Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hugging Like This is Not Solidarity

I had some hope for Bikes Belong - People for Bikes is one of their initiatives - when it first appeared. But now - like the League of American Bicyclists - they think that some simplistic "sharing" message made in collaboration with a big private car actor - in the latter's case the AAA and in People for Bikes's VW - will have some significant effect. 

There is a belief - an excuse for soft over hard measures - that "it is all about education" and that dangerous conditions are caused by acute (at the time of incident) dehumanization of The Other. But Bikes Belong also falls into the trap which sees drivers and riders as equals on the street.

But the holistic sharing problem is not solved by better driving alone - and certainly not with better riding!!! It is mainly infrastructure and road design that makes real solidarity impossible*, so prioritizing separation of pathways (including intersection movements) is one of the best ways to promote real hugging (!).

How many viewers of the Bikes Belong-People for Bikes spot will visit their website to get the real message that the org. is trying to deliver, including good ideas such as increased financial investment in the all-important infrastructure? Perhaps the problem is not fundamental - though given this recent deceitful mobility porno in the new spot I would like to see Bikes Belong justify its partnership with Volkswagen. (Here is one of their recent adverts, which it does not seem that Bikes Belong influenced.) I suspect that the tail (in the form of outside consultants brought in by VW) is wagging the dog here. Bikes Belong needs to figure out how to honestly engage in communicating effective policy and ideas. Abusing the glorious embrace of humans for the benefit of a huge private urban automobile-making company does not encourage the belonging of bikes.

*Impossible? Unapproachable? Difficult? I suppose my point is that private, energy-efficient automobiles do have a role to play as a responsible part of the entire mobility mix, but mostly in a supporting role.


David Hembrow said...

The adverts are nicely made, but who really are they for ? The message from the ads is orthogonal to the problem and I think it's rather a shame that an organisation representing cyclists has put its name to these advertisements.

"Sharing" is the problem, not the solution !

For so long as vulnerable people are expected to "share" equally with those who are stronger, faster and better protected, cycling will remain the preserve of the minority of people who are relatively unaffected by issues of subjective safety.

Calls for people to "share" do not bring equality to the streets and these adverts do not change the experience that the majority of people will have if they try cycling next to large motorized vehicles.

Slow Factory said...

"Sharing" in the holistic sense - equitable distribution of space between facades - is good. Unfortunately "share the road" has at least two different meanings, and "shared space" does not help clear things up either.