Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Albany, bicycling, road rage and #GahanFail.

Minnesotans seem to be covering these topics sensibly on a regular basis. In this instance: Auto-centrists have almost every advantage, so why do they get so angry?

Drivers' antagonism toward cyclists termed 'classic prejudiced behavior', by Susan Perry (Minn Post)

... Although cycling is much healthier — both for our health and our pocketbooks — than many people realize, it’s also much more perilous than it needs to be, as Walker stresses in his article.

And a big reason for that has to do with the remarkable level of anger that many people harbor toward cyclists, both in Britain and in the United States.

Anger that, frankly, isn’t explained by the occasional bad behavior of a cyclist who, say, weaves between traffic or doesn’t stop at a red light.

As Walker points out, cyclists are rarely to blame for bike-car accidents.

Can pointy-headed disciplines like sociology and psychology help explain the rage of motorists? Yes, they can, but one must be receptive to the findings.

 ... The debate around cycling occasionally bears comparison with the treatment of so-called societal outgroups, according to Dr. Ian Walker, a psychologist at Bath University. One of his experiments to research attitudes towards cyclists involved riding around his home town wearing a long brunette wig with an electronic distance gauge attached to his bike, to see whether drivers gave female cyclists more overtaking space than men. They did, even when the “woman” was 6 ft tall and, for the drivers who happened to look in their rearview mirror, surprisingly hairy.

“What you see in discourses about cycling is the absolute classic 1960s and 1970s social psychology of prejudice,” he explains. “It’s exactly those things that used to be done about minority ethnic groups and so on — the overgeneralisation of negative traits, under-representation of negative behaviours by one’s own group, that kind of thing. It’s just textbook prejudiced behaviour.”

Such research suggests that the out-of-proportion antagonism directed at cyclists will only abate when the numbers of cyclists on the road (or, better yet, on dedicated cycling paths) increases to some tipping point, and all those angry drivers realize that the cyclists whose lives they’re imperiling are their family members, friends and neighbors.

Empathy versus the need to gain precious milliseconds while texting and wolfing down some DQ?

As it pertains to New Albany, the real point to me goes something like this: If it is deemed in our best interests to re-adapt streets in a multi-modal way to encourage bikes and enhance the experience for pedestrians, then we won't be able to achieve it on the down-low.

Rather, it will require fact-based vision (the research is abundant in favor of Specking-out New Albany yesterday) and firm resolve on the part of elected and appointed officials.

This naturally must begin at the top, with a mayor who can respond coherently and publicly to the splutterings of the enraged, as in this piece:

Let’s Put Those Tired, Anti-Bike Arguments to Rest, by Lindsey Wallace (Streets MN)

It’s inevitable. Every local news article that mentions biking, no matter how fluffy or non-controversial the article, will incite hordes of angry commenters to bring up the same tired, disproven arguments over and over again. It’s time we put those to rest.

Unfortunately, New Albany's weakest link can be found at the apex of the local political patronage chain.

Neither Jeff Gahan nor the local Democratic Party has proven equal to the task of leading in this matter. Gahan himself has yet to embrace a public position on the Speck study, while continuing to shape his private message to the predisposition of the listener -- if you're for it, he's for it, and if you're against it, so is he.

That's simply not good enough, and it's time for progressives to stop accepting Gahan's perennial excuses (when he even bothers making them), and call him out.


I'm afraid we'll have to let him go.

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