Raphael Clemente has written an excellent piece on the social change needed to promote non-motorized transportation and livable communities.
As one who uses a bicycle for the vast majority of my trips around town, I am often struck by the crazy behavior and strange reactions of some automobile drivers. I am not implying that people who drive cars are evil or by virtue of riding a bicycle for transportation that I am better than anyone else. But some drivers are intent on using their vehicles to barge their way through situations using intimidation and fear as a means of influencing others.
Occasions like the two that just happened as I pedaled back downtown from my lunch break at home make me realize that if we are to develop a non-automobile dependent transportation system we will need to change the way many people think about rights, access, and priority of treatment on our roads and in our public spaces.
I might use “equality” rather than “priority,” however, when it comes to land-use we do need to change the priorities away from moving large numbers of private automobiles at high speed. That thinking has turned our suburbs into hell-scapes of hot pavement where the “walk” signals should say “run” because you don’t have a prayer of getting across if you walk.
But back to the social structure: I think the incivility disease extends beyond the treatment of pedestrians and bicyclists. Many motorists are jerks to each other, too. I suspect the underlying selfishness and entitlement extends beyond the road as well, but the anonymity of being encased in steel certainly brings out the worst in some people.
The Winter Park Civility Initiative is going to be concluding its research phase soon. This phase has included focus groups and a survey to document people’s attitudes toward pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. I’ll publish the findings on the above-linked website when they are released. But here are a few sample themes:
- Roads were viewed as ‘belonging’ to cars; cyclists and pedestrians should stay out of the way as much as possible.
- Cyclists in traffic made participant motorists nervous.
- Large groups of riders annoyed and/or worried participants.
- Pedestrians’ and cyclists’ behavior was viewed as difficult to predict.
- While unsure of the exact laws, participants were frustrated by cyclists’ failure to stop at traffic signals and take other safety measures.
- The presence of other motorists made some participants feel pressured during encounters with cyclists and pedestrians.
The next phase will be the design of a social marketing campaign to encourage the behavior we desire.
What behavior do you want to see from pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in a civil and cooperative community? What kind of messages would you respond to? What kind of messages do you think the non-cyclists you know would respond to?