Stop the Child Murder
Wednesday, January 12 2011 @ 01:13 AM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
There is a lesson here for other countries. I'll take Britain as an example.
It is difficult to campaign for better conditions for "cyclists" in Britain. Cyclists are a minority group, and not a very well liked minority at that. Cyclists can be considered to be an out-group. This is a large part of why it is that cycling initiatives come and go in Britain. There's no real emphasis placed on results because too few people see it as important. When cyclists in Britain are hit by cars, they get very little sympathy from the public at large.
Campaigning for child safety is different. Very different. Children are not a minority group. Most families include children, all adults used to be children. Child safety is an issue which is important to everyone and difficult to ignore. All parents want their children to be safe.
It is clear that there is a problem with child safety on the roads in the UK. This is the underlying reason why it is that children are increasingly being driven to school. It is the reason why American style school buses are proposed for British kids, and even the reason why someone made the news for driving with his walking child on the school run. When British parents attack traffic wardens next to a school, they even do this in part out of concern for the safety of their own children. These are not solutions to the problem, but they are reactions to it. They demonstrate that parents are not remotely happy with the roads as they are.
Campaigners often talk about there being a pent-up demand for cycling in Britain. It's true. There is. When I was a campaigner in the UK, many people would tell me that they were very keen to take up cycling, but for one reason or another.
However, the pent-up demand for conditions in which children are safe on the streets is very much greater. This is what any campaigner who wants to see mass cycling return to the UK ought to be campaigning about. Get those parents on your side and there will be a mass move to change infrastructure and improve conditions.
I can see the responses from a certain element of the cycling community in the UK. i.e. those who are concerned about being "forced" to use sub-standard shared-use paths next to the road. However, this is all part of the problem. Sub-standard facilities are of no use to anyone. Not only are they no good for confident adults to cycle on, but they will also never provide the level of subjective safety required for British parents to think their children are safe on a bike. I've seen many examples of what happens in Britain. Planners think that if they provide a couple of hundred metres of astonishingly bad quality shared use next to a school that they've actually done something. People afterwards ask why it is that such facilities are not used. The answer is very simple: they are not usable. The quality is much too low. Tokenism isn't the answer.