Selling understanding

Given we can’t all up and move to the Netherlands, improving on-road safety for Australian cyclists is a complicated issue. With decades of cultural inertia and car-focussed infrastructure to be overcome, there is no silver bullet. No one thing will solve all the problems; certainly not one that can be implemented quickly and inexpensively in any case. Anyone out there who suggests there is has, in my view, been sniffing way too much carbon paste or WD40.

That said, the one overarching thing that could make a very big difference is greater respect and empathy; from all sides. Far easier said than done, of course.

As a motorcyclist and an ex-advertising industry person, the situation reminded me of this ad campaign run by the TAC a few years back. Not dissimilar to the whole “motorists vs cyclists” debate, it focussed on trying to change attitudes between motorbike riders and motorists. Not quite the same, but not entirely different either.

I didn’t work on the campaign, but the strategy is pretty clear. It’s all about humanising the debate, and showing each of the warring parties the other side’s perspective – because when you’re cocooned away in your car, or under your motorbike helmet, it’s pretty easy to be become rather self-absorbed and insular out there on the road. Anyone who gets in your way or disagrees with you is a #$%^%*wit.

I have no idea how successful the TAC campaign was (if you do, please let us know). But on the surface it seems like a pretty relevant and compelling way to go about a problem that, just like ours, is potentially lethal.

Wouldn’t it be great if governments (beyond just local councils and interest groups with their well-meaning but pop-gun budgets) treated cycling safety with similar importance to issues like speeding and drinking driving? High profile campaigns with powerful messages, bolstered by adequate media spend to ensure that message gets heard. Loud and clear.

Like I said, it won’t solve some of the fundamental structural issues that need to be addressed. But it’s a lot cheaper and faster to get an ad campaign off the ground than it is to build 100s of kilometres of dedicated cycleways where, often, there isn’t much space to begin with. That needs to be done too. But it takes time. And sadly, there are riders amongst us who don’t have time. They’ll be injured, paralysed and even dead by this time next year.

Maybe lobbying Governments for campaigns that drive real awareness of the issues at play for cyclists and motorists is something we should all be doing? Right now.

Just a thought.

4 thoughts on “Selling understanding

  1. Introduce Strict Liability. Cyclist hits pedestrian, Cyclist is at fault. Car hits cyclist, car is at fault. Truck hits car… and so on.
    It will change behaviour and hopefully erode the attitude that people walking and cycling are car fodder. This puts the onus on the larger vehicle to take extra care around the vulnerable road user.

    1. A lot of people point to this as a solution mate. And no doubt it would make a huge difference…but…I believe this falls firmly in the cultural inertia category. Can you honestly see any Australian govt (either side of politics) pass such laws? I can’t; not any time soon, anyway. The motoring groups/lobby still carry way too much sway. Sad, but true.

  2. Good ad. Unfortunately for anything like this to be made for cycling…will need more deaths/injuries (such as the recent spike in cycling deaths) or…..a very high profile person to be killed while cycling.

    There was a good-ish UK ad out a few years back on cycling……..but still in the us vs them category.

  3. Sadly this COMMENT sums up the 13 deaths in November in UK & 3 recent in Sydney :

    ” And sadly, there are riders amongst us who don’t have time. They’ll be injured, paralysed and even dead by this time next year.”

    WHY is this nOT being supported :

    And sadly, there are riders amongst us who don’t have time. They’ll be injured, paralysed and even dead by this time next year.

    English Speaking Countries throughout the world are alergic to ” Strict Liability & 1 1/2M laws ” ALREADY in Use in EU Countries !

    You don’t agree this is the way to SOLVE the issues throughout the World , then send the link to a CAMPAIGN that is ALL INCLUSIVE !

    ” Amy Gillett Foundation ” has IDEAS that ” Cities fit for Cycling ” can use in the UK ! “SafeCyclingAustralia ” can help ” Sustrans & CTC of UK ” with a few Ideas ? USA has their share of Org.s that can contribute IDEAS that can be useful elsewhere .

    AS a Worldwide Umbrella Org. of Integrity speaks , Politicians will LISTEN and be FORCED to ACT, they will not wish to be seen as UNABLE to act ?

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