Bloody squirrelsNovember 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
Tags: biking, cycling, road safety, victim blaming
Motorists have a pretty well-developed sense of entitlement. All those #bloodycyclists, riding too fast/ riding too slowly/ riding in the gutter/ riding in the middle of the road/ wearing ridiculous clothes/ not wearing hi-vis (delete as applicable). Far from sharing the road, cyclists’ main responsibility seems to be to stay the hell out of everybody else’s way. OR ELSE. Yes, if you have the temerity to ride around on the road without leaping into a hedge at the first sight of a car, you’re asking for it. The most vulnerable road users – the ones who come off worst in any kind of collision – are held responsible for their own safety, even if there isn’t much they can actually do about it.
Several decades of road planning undoubtedly play their part in making motorists feel that their unimpeded forward progress is the most important concern on the road,
but this has been covered extensively (and much more thoroughly than I could manage) elsewhere. Me? I’ve got a squirrel in my sights. I’m blaming Tufty.
If you grew up in the 70s, you’ll remember the Tufty Club. And Green Cross Man. These road safety campaigns were aimed at children, emphasising the need for them to ‘stop, look and listen’ when crossing roads.
All well and good, perhaps. Children need to understand how to cross the road. Similar campaigns warned us about playing in dangerous places. In the same way that we needed to look out for trains on level crossings, or for river currents that might sweep us away, Green Cross Man kindly instructed us that it was up to us to look out for cars; that our safety on the roads was our responsibility. By putting roads into the same category as railways and rivers, these safety campaigns gave the impression that roads and motorists were as dangerous, uncontrollable and free of responsibility as rivers.
Those kids from the 70s are driving around themselves, now. And so are quite a few of *their* kids, having grown up watching their parents fulminating over stupid pedestrians just stepping out in front of them, #bloodycyclists holding them up, and using Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You as an excuse for trying to change the CD, eat a sandwich and check their @mentions while driving along. The other day, on a story about a child who ran out in front of a car, someone commented, ‘What kind of parent lets their child run out?’ No question there about who was at fault.
So I want this squirrel taken out. Yes, try and teach kids not to run into the road*; teach cyclists to ride assertively and visibly, by all means. But much more importantly, teach motorists to give up their assumption that the road is theirs, and theirs alone, and anyone who gets in their way is fair game. Instead of squirrels, road safety campaigns need signs like these:
Because we all pay attention to this kind of sign, don’t we?
* good luck with this one, by the way. From personal experience, I can say it’s harder than it sounds.