Lies, damned lies and statistics

The quote that forms the title of this blog was made popular by Mark Twain but attributed  to Benjamin Disraeli, among others.  It seems to be applicable to the traffic calming debate in Adderbury.

While there is no doubt there is an issue caused by traffic speed and volume in the village, sensible debate is not helped if false statistics are employed.  Campaigners have focused their attention on West Adderbury,  including Horn Hill Road and the Milton Road and adjoining new estates.  Their focus has been sharpened by a striking statistic which seemed to show an increase in traffic flows along Horn Hill Road between 2012 and 2018 of 141%.  This does seem a huge increase and has been quoted repeatedly by those wishing to subvert the Milton Road development by spending funding designated for sports and community facilities there on an expensive 20 mph traffic calming scheme.

Well, a sharp-eyed parish councillor has spotted that the figure is wrong!  It failed to  compare like with like and took traffic movements along Horn Hill Road in both directions in 2018 and compared them with movements in one direction only in 2012.  The true increase over this period on a like-for-like basis is apparently 17%!

Whether this false statistic was the result of ignorance, human error or deliberate misrepresentation, I leave to others to decide but at least we have a truthful figure now with which to inform public debate.

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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7 Responses to Lies, damned lies and statistics

  1. Iain Corcoran says:

    Mitchell – Your Just an Oxygen Thief! Look how many followers you have it’s less than 10!!!

    Stop Cowering behind your blog, you keyboard warrior give true facts Mitchell like where your getting your information from….

    How you got a CBE is beyond belief, no doubt it’s corruptable….

    • I read your blog regularly but never reply. (I just enjoy watching from the side lines). I saw the post from RadioPromotions and your reply posted today.

      I think you might have thought that it was the candidate posting, but there was something about the name that made me think – and being IT literate (and having seen the YouTube post https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sABzjGtDe70&t=9s on the RadioPromotions channel) I thought I would check out whom it might be. RadioProductions Ltd is none other than Mr S. Betts

      By the way, when the WARA survey was delivered I did not return it because I have no idea who WARA is and who their officers are. They have published their constitution but do not mention who is the chairman etc. Also I disagree with the premise that speeding is an issue – having lived here for 25 years my feeling is that the volume of traffic has increased but the people speeding through the village has not increased massively. I fear that there is very little you can do to stop those people who do and will continue to speed through the village to slow down.

      Also as you are a member of the Environment Committee you might like to point out to our Horn Hill Road residents that speed humps etc. slow down emergency vehicle response times. Given the average age of people in Horn Hill Road, if they ever need an ambulance when every second matters it might damage their prospects for survival 

      Please feel free to use any of my comments as you see fit

      Anon of Adderbury and uploaded by Keith R Mitchell.

  2. This is good for people to understand your style and character. They need to know what they would get if they elected you to the parish council.
    The facts about Horn Hill Road traffic volumes will be reported to the next parish council and will go on the public record.
    As for my CBE it is real! I am one of 8,690 people in the UK awarded the rank of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty The Queen. I am sorry it causes you so much pain or is it envy?
    Do I remember a reference in an earlier response from you about defamatory comments? Well!!
    As for being “corruptable”, I think you will find the correct spelling is “corruptible” and I can assure you I am not and neither is Her Majesty The Queen!

  3. David Bradley says:

    Hilarious. Looks like a mathematical howler is responsible for this dispute.

    The discrepancy between the percentage increase being quoted by the two sides is so large that it cannot be explained solely by measuring traffic in one direction in 2012 and both directions in 2018. Were that the case, we would expect WARA’s figure to be only double the figure used by Mr Mitchell, but it is nine times larger. So what explains this huge discrepancy?

    We suspect Mr Mitchell is using the relative change in traffic, whereas WARA has used the ratio of the change:
    Relative change as a percentage = (new value – old value)/old value x 100
    Ratio of change as a percentage = new value/old value x 100

    Both methods compare two figures but give radically different values. A simple example should help:
    In one hour, 10 cars pass a point on a road. The following hour, 12 cars pass the same point.
    Expressed as a ratio the increase in traffic is 12/10 x 100 = 120%
    Expressed as relative change the increase is (12 – 10)/10 = 20%

    Without knowing which method either side has used to calculate its percentage, the debate is pointless. The easiest way to settle this dispute would be to publish the raw data used to calculate the statistics.

    All of this furore about numbers masks the real issue which is that school children using the oak tree bus stop at the junction of the Milton Road and Berry Hill Road are having to cross an increasingly dangerous and busy road. This issue needs to be addressed before there is a serious accident.

    • Nice try, Mr Bradley. I know you are a Horn Hill Road resident and a close neighbour of our three opposition members on the parish council.
      For your information, the original mathematics was published loudly by your neighbour, Cllr Astley, while the correction which I have described in my blog was computed by Cllr Cox who is not known for taking sides in parish council votes so I trust his mathematical competence, his integrity and his independence even if you do not. All will be revealed at the next parish council meeting when I expect a correcting statement to be published and explained.
      To reassure you about the Milton Road, the Environment Committee is working well under the leadership of Martin Rye and with the very helpful expertise of Jonathan White. Traffic speed and volume on the Milton Road is being addressed by the Committee now that it has been properly constituted and is working on a sound and democratic basis.

  4. David Bradley says:

    You seem to have deleted my last post. Never mind, it’s here:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20190219181403/https://krmcbe.com/2019/02/16/lies-damned-lies-and-statistics/

    If you wish to delete my replies, do the honest and decent thing and remove all of them instead of editing to suit your own purpose.

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