18 July 2013

Space for cycling: more radical than you realize

Cycling Scotland's flagship programme for cycle safety is called 'cyclespace' and involves pictures of kids on bikes asking 'give me cycle space'.   

I've just worked out what's wrong with it.   (I'm a bit late to the party)

Compare it with the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) posters used to such good effect in recent protests. 

The difference isn't in the pics of cute kids. The difference is in the 'me'.  It's the individualizing of the issues.  In one it is a request made to drivers on a one-by-one basis - constantly negotiated. 

Cycling Scotland is saying, if you see a little kid cycling in front of you, give them space. Maybe that will even translate into space for us big people on bikes too.  

But the LCC campaign isn't asking for individual negotiations between drivers and cyclists.  Nor even for drivers to show respect and follow the highway code (which were the other two brilliant suggestions from the Transport Minister to a toll of rising deaths and injuries). 

It's asking for a state-led redistribution of space. An institutional and infrastructural change that redefines who is allowed where. 

That's why it's so radical, not because of the required expenditure (which would be recouped by the state anyway), but because it identifies the way in which roadspace  and our use of it has been liberalized and individualised, and because it challenges those presumptions about how our behaviour should be shaped and regulated. 

We know that behavioural campaigns don't work, but in asking for infrastructural change, we're not just asking for better, more effective, scientifically proven change that will make Scotland a better place to live, we're also resisting attempts to reduce everything to individual transactions, and demanding instead societal responsibility, mandated through our elected representatives and paid for by our taxes. 

Of course we should all show respect for other road users, and follow the highway code, but reducing road safety to individual behaviour is morally and ethically bankrupt. 


Unknown said...

Very very interested on your views of the latest incarnation of Cycle Scotlands behaviour change program "Nice Way Code"

*runs and hides*

Sara Dorman said...

Coming soon. been having fun offline :)