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HUMOR: Studies of Modes of Transportation in Tarzan Land
Many times when reading a scientific study of transportation, especially bicycle transportation, one has to wonder if the authors ever did a reality check. Did they ever even ride a bicycle to see for themselves whether it is dangerous or not and what the real cause of danger is? Often, they advocate "solutions" which make cycling more dangerous.

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Studies of Modes of Transportation in Tarzan Land

NOTE: Although bicycles aren't even mentioned in this report, if they existed in Tarzan Land, they would be considered to be even more dangerous than walking!

In Tarzan Land everyone travels by one of the following modes: flying on the backs of giant birds, swinging from vines, riding on elephants, and walking. Due to alarm about the number of injuries and fatalities while traveling, a panel of experts was created to decide which of these methods of transportation was the best and safest. They found that flying on the backs of giant birds was the fastest, with an average speed of 40 mile per hour. The average trip by this method was 1,000 miles. Only one fatality was reported by this mode and no injuries. Swinging from vines was the next fastest, with an average speed of 20 mph. This method resulted in five fatalities, twenty brain injuries, and a hundred or so cases of rope burn and abrasion. Swinging from vines was also said to have great cardiovascular benefits. However, the average distance of a trip was only five miles. Riding on elephants came third in speed, averaging 10 mph. There were almost no minor injuries, a hundred severe injuries, and twenty fatalities. The average trip distance was ten miles. Finally, the slowest method was walking or jogging with an average Tarzan-like pace of 5 mph. This high speed was necessary to avoid being stepped on by elephants. There were thousands of minor injuries, hundreds of serious injuries, and a hundred fatalities. The average trip distance was only a mile.

Looking at these figures, this first safety commission concluded that flying on giant birds was safest, swinging from vines was next, riding on elephants was third, and that walking was the most dangerous. They also pointed out that clearly the safest method of transportation is the fastest. Since flying on birds had only one fatality with a average distance of 1,000 miles and walking had a hundred fatalities with an average distance of one mile, they calculated that flying was 100,000 times as safe as walking. They therefore recommended that people walk as little as possible because it's too dangerous, and suggested that everyone ride on elephants, swing through trees, or ride on giant birds instead. In Tarzan Land, unlike in any real country in the world, everyone immediately began obeying the recommendations.

At the end of the next year, a second group of experts was assembled to look at the safety issue again. It seems that, during the previous year, a hundred people had been killed when trying to fly on giant birds, there were fifty fatalities and two hundred brain injuries from swinging on vines (plus untold numbers of abrasions), a hundred fatalities from riding on elephants along with five hundred severe injuries, and the number of deaths and injuries while walking had increased by five times as well.

What had brought about these changes? A more careful investigation was conducted, which concluded: 1) Previously very few had attempted flying by giant bird, because it was considered too dangerous; now many were trying it, and many were being eaten by the giant birds as a result. It evidently takes great skill to mount the giant bird, but once up there, the safety problem is solved. 2) Only the most fit and agile had previously swung from vines, now many more were trying it, and as a result were suffering many injuries. 3) Riding on elephants had not become more dangerous; however, since many more people were riding elephants, the number of people thrown from and stomped on by elephants had increased. 4) In walking, the greatest danger had been avoiding getting stepped on by elephants. Now, with the vastly greater number of elephants, the number crushed had greatly increased, even though the number of walkers had shrunk. In addition, a physician noted that health problems were on the rise since few people exercised now. It was discovered, upon investigation, that only walking furnished any real health benefit. While swinging from vines was great exercise, no one spent enough time doing it.

This lead to a great deal of bickering and recriminations, especially between the newcomers and those who had previously made the bad recommendations. One idea among the newcomers was to announce to the people to go back to their previous methods of travel because the change had been a mistake. This was not done because 1) doing so would hurt confidence in the government, 2) most people would not do so anyway, 3) those selling elephants and elephant supplies would be fanacially injured, and 4) those on the panel who had supported the previous findings would vote against these new findings in order to save face.

