You don’t realize how hard it is to quit heroin, booze, Facebook, or cars until you try. The forces holding you onto the poison are many, sworn enemies such as insurance companies as well as good friends–not that you will have many after you begin looking poor(er) by getting around by bike.
As one of the two readers of this blog put it in a comment yesterday,“It is totally crazy that you have to have car insurance when you don’t drive to cover you from damage inflicted by motorists.”
I don’t think I could have put it any better. The only way to protect yourself from motorists when you quit driving a car is to get a car. Joseph Heller would have been proud, so proud.
Nonetheless, IDGAF. If I have to choose between following the imperial orders of the insurance company or ditching the car, I’m ditching the car. And of course it’s understandable that laws and regulations are engineered to keep you seated, mute, behind the steering wheel. How else could you extract from someone the average annual cost of $8,659 a year, which is what it costs to drive, as opposed to $350 a year, which is what it costs to cycle?
But I was less prepared for the opposition raised by friends. One pal, Gussy, pointed out two reasons to keep driving. First, without a license and a car you are screwed in an emergency. Second, when you ditch the car and are riding everywhere, you increase the chances of a collision and therefore need the car insurance (and hence the license and vehicle) even more.
With regard to the first issue, I’m confident that with or without a car, 911 is going to work. If there were truly another life-threatening emergency that required me to hop in a car and drive, well, I would, whether I had a license or not. If I didn’t have the car, I’d ask a neighbor. Moreover, keeping the license and car hanging around just for that ONE emergency that can’t be handled by 911 seems like bad risk allocation. It’s far more certain that driving will get you involved in a car collision or exacerbate health problems than it is that riding a bike will prevent you from driving someone somewhere in an emergency situation that 911 can’t handle it.
The second issue, that more riding = more risk of getting hit, therefore you must stay licensed and keep a car to maintain UM/UIM coverage, is exactly why the house in Vegas will always have people lined up to give it money.
People do not understand probability. Simple as that.
First concept, mind bending for many, is that the risk of getting hit is the same every time you get on your bike. More riding or less riding doesn’t meaningfully change the probability. It’s the same as flipping a coin. Whether you flip it one time or a billion, the probability of heads is one out of two, every single time.
“Of course!” the gambler exclaims. “So if I play twice I have a 100% chance of getting heads!”
No, you have a 50% chance, whether you play all day or once, and 50% is very, very, very good odds. The average lotto player thinks that because there’s a 50% chance of rain today and a 50% chance of rain tomorrow, there’s a 100% chance of rain in the next two days. Probability doesn’t “add up” and you can’t meaningfully change the probability by doing “it” more, when “it” is something like cycling or the lottery and is participated in by tens of millions of people or more.
This is because, like the lottery, so many people ride bicycles that in order to meaningfully change the probability you would have to take thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or even millions of trips. In the same way as affecting your lottery odds, you’d have to buy so many tickets to meaningfully change the odds that it you would go broke doing it.
This is so hard for people to fathom that they make life-altering decisions based on a misunderstanding of probability. The chance of getting hit on a bike does not meaningfully change no matter how often you do it. It is the same whether you ride daily or once every 50 years.
“But if you never ride, you’ll never get hit! Your probability will be zero!”
This is true. And if you eliminate all cars your probability will also be zero. However, if you never ride, you will be at risk for getting hit by a car while you are driving, and that probability is significantly greater than it is for cycling. And as everyone knows, more time spent in a car equates to an expanding waistline, a receding hairline, and uncontrolled stops at the In-N-Out drive thru. So in practical terms, by eliminating the bike you have actually exposed yourself to another set of much worse outcomes with significantly higher probability.
Moreover, although quitting cycling reduces your risk to zero, the converse is not true, i.e. riding every day will guarantee that you get hit, or even that it will meaningfully increase your probability of getting hit. Your probability remains the same because it resets each time you go out for a ride (like the coin toss), and because you can’t ride enough to make any practical difference in the probability. This is why most people ride for years or decades and never get hit, and some people get hit on Day One, and it’s why most people who play lotto their entire life never win the Powerball, and some people wake up, buy a ticket, and are billionaires. One person’s ability to affect the probability of an endeavor that involves tens of millions of people is nil.
In sum, it’s why Vegas always wins and the gambler is always the sucker.
The gambler, and the person telling you to quit riding because it’s dangerous, cannot understand probability, or doesn’t want to, which is okay. But it is a poor reason to choose a car over a bike.
Happily for my insurance conundrum, my other reader, Jack from Illinois (not his real name), texted the following: “Get a 50 cc scooter, dummy. You can get liability and UM/UIM coverage and still be cage-free. You won’t have to worry about losing your dignity, either. That was punted the day you put on your first bicycle clown suit.”
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