Here’s another post which I wrote months ago, but wasn’t sure of the quality. I still think the idea is sound (focus on how Dutch-style cycling infrastructure would benefit the vast majority of people, who don’t currently use a bike) so here it is anyway:
I’ve been having a think about one of the great dilemmas which faces anyone campaigning for better streets, which is this: Millions of people drive, and many of them can’t even imagine life without a car — so how do we reduce reliance on driving without alienating people who drive?
And I have an idea: turn the drivers against each other. Actually, that makes it sound like something bad, when really we just need to tell the truth.
All that’s needed is to focus on all the ways in which Dutch-style street design can improve conditions for driving (rather than the usual cycle campaign tactic of wagging our finger at them, talking about rights, and telling them that cycling is safer than gardening). People are generally self-interested, so why not use that to create safer streets for all?
I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic” and yet the general consensus remains that it’s the other drivers who are causing all the problems. And this is the key: the other drivers.
So car drivers shouldn’t be blamed for causing congestion – it’s the other drivers who are at fault.
We shouldn’t tell people how great it would be if they themselves used a bike, we tell them how great it would be if the other drivers were riding bikes instead.
And so the driver would think, “it’s the other drivers who are selfishly making short single-person journeys by car – they should be riding a bike or walking, instead of getting in the way of my journey which couldn’t possibly be made by any other means. Their journey would probably only take ten minutes by bike. If only the government would provide facilities to make cycling safe and pleasant for those people who are in my way, then they could ride a bike instead, and that would make my very important car journey so much quicker and easier!”
And there’s more:
“Plus, not only would Dutch street design mean fewer traffic jams, it would stop those other drivers from using our street as a rat-run! All those other drivers drive so fast down our street, it’s dangerous. Stopping rat-running here would be great.”
“The government is taking so much money what with road tax and fuel tax – they’re forcing everyone to sit in traffic jams just so they can make more money from us poor motorists! I think I’ll walk to the local shop, or maybe get the bike out of the garage…”
And so on.
Surely that’s an easy concept to push? Everyone hates sitting in traffic, finding a parking space at the shops, the school run, etc. — but we have the solution! We know what needs to be done to massively reduce traffic jams, inactivity-related health problems and road deaths, while improving air-quality, neighbourhood friendliness and house prices (yes I know rising house prices aren’t necessarily good, but you know it sure seems to sell a lot of newspapers). Plus, we have an entire country as evidence.
And all the government has to do is create some DfT guidelines so that good quality cycle infrastructure must be installed whenever roads are resurfaced or redesigned. In ten years we’d have so much!
“The main reason traffic congestion is so bad is because there aren’t any decent bike paths. We drivers have got to get those other drivers off the road!“
Could it work? Could the UK’s car drivers come to see the benefit of – and even start to call for – better infrastructure for bikes?