Perceptions of death and the Elephant in the Room.

People are dying in the streets, damaged and maimed locally by a world threatening menace; thousands upon millions of citizens pass each other daily by without even a glance, isolated by steel, glass and radio 2. We have an invention that has gone mad, spiralling out of control, killing people, isolating communities and we love it. As a nation we are joined together in a common love of the Motor Vehicle, our transport bubble, our home from home, to get us from here to there.

There is Bile on the roads, people spitting poison, folk aggrieved that ‘they’ are getting unfair advantages, ‘they’ should be more careful, ‘they’ should not be allowed on the road…they should pay road tax, It’s THEY, THEY, THEY.

I drive a car…a pickup actually, lets make that clear in the first instance, i am one of ‘them’…..i try to use a bike whenever possible (I’m am also one of ‘them’), with the choice of bikes available increasing it is more possible than ever to use a bike for more, school runs, big shopping trips, recycling runs (hi David)..

But it’s very easy to use a car, the ‘world’ likes them, aspires to them, ‘safe’ ‘secure’ and accepted we drive about with music, heat, soft touch dash, navigation devices and a comforting barrier to the outside world. What it’s easy to forget and of course very convenient to gloss over, is that people in cars find it easier to kill things, cyclists, pedestrians, other car drivers, cats!…the driver is normally a survivor of such incidents. People on bicycles tend not to cause as much carnage.

The department of Transport (DOT) Select Committee’s report Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010 states that “Over the last ten years in London there were 54 pedestrians killed on the pavement by motor vehicles, and none by cyclists. 5 pedestrians are injured on footways by cyclists per year, 78 are injured on footways by cars”.

Cyclists are not demons, car drivers are not the devil incarnate, we are all people. It is environment that causes differences and the huge global business of making cars aspirational to everyone and his cow, is to the detriment of mental attitudes and communities as a whole.

The same DOT report also says “‘Safety in numbers’ is a widely recognised phenomenon whereby as cycling increases, the risk of injury per cyclist falls. A 91% increase in cycle use since 2000 in London has been accompanied by a 33% reduction in cycle casualties since the mid-1990s. Similarly Copenhagen has seen a 40% increase in cycling and a 50% decrease in casualties over the last 10 years”.

Portland, a world leader in transport management have shown that increased cycle usage meant that ‘cycle crashes increased only slightly as ridership was increased exponentially. Data analysis shows that operating either a motor vehicle or a bicycle in Portland are both relatively safe ways to travel’. (and that surely is the goal).

The DOT states clearly on page 341 of the document that “In the future, our society will become far more reliant upon those citizens who do shift their mode of transport and will receive considerable benefits from such active travel. Those citizens will not make that shift unless society gives them the respect on the roads that they deserve”.

With a motorised vehicle you can cause more carnage, more upset, with a bicycle you are part of the world, not set apart from it. This imbalance in sensory perception is why cyclists can appear aggressive. As the clip of Ben Porters experience shows, being loud and shouty when riding does not mean that he is aggressive for the sake of it, quite the opposite, he is shouting for his life. (it should be noted that many bike users verge on the intimidated)

Staying alive is a powerful basic instinct, i heightenes the senses, it puts people on bicycles, cyclists in particular at a higher state of awareness. It can make them seem aloof, in the same way a that car driver can seem oblivious. For everyone to stay alive on our streets involves less motor vehicles for local journeys and enabling those car drivers to become pedestrians and bicyclists.

We need to respect each other a little more, we really do need to get out more, on foot, on a bicycle. Then facilities will improve because they will have too, that’s what governments are for (in theory), and over time we can make our streets a lot safer and a pleasant place again, for  everyone.

Motor vehicles are dangerous, people driving them cause lots of death and injuries, bicycles are a lot less dangerous…it’s proven. More bicycles and pedestrians make for a nice environment….fact… So car drivers ‘MTFU’ and get real. You have the advantage on the road where staying alive is concerned, stop banging on about ‘they’ and realise it’s just someone NOT in a car.


P.S. saw this blog…seems to fit right in...

relevent links

7 thoughts on “Perceptions of death and the Elephant in the Room.

  1. Hi Nigel, Sorry to hear about the cuts to your group……
    This blog was as much to me as it was to anyone else…
    for me i wish there was more SAFE cycle parking…that would help me ride more for sure…i like the idea of this

  2. Thanks for another great post! You have such a good point that the “they” are really just “us” using another form of transport. We live in a “sub” rural area where most things are more than 5 miles away on busy rural road with almost no shoulder and drivers that don’t ride bikes. In our very snowy winters, riding is just impossible. In the better weather, it’s pleasant but one still has to be VERY careful. There is only one bike rack that I know of in a 6 mile radius, so locking up has to become a creative act. Nevertheless, we love riding our bikes. We know realistically for this area that many of the trips we take have to be by car, buy we try to stretch the bike trips further and further.

  3. I think the problem is that people don’t engage their brain and consider how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot, as it were.

  4. Ann, it is my feeling that in order to get more people onto bicycles and out into the local community (an over used and abused term) we need to facilite bicycle users. Just as disabled (less-able) people now know that they can get to a public place, shop, library, office and they will find a parking space that is adapted to them, enabling them to get out of the car etc, so bicycle users need that same enabling, we need secure cycle lockers, segregated cycle lanes (ideally) or colour marked cycle lanes and of course we need the industry itself to supply bikes that suit the rider rather than the rider having to adapt to the bikes on offer, (MTB with no basket or rack for the shops anyone?). Its still great to get out and about on a bike…i need to do it more, it makes me smile more when i do…
    David, its easy to put on that metal jacket we call a car and change attitudes, oblivious to enviroment, road conditions, smells even…disengaged with the world, enveloped in his/her own micro enviroment. The car producers want to sell more units, as time goes on, the more they design this isolation feature in, surely this is a bad direction in the design of an urban vehicle. bad for the people outside of that exclusive transport pod. The ‘shoe’ needs to be a little more slipper than boot me thinks, can the ego of (us) car users cope with that?.

  5. Hi, Rob… Most of the bike shops (2!) around here sell only racing-type or mountain-type bikes with nary a rack or basket in site. It would never cross their minds to offer an upright bike or a cargo bike. I guess it’s a macho thing. It’s too bad, really. I think more people would ride in some of the more urban areas around here if they could see the bicycle as a real option for their transport needs. I can’t wait until the snow melts!

    • Its been a long cold winter (by our standards anyway), great that the sun has come out and its a little warmer…already enjoying more trips out on the bikes.
      Regards the demise of the sensible bike, perhaps everything goes in cycles, sports bikes are perhaps a reaction to the bike as historically the only form of transport for many. Times were hard and perhaps situp transport’y type bikes remind folk of those times, car ownership is perhaps the reaction to those hard times. A symbol of wealth, of success. There is a shift towards more sensible bikes, even if most of the offerings are more style than substance, the west coast of america has to take credit for the bulk of our current more sensible offerings, certainly in the style stakes. I hope the current move towards baskets and racks demonstates itself to your area in the not too distant future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s