Friday 1 June 2012

Glasgow's Fab for Cycling: It's Official!

It's official. I've done it. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime, but it would appear that my campaigning has achieved something quite amazing.

OK, I'll admit I am not the only person campaigning for this. I'll accept that there might have been some others doing some stuff, but no...this is pretty much my achievement. I'm pretty sure about that.

What have I achieved? It would seem that Glasgow is now a wonderful place to cycle. Yes indeedy!

Proof? You want proof!?! I'll give you proof! Look at this table and you will see it's true:

The 10 most cycle-friendly towns are listed below:
St Helens4

Glasgow is the 5th most cycle friendly city in the UK. Oh and don't worry, there weren't just 10 randomly picked cities in the survey. It had 60 cities. In fact it probably had more than 60. This was apparently the 60 best. 60 best, and Glasgow is in joint 5th place! Edinburgh is 25th, City of London is 50th and Cambridge is 60th. Imagine Glasgow is 55 places above Cambridge when it comes to being a cycle friendly. Who'd have thunked it!

At this stage I should like to point out that I didn't just make this table up so I could claim some glory. Oh, no... It was in fact produced by some people who know a thing or two about numbers. Bankers. Virgin Money bankers to be precise. The link to the press release is here if you don't believe me!

So it must be true then.

The ranking was apparently based on bike thefts, cycling accidents, serious injuries and deaths, cycle routes, and the availability of specialist cycle shops and repairs. Being numbers bods, they must have done some fancy calculation to produce the table, and of course they corrected the data for population as well. Sorted!

So I live in a cycling nirvana!

And yet.... I can't help feeling that all is not well. Mmmmmmm. Time for some investigation.

Research conducted in April 2012 by Virgin Money researchers using council police data for thefts, cycle accidents and KSI (killed or seriously injured) rates. Number of specialist bike shops calculated using search tool on Number of cycle routes taken from
Good. So they do provide some details of how they arrived at the results. First let's look at the cycle route website. Is the site describing Sustrans Routes or routes with specific high quality infrastructure? Is it an expert organisation that decides what constitutes a route? Umm, errr, no. It is a site where members of that site, where anyone can join, submit a route. Any route, be it on a path, a road, through someone's garden shed or 20ft under the Clyde. So it is a measure of....folk on the internet adding routes to a route finder site. Okey dokey.

Things look up though as the tool for cycling shops seems reasonable. Yep, put in my postcode and it finds the normal suspects. That's good. Being bankers I'm sure they added all those numbers up correctly.....

Now for the other metrics. Well, I suppose the police are as good a source as any. Ok, there will be discrepancies, variations in reporting, different methods of storing the data, etc. However, it's reasonable to go to the police for an informative survey. It will certainly give a ball park feel for the number of incidents, bike thefts etc.

So it would seem that the biggest issue is the cycle routes issue. I suppose that's not too serious. It is only one of the indicators and perhaps if lots of people are entering routes, then its an indicator of cycling popularity among internet surfing type people.....sort of.

It still just doesn't smell right, though. Yes I can understand Bristol being there, it is known to be a cycling city, but Cambridge and London languishing at or near the bottom, and Edinburgh a city which I personally know is miles better for cycling than Glasgow, being well below Glasgow on this survey?! I've just been at a meeting with the Scottish Transport minister where we discussed how much better Edinburgh is than Glasgow! So what is going on?

Aha! Being from a scientific background my magical scientific powers I can see just one wee final fundamental flaw.

The number of cyclists. 

How many cyclists are there in each city? Have they actually taken that into account? It's not mentioned anywhere. So it would seem that the statistics used to determine the the most friendly cycle cities hasn't actually taken into account the fact that only about 26 people cycle in Glasgow and ever so slightly more cycle in Cambridge. OK, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but there is a huge difference between the number of cyclists in different cities and equally importantly the kilometres cycled on average in each city. Anyone who knows anything about numbers of statistics would know that surely? In a city with 26 cyclists your KSI rates will be pretty low, won't they?

Remember this research comes to you from a bank.  Does this encourage me to bank with Virgin Money? I'd run/cycle a mile from them!(assuming that they would understand that a mile is slightly further away than a foot?)

So it would seem that Glasgow isn't quite the nirvana that it first appeared to be. In fact considering how few people actually cycle here and the effect that must have on the numbers of bike thefts etc makes me concerned that Glasgow didn't come in first place in the survey. That's not good.

Oh well...I haven't personally achieved a campaigning victory in Glasgow then. To be fair, I blame all those other incompetent campaigners undoing all the fabulous work that I do...... ;-)


  1. Given this brilliant display of numeric from Virgin Money (tm) it is a wonder that anyone banks with them...

  2. I've only recently discovered your blog, so I can't comment upon your campaigning efforts. What you have highlighted is the usual and very casual approach big organisations have when dealing with the general public. Can you imagine such a flawed/inaccurate survey result being presented inhouse at Virgin Money? Why give the public the true facts, when higgeldee piggledee nonsense will do? It's enough to make the thinking man's bicyclist despair! We the great British public are here to be abused with such nonsense. What really makes me angry, is that these people are being paid to produce such crap, nice work if you can get it!