Monday, 19 August 2013

Bypassing an unpleasant controversy

So I've wasted hours of my life in pointless argument. People who know me may be less than surprised by this. I usually rather enjoy arguing, even at cross purposes, after a few drinks to bring all involved to the optimum level of incoherence and stubborn intransigence.

However, the argument of bike vs car is an especially unpleasant one that tends to bring out the most tribal and selfish attributes of both sides. As with most 'lifestyle' arguments it quickly devolves into a sprawling mess of interrelated issues. Ethics, environmentalism, safety, legality and anecdote intertwine as temperatures rise and everybody involved tries to justify their heart-felt beliefs and habits. It usually ends with hurt feelings all round along with a general nasty atmosphere.

So I was relieved to stumble across a tactic that bypasses all of these poorly understood and applied issues and reduces the debate to a single question. Probably I'm being as intolerant as everyone else but it is a question that is addressed to car drivers and will probably strongly appeal to cyclists and other road users.

The question is '... would you prefer X more cars instead'. Allowing for selective perception we can conservatively estimate that for every one cyclist/bus/motorbike that annoys a motorist there are four that they simply don't clock or have no problems with.

Annoyed by the extra six seconds it takes you to pass a cyclist on a steep upwards stretch? Instead you could add another four cars to your traffic jam,

Inconvenienced by a bus rudely pulling out in front of you or taking a while to safely reach a bus stop? The alternative might be fifty more cars - enough to clog any main road.

The brilliant thing is that it doesn't work the other way round. Most bus passengers, cyclists and motorbike riders would be glad to see more people adopt their favoured mode of transport. For the former it could only bring ticket prices down (possible after a transition stage while the infrastructure began to benefit from increased revenue). For cyclists and motorbikes it would just lower the chance of accident or death. I don't think anyone would mourn the decreased emissions.  

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