Daily Archives: May 6, 2012

Why isn’t anyone paying attention? Wreck-free Sunday

OK this isn’t entirely a Wreck-free Sunday post, but I’m not going to mention any specific wrecks. I’m just going to ask that yo refer to the last couple of weeks of wrecks and notice how few of them would have even been possible with getting the infrastructure right. Granted there would still have been a few that could have happened in the Netherlands, but the vast majority could not have happened with Dutch-style infrastructure that keeps bikes off streets with speeds over about 18 MPH (30 km/h) with some areas having even lower speed limits of 20 km/h (about 12 MPH). The stopping distance (reaction time plus braking distance) at 20 km/h is about 15 feet, with some vehicles having even shorter distances because of radar and very powerful brakes. fifteen feet or less means that if you can see it you can probably avoid hitting it. The laws in the Netherlands also mean that if you are in an area with 20 km limits you are probably on high alert for kids running out in front of you or other sudden obstructions and as such even bicycles will register on your personal awareness.

This is what we need now in the US. No excuses, no more delays, because delays mean more dead cyclists and more dead kids, both now and in the future from diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle. We are reaping the “benefits” of years designing the environment to only support moving around in a car leaving little to no choice to use other modes of travel. Right now the number one killer of children is motor vehicle wrecks, with pollution from motor vehicles also being high on the list. That continues up to age 35 or so when diseases from sedentary lifestyles begin to overtake the wrecks. So our cars are killing us coming and going, directly and indirectly, unless we live long enough to die from old age, because the infrastructure has been built that way and our culture is such that the thought of driving less than 2 miles to the grocery store or the video rental is not absurd but accepted and commonplace.

So, we have another barrier to acceptance, attitudes towards cars. If cars are so ingrained into the culture that driving a distance that could be easily walked or ridden by bike is not only accepted but expected, How do we change that culture? The same way we changed the tobacco culture in this country, by relentlessly demonstrating the amount of damage done to people by automobility. A handfull of people died from playing a game called “Lawn Darts” several decades ago where people tossed heavy blunt darts underhanded towards a circular target where the second half of the team waited to throw their turn in the other direction. Tried buying a set lately? You can’t. That is what is needed in the long run, a lawn darts campaign against the constant use of motor vehicles for personal transportation, a cigarrette campaign against the abuse of motor vehicles.

We don’t need to do it for ourselves, we need to do it for our children.

PSA, Opus