“…the way of the road was the rule for all upon it.” –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
“…cities with a high bicycling rate among the population generally show a much lower risk of fatal crashes for all road users…” —Marshall & Garrick, Environmental Practice 13:16–27 (2011)
Americans spend so much time on the road we deserve to feel at home there. Safety for road users is one of the most important indicators for our pursuits of the American dream. Whether we are driving truck, pedaling a bicycle, pushing a baby stroller, or rolling a wheelchair, sharing our streets is an elemental part of what makes America good. Streets are a celebration of our public life, and what we see and do there, whether we feel safe and included, speaks to us.
We are witnessing an ongoing tragedy on our roads. Every month on America’s roads we lose more lives than we did in 9/11. Most of them are persons traveling in automobiles. None of us are invulnerable. “We know all this and act as if we don’t” (Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic, p. 275). The illusion of invulnerability walls off our sensitivities. If we pay attention to the human vulnerabilities in all of us, we realize something like a Declaration of Interdependence aptly describes the nature of public safety on our roads. The streets won’t feel safe for any of us until they are functioning safely for all users. Recognizing this interdependence is key.
Every human being deserves a safe home, a safe workplace, safe schools, a safe neighborhood and a safe road to travel on in between. Every road is like a bridge from one part of our life to another. And sometimes the simple act of being on the move is the absolute best place to be in a given moment, feeling wonderfully free. Safe roads are an essential part of freedom, and we’ll do well securing more mobility freedom for our children, grandchildren, and on down the road toward the infinite horizon for the multitude of generations to come. Exercising a more responsible freedom on the road helps us reach towards a better vision of the world where people are protected, and expands opportunities to pursue our interests and live our dreams.
From Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan’s song Masters of War—
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
We as a people can address actions that instill fear to travel with children on our public roads. Speak kindly with caring thought and sincerity. We deserve to be safe. “This land was made for you and me.” (Woody Guthrie, This Land is Your Land) . Begin with peace here. We are worthy.
Check out my blog post “The Quiet Catastrophe” on Edward Hume’s book Door to Door.
In Learning from Trails I look at our expectations for cooperative use of shared public spaces.
In Ride 2 Recovery I explore roads as a place for healing, particularly for wounded warriors.