To sway opinion, basic facts must be correct

A Vince Corbett of Wichita makes the case for riding an electric bicycle to work instead of driving a car. (“Biking saves,” August 30, 2009 Wichita Eagle) Unfortunately, the letter contains a mistaken fact and an unreasonable assumption.

To make his case, he outlines a commuting trip that someone might make: ” … from 29th Street North and Woodlawn to Douglas and Main to work and to return — a distance of about 32 miles …”

Google maps reports the one-way distance between these two intersections as 7.7 miles. Bing maps found a shorter route at 7.2 miles. Mr. Corbett’s one-way distance of 16 miles is over twice as large as these two numbers. Taking the freeway route is longer at 10.3 miles (according to Bing) but still not anywhere near Corbett’s one-way distance of 16 miles.

Corbett then makes a claim that driving these 32 miles requires three gallons of gasoline, implying a car that gets 10.7 miles per gallon. (I don’t know if we should interpret this as city or highway driving.)

But according to the EPA, a mid-size car like a Chevrolet Malibu gets 22 mpg in the city. A large car like a Buick Lucerne gets 17 mpg. Even a large SUV like a Chevrolet Suburban gets 14 mpg, still quite a bit above Corbett’s illustration.

(A Toyota Prius gets 48 mpg in the city, 4.5 times the figure used by Corbett.)

Letters to the editor of a newspaper are a place for people to express their opinions and attempt to sway public opinion. These letters, however, need to be based on facts that are correct and assumptions that are reasonable. Newspapers do their readers a disservice when letters are not fact-checked in even a very basic way. This letter is such a case.


3 thoughts on “To sway opinion, basic facts must be correct”

  1. doesnt matter the distance, riding an ebike is fun and cheaper than an automobile for short trips, period.
    P.S., your facts are wrong too. mileage figures posted on cars are not accurate. those inflated #’s are based on the most optimal conditions at a very low speed. Nobody ever gets those mpg’s.

  2. Actually those MPG’s sound fairly accurate to me, based on the MPG’s our cars get in the city (what they actually get based on our observations, not MPG’s posted by manufacturers).

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