Stop the Child Murder

Here is a great piece on how Dutch citizens were able to force their government to promote cycling: Stop the Child Murder.

In case you didn't know, the Netherlands has the highest cycling rate in the world. Around 30% of Dutch adults always ride their bike to work, and around 40% sometimes do. In fact, there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people. And, in Amsterdam, more trips are made by bike than car.  Bicycle is a preferred method of travel.

But this wasn't always the case.  While cycling was popular before World War II, apparently the government--like governments worldwide--began to favor cars in infrastructure planning. As a consequence, but not a surprise, the number of deaths increased, including among children. Out of protest, the "Stop the Child Murder" group formed and advocated for policy and infrastructure changes that made bicycling safer, particularly for children.

This is another way of looking at advocacy for new and safer infrastructure, as the article points out. Instead of cyclists advocating for cyclists, maybe the solution is to advocate for safer travel for children.  American ideas of safety always go back to personal and individual choices--like wearing helmets--that are unproven or that make little difference.  We tend to react distastefully to ideas of government promotion of anything.  The fact remains, however, that the Netherlands and other European countries have much better health outcomes, lower rates of obesity, and higher levels of happiness than we do in the United States. 

Wearing a helmet will not make a child safer, at least not as safe as providing a segregated lane or bike path will.  And until we begin to provide the infrastructure, parents will not feel safe sending their kids out on the roads to ride.  Perhaps it's time to reframe our arguments.

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