You know what I find so infuriating about armchair urbanists, my (former) colleagues in academia, and the bicycle advocacy community? It’s this idea that legislators should listen to them, not their voters. So they lobby. How lazy! Lobby the masses. The politicians will follow. I’m in the process right now of sidling up with a like minded corporate sponsor to help me do that—but more on that some other day.
Is there any occasion though when it makes sense to go straight to government to lobby for a new law or order? A new book doing the rounds War: What is if Good For? has triggered a thought. (Disclaimer: I’ve pawed it in the bookshop and listened to the author on the radio, but that’s about as far I go with any book really).
The book argues that groups of humans, if they didn’t have policing regimes looking over their shoulders, would pull guns on each other at the slightest provocation. As in days passed we would each have a one-in-five chance of dying through violent attack. The benefit of most wars throughout history is they have brought warring clans together. Coalitions become regimes and establish police forces thus giving people much lower odds of dying through violence.
Our regimes are not doing much though to protect us from a violent death on the road. I don’t need protecting from heart disease, cancer or stroke. I’ll do what I can to improve my odds for myself. And I’m happy with my odds of being shot—even in America I’ve got less than a one-in-three-hundred chance of that happening. It’s the one percent chance of being killed on the road that causes me to wonder if this nation is in the hands of legitimate forces.
I don’t mention it much on my blog, because I’ve never met anyone with same point of view, but my personal reason for not owning a car and for raising a family with bikes, is I’m not satisfied than owning a car, and getting use from it, is at all safe. You’re safer just owning push bikes and navigating the world via bike routes and trains. Most people haven’t survived two serious car accidents (as I have), or if they have they lack the imagination to see how they could be cyclists, so they accept this fate for themselves and their children. I won’t. It’s easier accepting the inevitability of war than accepting the one percent chance that I will die in a mess of bent steel, or the four times greater chance of tragedy if I could my wife and two kids in the figures.
When put in the position of lobbying government, the strongest appeal you can make, is for your life to be spared a violent death that they gave you no way to avoid. If we can each have unbroken webs of safe cycle space in our cities, we can cut out that risk. See it as a bonus that in the process we would each better our chances of dying from heart disease, the number-one killer. (Source for odds-of-dying stats in this blog post.)