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“A social problem more than a legal problem.”

January 25, 2012

Don’t ask me why, but I’m on a bit of anti-bike-licensing kick lately.  The following take comes from Chris Rissel, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney.  He writes about some of the technical and practical issues that would come with any bike licensing scheme, but it’s his take on the social component of shared streets that I like the most.  Some highlights:

Riding too fast on a shared path with lots of pedestrians is a social problem more than a legal problem. It is bad manners, like someone running through a crowded mall. Collectively we need to remind each other that that sort of behaviour is inappropriate and re-establish norms around respect and basic etiquette.

If bicycle registration changed driver behaviour in a way that legitimised cycling then I’d be all for it. However, I can’t see a small metal plate with some numbers on it slowing impatient drivers down, or helping drivers “see” bicycles on the road, or affecting drivers in any meaningful way that made it safer for bicycles.

Rather than pursuing registration, politicians and cycling groups need to do more to promote existing cycling etiquette guides which emphasise respect for all road users. Bike shops should give these out whenever someone buys a bike, to reinforce good behaviour. Campaigns like “Do the right thing” can help support social norms about how all road users need to slow down and be respectful of each other.

Making more laws is rarely the answer to social problems like the interaction between different road users. This is not a question of legality: it’s a matter of manners, awareness, and of mutual respect.

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2 Comments
  1. January 25, 2012 9:59 am

    True. And if we are going to ticket rudeness ,the tourists would find a ghost town

  2. Lauri Schindler permalink
    January 25, 2012 11:01 pm

    The same goes for programs like “Neighborhood Slow Zones” and “20 is Plenty.” Rebranding them to take the emphasis off of speed and place it on safe and respectful behavior would be a step in the right direction.

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