Dear Neil… Should anti-cycling ranting be called out for the bullshitting it is?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Dear Neil Prendeville, In reply to an email from one of your listeners about bicycles and scooters, I have to ask: Should anti-cycling ranting be called out for the bullshitting it is?

That might sound harsh, but my question is promoted by a new scientific paper titled “‘You can’t bullshit a bullshitter’ (or can you?): Bullshitting frequency predicts receptivity to various types of misleading information” which was published in British Journal of Social Psychology last month.

The researchers wrote: “…we present three studies (N = 826) attempting to distinguish between these competing hypotheses, finding that frequency of persuasive bullshitting (i.e., bullshitting intended to impress or persuade others) positively predicts susceptibility to various types of misleading information and that this association is robust to individual differences in cognitive ability and analytic cognitive style.”

In plan English: Bullshitters are susceptible to bullshit, they are less likely to care about the truth and their brains might be even wired that way.

The bullshitters’ rants don’t stand up to much inspection. Let’s look at the flaws of the email which covers the usual nonsense too many radio presenters bother to read out…  

The roads, not just in Cork, but across Ireland are unsafe because motorists feel they have carte blanche on our roads and footpaths. You’re just blind to it because it happens every day.

Proper regulation as your emailer asked for would be nice for all road users. But especially for the main source of danger on our roads — motorists who do things like whizz through red lights and drive and park along footpaths and cycle tracks. Your email writer’s focus is misguided if they truly care about road safety.

Sorry, that last paragraph is misleading. It underplays the amount of casual lawbreaking carried our by motorists daily. Which includes: Speeding, making calls on mobile phones while driving, texting while driving, looking at Facebook etc while driving, speeding, drink driving, (mostly but not exclusively younger people) driving without safety belts, overtaking people on bicycles too closely, not stopping for school traffic warden, not stopping for children at zebra crossings etc. 

Motorists — as they say — need to get their house in order before ranting about people, including children, on bicycles.

Although it’s worth saying it’s unclear if the writer of the email is real or if it’s just invented for clickbait. Discussions on cyclists are an old reliable of talk radio shock jocks and the daftness in the email — including a suggestion of tracking children’s bicycles — is nearly hard to accept as real.

The emailer mentions several occasions seeing cyclists do something, but daily and ever few minutes in many locations you can witness motorists who have not obeyed their road traffic laws and have either put themselves at risk or other road users or pedestrians. Pedestrians after all are road users, unlike what the email writer suggests.

And, yes, theory and practical test should be made mandatory in order to obtain a license as many motorists seem to have no training in road safety… wait, what? There is already training and licensing for motorists? That makes motorists behaviour even more shocking. 

It’s only partly explained by the fact that 60,000 drivers were given licences in the amnesty of 1979 when they were handed a full driving because of a large backlog of applicants and not long before that there was no test at all.

Motor tax is already in place. The emailer’s idea that all road users should pay a new “road tax” and insurance is a fantastic one — if cyclists and pedestrians were to pay €50 per year, motorists would be proportionately paying over €10,000. 

The emailer also mentions that they are a driver who has so many near misses with bicycles, but I’m sorry to say that you can be sure the problem is in most cases with such drivers is their problem. Most motorists don’t have that many near misses with people on bicycles.

People should not need to have this explained to them but car drivers are required to have insurance to cover claims for personal injury and/or property damage should they cause an collision because motorists are capable and do cause carnage with well over a million road deaths per year worldwide, many more injuries and a massive amount of property damage.

As well as death and injury motorists also run into walls, traffic sign poles, trees, trams (in Dublin), railway bridges, railway crossing barriers, trains, traffic lights, zebra crossing poles, and even buildings including people’s houses and businesses, including shop fronts. Motorists running into these is dismissed because it has been normalised as “accidental”, as if they are young children overfilling a plastic cup of milk. Often it’s a matter of luck that it’s only signs etc that are hit. 

A belief that all cyclists and e-scooters should similarly be required to have insurance to cover any damage their negligence might cause seem nice if you’re unable to think about it for more than a few seconds about the death, injury and damage motorists cause and realise that’s why insurance is mandatory. If you’re reading this and still don’t get it you’re mind is likely polluted by spending too much time breathing in your own car’s fumes.

But you might as well be looking for general mandatory liability insurance for stepping outside of your house because the danger from bicycles is in the same range as the danger from pedestrians. That is to say: The danger from bicycles is more like the danger from pedestrians, ie not much at all and nothing like the danger from motoring.

The best part of the ranting letter is the idea that “there should also be a track, trace system in place of all sales of cycles for minors, as it would make parents responsible for mandatory proficiency tests and insurance” — besides the daftness of the suggestion children on bicycles need insurance, and the creepiness of tracking children’s bicycles, it’s laughable that there’s the capability for the State to implement such a system when it cannot get motorists to hand in their licenses when they clock up penalty points.

I don’t know, maybe Neil’s show doesn’t spend time discussing things like how 90% of Irish motorists disqualified by a court in 2020 have not surrendered their licences?

So: Should anti-cycling ranting be called out for the bullshitting it is? What to you think Neil? The comment line is open…

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