Saturday, September 27, 2008

Think of the Women and Children

Transportation cycling in places without friendly roads or bicycle facilities tends to be an activity undertaken by solitary males. These men might have families, but they're at home or in the car while dad pedals. This is a normal and healthy reaction to the perception of danger.

But solitary males do not a bicycle (or any lasting) culture make. Only when cycling is a viable choice for everyone who can pedal or be carried on a bike do you have the necessary conditions for a bicycle culture.

Accordingly, those who are in positions to influence city planning and infrastructure should submit all proposed roads and bike lanes to this litmus test: would an average mother with a young child feel safe cycling along this road or in this bike lane? If cycling is viable for the most precious and vulnerable members of society, then it is viable for all. If not, the road or bike lane is a failure and needs modification.

It is no exaggeration to say that people are terrorized out of using their bicycles in the US. People are willing to sweat, people are willing to get from A to B in twenty five minutes rather than fifteen. They are not willing to be seriously injured or killed. Save me the stats about how relatively safe cycling is, even in the US. This response boils down to "get over it." Even if the danger of being hit by a car were not real (and it is very real if you cycle in traffic every day), the intense anxiety created by the perception of danger would be unacceptable. Some portion of alienation and anxiety is a normal part of the human condition. We're willing to accept such discomfort in matters existential and spiritual, but we shouldn't have a world in which anxiety and fear is attached to the mundane act of going down the street.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a solitary male bike commuter, let me just say that you've hit the nail on the head. Great post.