Friday, April 16, 2010

Statistical nonsense about bikes

Opponents of bicycle lanes in Toronto have repeatedly argued that nobody uses them. The statistics on cycling contradict this, but even if true, their claims would have no relevance.

Motorists appear to grossly underestimate the number of cyclists on the roads. Bob Hepburn wrote that
I saw only 15 bicyclists during the entire commute, even though all these roads have bike lanes and the weather was perfect for riding.
This seems to imply that if a driver, presumably focused on driving rather than counting took note of only fifteen cyclists, only fifteen used the roads that day. In fact, according to Statistics Canada figures, helpfully mapped in the Toronto Star's web graphics,between 5 and 10% of all commuter's in Toronto's downtown core ride bicycles. According to a study done by Ipsos-Reid for the City of Toronto, over a third of the downtown residents use bicycles for commuting, shopping, or visiting at least some of the time. So all the complaints about catering to a tiny minority fail on the facts; cyclists do not constitute a tiny minority, and we actually get less than our share of road space.

But the numbers don't really matter. Our motorized culture promotes an inactive lifestyle which causes many life-shortening, debilitating, and painful illnesses. Public policy has no more business pressuring people into a motor vehicle centred lifestyle than the government would have pressuring people to smoke cigarettes.

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