Monday, January 2, 2012

A Happy New year–cause or effect?

Sunday, 1st January 2011: Happy New Year

Ely Fireworks November 2011

It seems to me that Humans are not too good at cause and effect. Or rather to play safe is safer, after all it is better to err on the side of caution and get it wrong as opposed to think something is OK and get killed by it.  It probably goes back to primitive man – cautious people lived longer. You don’t die if you run away from an imaginary threat, but you may die if you don’t run away from a real threat. So if that is true why do we seem to do the opposite as drivers.

In my view we are just not very good at assessing situations where there is a very small risk of something bad happening, but where if it did it would be disastrous. In fact it would interesting to assess what risk thresholds humans live with when it comes to making decisions such as drink-driving or mobile phone-driving. Of course people are different so some people are prepared to take more risk than others.

For instance, at this time of year there is generally a “crackdown” on drink-driving motorists. The aim of which is to discourage drivers who might otherwise consider it OK to drink and drive, yet drivers still do. It was reported that “More than 2,400 motorists stopped during drink drive crackdown” here in the Cambridgeshire area. But probably most of us would feel that this is just and actually we would just prefer not to have drunk drivers, we are not interested so much in the punishment except as a deterrent. According to the article 109 motorists were arrested for being over the limit.

Now that figure was for Cambridgeshire apparently there were over 171,000 drivers fined for using a phone behind the wheel in England and Wales (in the past year).  The article also suggests that over 7 million people have spoken on their mobiles in the past year. It would seem that the effect of the penalty is not causing a reduction in usage.  Or perhaps there is a threshold probability of being caught which might affect alter the behaviour of those transgressors.  In this case you could say that as the fine is £60 and three points, but the chance of being caught is 2.4% (per year) which is a one in 40 chance. So averaged out the “cost” is £1.50 and 0.075 points per year and although it of course doesn’t really work like that it isn’t much of a risk really.

Prickwillow Phone Box Art Gallery

Mind you there are some types of risk where the problem is not really the fine – but rather the accident – as in cars jumping red lights in this Daily Mail article – “Don’t jump red lights” featuring some American RLJ videos. More tragically it would appear this this driver “had too much faith in satnav”  in which a crash resulted in the death of a motorcyclist. The article suggests that the Judge said that the satnav was partly to blame although as satnavs are not purported to be overtaking aids I would have thought that the issue was perhaps more one of over-reliance on the satnav and the map of the road ahead.

CGB (Cambridgeshire Guided Busway) road/busway intersection

I wonder what this Professional Driver was relying on when he plunged down an embankment after a botched three-point turn.

This train of thought came about partly because of this Copenhagen Cycle Chic post- “I’m Mad”. Apparently traffic fines there for cyclists are going up by 50% – 100%. I have to ask whether the punishment fits the crime here. As the article notes more cyclists helps to reduce the number of motorists (the real cause of serious accidents). The danger is that in the world of Police statistics they can make more money and catch more transgressors by getting cyclists rather than the more difficult to catch but potentially more serious motorist transgressors. I wonder whether there has been much academic work on fines, prevention and the economic fairness.

A recent post Vole O’ Speed “Its not just me, SWOV also thinks ‘safety in numbers’ is untrue” also touched on the questions of cause and effect in relation to whether more cyclists cycling leads to safer cycling for all cyclists. This is a position that a few bodies had espoused, although I seem to recall reading in the CTC monthly magazine recently that their message has been nuanced with more cyclists leading to more investment in cycling which leads to better facilities and so leads to safer cycling.

The CGB Cycleway – Safer Cycling Smile

Even trying to compare the safety in different cities around the world can be difficult. in this blog – (Drawing) Rings Around the World, the author Jim Gleeson has written “Some estimated cycling casualty rates for London and other cities (a work in progress). In which he describes the difficulties in both finding and comparing the data. He has produced a chart comparing the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured for every 100 million kilometres cycled per year. For London in 2010 it is over 70, Berlin 2009 it is 30 and Amsterdam 2009 it is around 12.

At this time of year they also seem to announce the increases for rail fares, apparently our Rail fares are amongst the highest in Europe. The article fails to really drill down to why that is and instead relies on a series of quotes from various interested parties all supporting their own point of view.

Steam Trains – Normal for Norfolk?

To round off on cycling issues – here is from from A View from the cycle path – “Campaign for Sustainable, not Strict Liability” with an excellent explanation of how the liability approach works in the Netherlands. More shockingly it would seem that apart from a few Posts already written they have reached a point where they are too busy to be able to deal with the workload, which is a great shame but understandable. As a Blogger for just over three years I have followed Blogs that had to stop, not to mention Yehuda Moon. Although it would appear to be re-starting – humm I’ll have to take a look.

In another shock Round-the world cyclist Mark Beaumont has taken to the seas for an Atlantic Row.

In another shock Spring seems to have already Sprung in Cambridgeshire.

March 2010 – Real Spring in Cambridgeshire

And finally some beautiful cycling, (Cycle Chic) surely not Spring and some bygone pictures.


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