Another proposal was made, however, which was accepted by both sides. This was to interview people who had been successful at these various forms of travel and to use their recommendations to make safety pamplets. Interviews began with travel experts to learn their secrets. Experts traveling by bird suggested placing a hood over the bird's head before attempting to mount, experts traveling by swinging vine suggested spitting on the hands and keeping a sharp outlook for tree trunks and branches, experts traveling by elephant suggested beating the animal constantly and keeping the speed as high as possible, and experts traveling on foot were split, some suggesting traveling only through thick brush (where there would be fewer elephants) and others suggesting keeping out in the open (where visibility is best and movement is freest). However, since the idea of walking experts was ludicrious (we all walk, don't we?), their suggestions were ignored. Instead, people were once again warned against the dangers of walking, over the protests of the physicians.

However, while working on the pamplets, one committee member thought of a problem. What if, instead of making travel safer, the pamplets just frightened people away from traveling? Shouldn't the panel come up with some numbers about method-of-travel usage? However, how could they arrive at numbers? One suggestion was to use direct observation, and so observers were stationed on the main roads to see who was traveling. Another was to use questionaires, but here there was disagreement about what kind of questions to ask. Finally, they decided to include all suggestions. They then adjourned, certain that the problem was solved.

When the third safety panel convened the next year, the members found their problems were worse than ever. One bright spot was that the number of fatalities in traveling by giant bird had fallen to ten. However, the injuries and fatalities among the swingers had not decreased, and injuries and fatalities among elephant users and walkers had doubled. In addition, the data from observation and questionaires were highly confusing.

Advocates for the various methods of transportation all found statistics that supported their conclusions. Those who liked to travel by giant birds pointed out that the average trip was a thousand miles long, that travel by giant bird was faster than any other method, and that there were just ten fatalities per million miles, fewer per mile than any other form of transportation. Those who favored travel by swinging on vines reported that survey results showed that people had a high opinion of this method of transportation as a healthy method of travel and a good way to avoid getting stepped on by elephants. Although they were forced to admit that few used this method due to problems finding suitable vines to swing from, it was the safest method of transportation when measured by trip. Those who prefered traveling by elephant reported that it was the most popular method of travel, that it was used for distances of up to 50 miles, which was too far to travel by swinging on vines or by walking, that it had the best safety record of any method when measured by time spent traveling, that it was perfectly safe as long as you did not run into another elephant.

For the first time ever, some advocates of walking made it onto the panel. Even though they had no data to support their claims, they insisted that walking was still the most popular methods, despite attempts to discourage it. "Then why," asked the safety panel head, "do our observers not see anyone walking along the elephant highways?" "That's easy to explain," was the answer, "They avoid elephant highways like the plague and travel through the brush, so they won't get stepped on." The head then stated that he didn't believe that anyone used walking for transportation any more. "Then how did you get to this meeting?" "I was overseas," he proudly replied, "and I flew back by giant bird and then rode an elephant the final distance." "Yes, but how did you get to the giant bird? Were you able to ride an elephant right up to it? And when you dismounted from the giant bird, were you able to step onto an elephant, or did you have to travel a distance by foot to get to the elephant? And when you came in here, did you ride your elephant through the door and dismount at your seat?" At this point, there was an uproar, and the advocates of walking were expelled from the panel.

However, they later issued their own report in which they pointed out that 1) walking was still the most common form of transportation, used by everybody, even though it covered the fewest miles per trip, 2) that walking was the only method of transportation available to the bulk of the people, who couldn't afford elephants, 3) that walking was the safest method of transportation and only looked more dangerous because its use as transportation was badly undercounted and because of the emphasis on distance per trip in creating the statistics, 4) and that walking was dangerous to nobody and was good for the health.

Of course, these findings were dismissed as absolutely preposterous, and everyone focused on making elephant riding more safe, feeling that the real danger to the elephant riders was the walkers.

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