COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Back in January this year, on The Hard Shoulder with Ivan Yates on Newstalk, the presenter put forward the following question in relation to the proposed minimum passing distance law:
“Is there not a kind of moral hazard issue for cyclists, that actually it’s a dangerous thing to do, and that no amount of laws can overcome that?”
In his thoughtful response, the one thing Richie Oakley does not directly address is that cycling is not dangerous. Driving is dangerous.
Driving is dangerous for those in the motor vehicle but especially for those outside of it. If all cyclist deaths on Irish roads that involved a driver are taken out of the count, fatalities fall to near zero.
We think cycling is dangerous because our roads have developed from places for people to places for machines, hostile to people. We often worry about machines taking over the world, not realising they already have. Everything we do, everything we build, is bent around the machines’ needs, and we’re fooled into thinking those needs are ours.
Of course our driving dependence as a society is not simple, and our environment has developed over decades to often make driving the only option. However, we should not make the mistake of forgetting that roads were safe spaces for people until cars arrived.
Only when we recognise this and start thinking of ways to give roads back to people will we be able to apply our human innovation to the problem of car-dependency, and offer people healthier, happier, truly viable alternatives, such as the inherently safe mode of transport called the bicycle.
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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.