In defence of Boris bikes – a reply to David Hembrow

I’ve  just stumbled upon an interesting blog post by David Hembrow on the Boris Bike scheme in London. He’s rather critical with regard to the PR by Transport for London:

They’re continuing with the same style of writing that they established a while back. This can be summed up as trying to baffle the reader by quoting what sounds like huge numbers.

Oliver O'Brien's ingenious visualization of the Bloris bike scheme

TfL recently announced that 2.5 million journey’s have been made since the launch of the scheme in August 2010. David writes:

The numbers sound great, but actually if you look closely at them you quickly see that this is not actually very impressive at all. London has a population of 8 M people. Between them, they make around 20 million journeys per day. If these journeys had all been made on just one day (requiring each bike to be used an impossible 416 times), then even that would make up only 12% of total journeys in the city. However, actually it took half a year, 182 days, for this many journeys to be made. The total usage equates to only around 0.07% of the total journeys in the city. On average, Londoners are using these bikes not once per day, not once per week or once per month, but about once every 18 months.

David has a point, of course. There is a lot of sales patter in the communication of TfL and, no doubt,  they are trying to  baffle people with big numbers.

However, I think his calculations are partly misleading because he is comparing apples to oranges.

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