cyclists who have been innocently killed and injured by dodgy drivers in London) I expect a profound apology. Otherwise I would conclude that you just think they just got what they deserved.

* That’s why I’ve misspelled her first name as “Celina” in an earlier version of this article.

My spreadsheet with detailed information on fatal cycling accidents in London since 2006:

My map showing the locations for fatal cycling accidents in London since 2006:

The Economics of Bike Lanes – How can John Cassidy get it so wrong?

As an economic journalist, I absolutely admire John Cassidy. He is one of the best economic writers I’m aware of. Few people can explain utterly complex issues as simply and entertainingly as John does. I wholeheartedly recommend his books on the internet bubble (“Dot Con – the greatest story ever sold”) and the financial crisis (“How markets fail : the logic of economic calamities”). I’ve cited his brilliant interview with Eugene Fama several times.

However, as an avid cyclist (from John’s perspective: as a sansculotte of the bicycle lobby), I’m deeply disappointed in him. He recently published a rant against bike lanes in his home town New York City on his blog “Rational Irrationality”. His central argument is that bike lanes come at the expense of free parking. (Many thanks to Andreas aka London Cyclist for drawing my attention to John’s post.)

What really annoys my inner economist is that John is using improper economic arguments. He writes:

from an economic perspective I question whether the blanketing of the city with bike lanes (…) meets an objective cost-benefit criterion. Beyond a certain point, given the limited number of bicyclists in the city, the benefits of extra bike lanes must run into diminishing returns, and the costs to motorists (and pedestrians) of implementing the policies must increase. Have we reached that point? I would say so.

I find it absolutely incredible how such a smart economist  can get it so woefully wrong. For a number of reasons his economic arguments are deeply flawed.

Continue reading “The Economics of Bike Lanes – How can John Cassidy get it so wrong?”