COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Constructive dismissal is defined as “actions taken by an employer that intentionally make working conditions for an employee difficult or unfair so that the employee feels forced to leave their job”. Every day as I navigate the roads in my home town, it occurs to me that the treatment of cyclists fits that definition.
Let’s say a drilling rig employs twenty people, two of them women. Let’s say it’s known that among the men, a significant number feel the women don’t belong there, and the majority of attitudes range from indifference to outright hostility. Now let’s say the two women are expected to share an open-plan dressing room with the men, where everyone is required to strip to their underwear and leave boiler suits in a basket situated in this room for special washing.
Say the women are provided with a separate changing room, but it’s a tiny, stuffy, filthy room routinely overlooked by cleaning staff (while the open changing area is cleaned regularly) that stinks to high heavens due to its location right beside a tank storing toxic chemicals.
It’s also separated from the men’s changing room by only a ragged curtain not wide enough to really close the door opening, and the guys regularly toss their tog bags in there, blocking the women’s access to the little provision made for them.
Only the most obtuse would fail to understand that this means a hostile environment is created for the women, and that low interest in working for the drilling rig from women is a product of the circumstances they are asked to accept if they engage in work they may in every other way be very keen to do.
How, then, is it so difficult to recognise that a hostile environment is created for cyclists on Irish roads?
We are expected to share a space with wheel-borgs that have killed people like us, in circumstances such as we find ourselves in, in our thousands over the years. The minuscule little bit of provision made for us to do what we need to do is inadequate, often laughably insufficient, and routinely invaded by the power group whose needs are treated as sacred, especially compared to ours.
Ireland’s poor cycling uptake should surprise no-one. We are constructively dismissing everyone but drivers from our roads.
Nadia Williams is a postgraduate researcher investigating the role of social dynamics in cycling uptake and safety. She lives car-free with her family in Dundalk.
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