I’ll just throw these stats out there. Stephen Hodge in Canberra sent me a link to Australia’s road death stats. Whichever sample month you care to look at, you see death rates for cyclists are higher than for the same month in previous years. You might attribute that to population growth, except, the death rate for every other mode is trending downward. (We’re looking at the bottom line in each of these tables, with minuses in front of the figures for car users, motorcyclists and pedestrians).
We can’t purely blame the increasing popularity of cycling for the increase in cycling deaths, because driving has increased even more, not in its portion of the overall mode share, but in overall numbers of car trips and kilometres traveled. Yet deaths by driving keep getting lower.
The best explanation I can offer, is that governments have some idea about how to make modes safer if those modes have political gravity, and they know how to demonise and ignore minority groups, whether they’re bike users, refuges, or aboriginals. Perhaps the most deadly thing you can do in Australia, isn’t smoking or speeding, but not being a part of the political mainstream.
An aboriginal or refugee might object that cycling isn’t a factor of birth, but white middle class ideology, as it quite often is. Nevertheless, many cyclists are genuinely motivated out of a wish to do good, or in my case, an aesthetic aversion to waste. Our conservation, when we could be wasting, benefits all of humanity, which matters most to those on the brink. I’m sure some clever cat could calculate the number of people saved from starvation in the 3rd world, per kilometre cycled in the 1st world. It’s not such a stretch.
This line of thinking underlines an absurdity. As if cyclists don’t suffer enough, with bike theft, road rage, rain, pedestrian scorn and other indignities, our chances of dying are being allowed to increase, despite the fact that we do good.
In South America, the practice of sacrificing virgins and children spiked during times of greatest shortage. Killing those least to blame for their own depletion of scarce resources somehow vetted the guilt and anxiety of mainstream Incan society. I feel as though the road rage, political hate speech, criminal neglect by traffic engineers, and the waving of charges when drivers kill cyclists, is borne of the same human psychology.