Bikes, postage stamps and the irrational culture of fear
Chris Bruntlett, who writes about cycling for Vancouver's Hush Magazine, looks at the trend TreeHuggers have seen with postage stamps being pulled for showing kids without helmets, suggesting cyclists wear body armour and that pedestrians dress in reflective clothing.
This contrived perception of danger is, in many cities, the single biggest barrier to the widespread uptake of utility cycling. By implying that a blow to the head or chest is unavoidable, we suppress numbers to only those willing to armour up, and scare the vast majority of our risk averse citizens onto other, less active modes of transportation.
He suggests that our politician's preoccupations should be elsewhere.
Focusing on the attire of the most vulnerable users of the road also distracts us from the serious policy discussions we need to have, in order to truly democratize our streets. Baseless speculation over safety gear is happily promoted by doctors, politicians, and the media without question, while meaningful initiatives proven to prevent injuries – such as dedicated cycle tracks, bike-share schemes, speed limit reductions, and heavy goods vehicle restrictions – are stirred up into manufactured controversies. Take Paris as a shining example, who swiftly executed each and every one of these measures in the last five years, effectively doubling the number of bicycles on their busy streets, and – despite helmet usage of around 2 per cent – didn’t experience a single cycling fatality in 2011.
Meanwhile in Copehagen, Mikael Colville-Andersen is dealing with the same issue, writing in Blaming Victims and Dictating Clothing after a woman was killed while cycling in black clothing:
The Culture of Fear is a nasty bitch. Destructive to our societies. It is, however, rather easy to trace where messages come from. In this case, it's the darling of the automobile industry, ..... They've also been pushing their Fear Pornography for years here in Denmark, despite their complete lack of respect for A. liveable cities and B. science.
Basically, if you feel the need to advertise reflective clothing for pedestrians and cyclists, you are advertising your complete ineptitude about building safe and liveable cities. You are shouting to the world that you believe cars are king and everyone else is at their mercy.
More at Copenhagenize