I recently had a very frustrating conversation with my hairstylist. It went something like this:
Hairsytlist: “So I’m thinking about moving a bit further away from downtown, but I just love being able to walk to work.”
Me: “Well if you don’t go too far out you can always bike to work.”
Hairstylist: “Oh no I don’t bike!”
Me: “Why not? It’s good for you.”
Hairstylist: “I just don’t. It’s dangerous. A coworker of mine had her bike destroyed by a car.”
Me: “It’s not that dangerous if you’re smart about it.”
Hairstylist: “No, biking is too dangerous. Besides I’m getting a scooter.”
At this point I realized that my hairdresser, while a very nice person, is an idiot. Like a lot of Americans, she has lost the ability to logically assess risk. What is wrong with the publics’ perception of biking when somebody would even possibly hazard that riding a motorized scooter is safer than riding a bike? This led me down another path of thinking.
In 2005 there were 42,636 automobile related deaths in the United States and another 29 million injuries. This dwarfs the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If any other product, drug, or consumable item were killing over 40,000 people per year and injuring millions, the public would be revolting in the streets and the offending device or practice would be banned. However, when people kill with their cars we fall into a massive logic hole. Why? The answer is probably part biological and part selfish. First, we have no evolutionary aversion to the danger of cars. While many of us are hardwired to be afraid of snakes or spiders, we have no natural fear of a one ton projectile moving at 60 miles per hour. Selfishness is the other part of the equation. Without cars, how could we go wherever we want as quickly as possible without having to break a sweat? How would I get to my exurb and still sponge off the high paying jobs made possible by urban centers and civilization?
This lack of reason is utterly bewildering.
I love my bike.