Dealing with good and evil (in traffic)
In 2010 a 38-year-old motorist filled with remorse entered a police station in the Netherlands to give himself up. Twenty years earlier he had run over a child and was ridden with guilt. The man explained that he slept badly since the accident, suffered from nightmares and could not find a decent permanent job. The approximately five-year-old child unexpectedly crossed the road and he could not brake in time. While another motorist took care of the victim, he drove away and since then he lived contrary to his conscience. Until it was too much for him that morning and he decided to surrender himself.
– Ashley Carruthers – https://theconversation.com/amp/cars-bicycles-and-the-fatal-myth-of-equal-reciprocity-81034
Any public conversation about on-road cycling in Australia seems to have only one metaphor for the relationship between drivers and cyclists: equal reciprocity.
An utterance like “Drivers must respect cyclists’ space on the road” must inevitably be followed by something like “For their part, cyclists must ride responsibly and obey the road rules.”
For instance, the campaign promoting a new road safety law in New South Wales tells us:
Drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians all need to Go Together safely. We should all respect each other’s space and ensure that everyone stays safe.
In the small fishing town of Ísafjörður, Iceland, an exciting development in road safety has just popped up – almost literally. A new pedestrian crossing has been painted that appears to be 3D by way of a cleverly-detailed optical illusion.
In a conversation about one of the critical issues and decision points being set out in my forthcoming collaborative book, “BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City” — namely the fundamental structural importance of the climate/transport link — I was told yesterday by a well-placed person in Malaysia that no one in Penang or indeed Malaysia (or for that matter pretty much anywhere else on our gasping planet) takes climate change seriously. At least sufficiently seriously to even consider changing their daily transport choices (which it just happens is what my book is all about.).
* Wanted: Curators and contributors for World Streets “Drivers As Victims” Department. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Drivers as Victims
After a century of fearless and uncontested domination, peace and pandering, car/owner drivers around the planet suddenly find themselves in the midst of a raging process of transition to a very different world of privilege and limitation, laws and enforcement, economics and free rides. And unsurprisingly in their own yes they see themselves as victims: having their territory limited step by step to ever-growing parts of the cityscape where they have long been uncontested kings and queens.
Out there in the real world life is a complex interactive system in which things do not exist in isolation but depend heavily on each other. As Miller and Scott put it: “A complex adaptive system is a system in which a perfect understanding of the individual parts does not automatically convey a perfect understanding of the whole system’s behavior”. Which means that if our goal is to create a strong and wise policy for sustainable transport in and around our cities we need to change our tools and perspective as well as our behaviour. As the Brundtland Report, “Our Common Future” told us already a full generation ago . . .
The following is taken from the peer review edition of the forthcoming book “BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City“. For a copy drop a line to betterchoices@ecoplan,org.