Thursday, 9 October 2008
I've argued in the past that increasing the subjective safety of cyclists is probably the most important thing that can be done to increase cycling. I'm sticking with this. It's easily the biggest difference in the experience of cycling here vs. the UK, and it's pretty obvious which place has most cycling.
It isn't only in cycling that subjective safety is important. The motor vehicle industry has for many years touted the safety of their products. For instance in the very clever Volkswagen ad shown here.
Never mind that a comparable number of people were killed by motor vehicles during the 20th century as in all the wars combined, the message is always that cars are safe. They've also managed to make people think that bigger and more expensive cars are safer, even if it's not always true.
The airline industry is even better at it. It's hardly surprising that many people have a fear of flying. There can be few things more unnatural, or a more inherent feeling of danger, than sitting in a hermetically sealed tube which is travelling several miles above the ground at an incredibly high speed. However airlines present it as something else. Airliners have subdued and relaxing lighting, they hide the nuts and bolts of construction and the necessarily thin pressure bearing walls of the aircraft by nicely decorated and smooth plastic mouldings. The staff speak in a reassuring and controlled manner so as not to alarm passengers. Aviation disaster movies (or anything else alarming) are not scheduled for in-flight entertainment.
And what is happening for cycling ? While what ought to be done is to control the source of the danger, the motor vehicle, the emphasis is all to often placed on cyclists and pedestrians who are expected to behave and dress in ways which attempt to increase their own safety, generally marginally, in a hostile environment. It's the wrong approach because it does not attack the danger, nor the fear of danger head on. The way to increase both safety and subjective safety of cyclists is already known.
Anyway, the motor industry is where we came in, and here's more from them. Relax and enjoy this film, and be reassured that your "living room on wheels" is the safest place in the world...
I have more examples of things concerning subjective safety. To see what it's like to cycle without safety concerns, visit Assen. The photo at the top came from here.