Thursday, 29 October 2009

Reclaim the Roads!

I read this article by Miranda Devine just recently and was a bit sceptical that she could be serious as it was so outrageously weird, but then, this is Miranda Devine we're talking about.

The article is about cyclists don't belong on the road and the whole idea that "the road is there to share" is wrong - the roads are there for cars (and by extension of that, vehicles in general - buses, vans, trucks seem to come under that generous definition). But not for pedestrians and cyclists who are let on the roads by the "good graces" of cars and shouldn't feel entitled to touch a road.

According to Miranda, the "road is there to share" idea actually does non-car-types a disservice because it creates in them a false sense of entitlement that they can use a road, which is naturally in Miranda's world, wrong, and this causes their deaths. Whoops!

Now, I've no doubt that Miranda is correct in that some cyclists, and also pedestrians behave badly and this can cause accidents. There is also cyclist rage just as there is road rage and there are pedestrians who get mad as hell too. But picking a clip of a mad cyclist or a bad cyclist and using this as evidence to support that your whole argument is correct is just not really presenting a good argument. It's not bad "journalism", though :), as far as journalism has taken us through the ages.

It seems to me that the sense of entitlement that car-drivers may be endowed with by Miranda's and the like's huffing and puffing may equally be responsible for deaths on the roads. "Shove out of my way, I'm allowed here, you aren't!"

When it comes down to it, all sorts of people use the roads - that's a fact. Vehicle users of all kinds. Bicycle users. And pedestrians. We use them in all ways. Not only is it a fact, but it is something that in the community we should face up to and allow for, because we value it. I'm sorry Miranda, but much as certain people may love their little cars, it's also a fact that many valued people cannot drive cars - and some of these people are very valuable people - and that it is valuable to a community that at least sometimes even people who could possibly drive cars, walk or cycle to their destination.

Let me give some examples:

Certain politicians such as Premier Bob Carr can't drive.
A whole lot of people who hold voting power such as the elderly and disabled are not able to drive.
A whole lot of people who are considered valuable to the community can't drive - such as schoolchildren.
The lamentations about obesity make it popular that people are encouraged to actually walk to places, or cycle.
If you're only going for a short distance, it would be considered a good idea that you not drive there - after all, it would cut down on the traffic and the parking spaces that a community had to supply. Imagine if everyone who usually popped out to go 100m down the street for a cup of coffee or the newspaper DROVE THERE.

And yet often these people use the roads. They walk or cycle beside them. They cross the roads.

They need to be given some rights on the roads - to be encouraged to use them and for their own safety. To say "Shit, yes, you toddle off to get your newspaper each morning but you are allowed on the road with my good graces only!" is equivalent to saying "If I feel like it I can and will knock you over and I have no responsibility for that. None!" and therefore, what right minded person would walk across a street?

The key here is that everyone is given rules and everyone has responsibilities. The whole thing about entitlement, and believing that your entitlement is greater than another groups, whether you be a car driver or a bike rifer or a dog-walker, engenders the feeling that you don't have to obey the rules or be responsible. You are above the others. And that's where the real problems start.

All of us should feel that we are allowed on the roads AT THE GOOD GRACES of everyone else in the community, and only so long as we obey the rules. Those rules may be slightly different depending on whether we drive a bus or walk a dog, but that has to do with level of appropriateness, not with level of superiority (You worry about the number of maximum passengers on a bus and designated stops, but you don't need to scoop up its poop or keep it on a leash). Being a allowed to use the roads should be dependent on whether you respect other people's safety and the general rules regarding your own use of the road, not whether you drive a lorry or use a skateboard.

This whole "my group is so much better than yours thing" ... sheesh, it's so vehicle-ism. It really is.


Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

I get pedestrian rage. I get it bad. I get it when the little green man tells me it's walkies time, and then a giant metal box hurtles through the intersection, scraping by as its orange turns to red, and careers right across my pedestrian crossing. The people inside are either oblivious, OBLIVIOUS, to the fact of my legal right of way and that they could potentially kill me, and/or shocked, SHOCKED, that there would actually be a pedestrian putting her toe upon the pedestrian crossing. (Sorry, lady. Noone mentioned that humans occasionally need to get to the other side of the road.)

Anyway, as I was saying, it makes me MAD. So mad that I have occasionally comtemplated stepping out into my legitimate crossing space, under teh auspices of my green man, and letting the red-light-running cars kill me. That'd learn 'em. That'd learn 'em good.

(And me, unfortunately.)

Maria said...

You're right, Baron. Cars need to know that pedestrians have a right to be killed too. These up-themselves car-owners think they're the only ones who are allowed to take their life into their own hands. Well it's not happening. It's NOT.