lundi 20 juillet 2015

A brief note on street "closures"

from the opened-for-other-uses department

Using my mother's Mac for a couple of days, and I just rediscovered this comment that I wrote last summer. A Sheffield cyclist had posted a nicely illustrated blogpost of human powered traffic on the streets immediately after the Tour passed there last summer, and was asking for more of it. 

>At least two callers [to a local radiostation phone-in] have suggested that we need to close the roads more often

As you have so vividly illustrated, when we close roads to motor traffic we *open* them to other more convivial uses such as chatting to the neighbours, evanescent art projects, walking, cycling, and even bicycle racing.

This point may seem pedantic, but if, as a cycle campaigner, you fall in with the dismal motor paradigm that does not even admit of a choice in the matter of use of public space, then you are already losing before you begin. Reclaim the roads!

Please note also that there is a large and influential lobby of businesses connected with the provisionment of motor traffic in all its glory--motor vehicle manufacturers, oil multinationals, civil engineering firms etc etc--that would be extremely threatened by the widespread adoption of cycling. As the clamour against road deaths rises, second line measures such as exporting all cyclists to a imagined parallel universe of cycle infrastructure offer false promise of reduction in danger for cyclists. In fact, junctions--the principal source of collision risk for the cyclist--become more complicated, and are arguably, in the absence of modifications in driver behaviour, more dangerous.

The policy of separating cyclists from other traffic also has the highly desirable effect--for the motor lobby--of delegitimising cyclists who ignore inferior infrastructure and continue to ride on the road.

These points may seem to be slightly pedantic, but to paraphrase Richard Stallman, please don't ever embody in your words the assumption that the only traffic is motor traffic, because if you presuppose that reclaiming the roads for other uses is impossible, and that's embedded in your way of speaking, then you'll be working very much against that. And the big picture third paragraph attacking big business is a classic Beezer tactic: just hoping to change one person's mind, just once, at a moment when they might just be ready to. And that is why I write comments, even if they are considered the lowest form of internet literary life.

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