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Infoschmucks: Anti-Cycling Infographic Disguised as Pro-Cycling

by Ted Johnson

There’s a new infographic making the rounds. If you follow bike-related blogs, Facebookers, or Twitterers you might have seen it. And it purports to provide “Depressing Statistics of Bicycle Accidents” on cycling in Great Britain.

The only thing depressing to me is how many bloggers, Facebookers, and Twitterers uncritically regurgitated this — as they always do when a new pretty infographic is going around.

Before I show you the infographic, here’s my own graphic representing the relative real estate devoted to the topics of cycling danger, benefits, and safety. (That’s right, I can play this game too.)

Danger, Safety, Good Proportions

Click to see the percentage breakdown.

You think maybe the makers of this infographic have an agenda?

Hell yes.

Here’s the graphic. I’ve color coded it to show the areas represented in my pie chart.

Link Bait Infographic

The agenda? It’s click bait.

The purveyors of infographics are hoping to create viral Internet click bait to (a) bring credulous clickers to a specific URL, and (b) improve their search engine rankings.

When they offer up their infographics to bloggers, they even provide the pre-loaded HTML code to make sure the bloggers only need to copy and paste. For God’s sake, don’t think, it’s a pretty graphic! Copy. Paste. Post.

Bike Bloggers: Just Say No!

(And, Bike Bloggers, if it’s too late for you to say no, my goal here is to make you regret having taken the bait.)

In this case, the purveyors are personal injury lawyers — ambulance chasers, to use the pejorative term. Are we really so desperate for content that we’ll let these schmucks create it for us?

First of all, most of it isn’t even statistical. It’s mostly based on one absolute number: “17,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents each year.”

And then, in a much smaller font size, it breaks down that 17,000 by deaths (111), seriously injured (2660), injured (14,414).

And my first question is, 17,000 out of what bigger number? All deaths and injuries in Great Britain? How does that compare to auto accidents? How does that compare to people slipping on a bar of soap in the shower?

This is the equivalent of finding one bruise on one apple in a basket — and then publishing the results of that biopsy — with it’s gory details on Escherichia coli. But, of course, with a footnote that says, “Apples are good for you.”

And this infographic does devote 20 percent of its space to the benefits and efficiencies of cycling, including (in a teeny tiny font size, in a nearly illegible font), the oft-repeated statistic “the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by about 20:1.” But enough about that, let’s get back to the risks.

It’s like thin slice of cheese in between two thick pieces festering bio-hazardous bread. Enjoy your sandwich. It’s healthy!

About 21 percent of the real estate is devoted to safety — which, in the context of cycling, is usually a backdoor way of saying that cycling is dangerous. There’s a section on taking the lane, where it accurately says, “Cycling away from the curb will encourage following vehicles to be more considerate when overtaking.

But the graphic? It’s a cyclist surrounded by semi trucks.

Dead if you do. Dead if you don’t.

And down there, again in the semi-illegible font, there’s a mention of the British organisation (do you like how I spelled that with an “s?”), The National Cycling Charity (CTC). And the CTC is from where the Infoschmucks likely poached the statistics they quote and distort in the infographic.

Ironically, CTC has it’s own Cyclist Legal Representation Scheme available to all individual members — and it’s to them who I will give this Web site’s link love.

 
Burley nomad 229

8 Responses to “Infoschmucks: Anti-Cycling Infographic Disguised as Pro-Cycling”

  1. Pads says:

    “How many died slipping on a bar of soap?”

    I don’t know but

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jan/14/mortality-statistics-causes-death-england-wales-2009#

    Falling down the stairs 644
    Accidental poisoning 1,537

    Cyclists don’t even get a mention.

  2. Mo says:

    Pointing out the dangers of cycling is not necessary anti-cycling. I believe that cycling is relatively dangerous, but that doesn’t stop me from riding daily.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      I agree with you, Mo.

      Pointing out bruises in apples isn’t necessarily anti-apple either. But imagine a display in your local grocery store that devoted 80% of its space to deaths and illnesses from e. coli in apple bruises, the choking hazards of apple cores, and the safety equipment one must use when attempting to eat an apple. And at the bottom were some tear-off pamphlets for a law firm specializing in apple-related lawsuits. Would you think that the grocer is serious about encouraging people to consume apples?

      If the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by 20 to 1 (and that’s probably a low estimate), then a pro-cycling graphic should have closer to 5% of its space devoted to danger and safety. Right?

  3. mwmike says:

    Mo – You kinda missed the point. But that’s OK. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  4. The dataset cited by The Guardian shows 123 cyclist deaths or injuries in 2010, or 6.2% of all “Transport Accidents.” Pretty good for a country where everyone drives on the wrong side of the road :)

    Seriously though, considering that in the same year circulatory diseases took 158,084 lives, bicycling looks incredibly safe.

  5. Stan says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’d say calling it regurgitation is actually being too generous. It’s like passing an infected object with no thought at all.

    But whatever it is, it’s more FUD in a pretty wrapper, and you’ve done a succinct reveal. Keep fighting the good fight, and thanks again.

  6. Simon Ward says:

    Circulatory? But aren’t bicycle wheels circular? Quick, add those stats to the ones above. Sadly in a year where cycling has been so prominent some will invariably twist it to their own means.

  7. Graham says:

    Further to your point, Kwin, in the U.S. if you even mention the link between certain foods and circulatory diseases in a public forum you’re courting a lawsuit from some of the richest corporations in the world.

    Is it an accident that these lawyers are chasing cyclists instead of fat people? Probably not.

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