“Stop thinking like tribes to make the roads safer”
Cyclox administrator Jake Backus explains how Oxford road users belong to different ‘tribes‘.
What defines you? What are your values? To what extent do you think about what is best for you, or for others and society? Are you convinced that your opinions are good and fair? (No doubt we all are.)
We don’t all think the same way or have the same worldview, but we can increasingly find people who share our values online.
These loosely defined groups can coalesce around a particular issue such as Brexit and then we become part of a team. This team is defined in part by the fact that it is not like the other groups. We are not like you. This is our “tribe”. You are not from our tribe.
Well emboldened, we enter the fray and take to social media to berate people who don’t think like us, perhaps hiding behind an anonymous Twitter or Facebook name.
Thus, those who prefer to ride bicycles and those who prefer to drive have formed their tribes.
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Cyclists are annoying and don’t follow the rules, and drivers are dangerous, take up a lot of space and cause pollution. Therefore, “cyclists” go through a red light (although not all cyclists go through a red light) and ride without lights or helmets. “Vehicle drivers” speeding, using their cell phones (although, again, not all drivers speeding or using their phones).
But the reality is that a lot of people ride bikes and drive, and eventually some people misbehave (let’s call them idiots).
You have silly cyclists and silly drivers (though silly drivers tend to be more dangerous to others, while silly cyclists are more often a danger to themselves).
Thus, the debate spins in circles with little compassion or empathy for one another.
At the end of the day, we share the same space and we have to be respectful of each other.
At the grassroots level, do we believe in “survival of the fittest” or “survival of the friendliest through cooperation”? Two big camps indeed!
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Are your opinions formed from a moral, religious or philosophical point of view of equality; or do you feel that people tend to look after themselves to maximize personal benefit, and that the resulting competition promotes overall well-being?
Where is the debate about what is best for society, best for the health and safety of our children and our elderly, and what is socially fair and inclusive?
Ultimately, if we want things to get better, we’ll have to make changes, because by definition something has to change to get better (unless of course you think others should do all the change).
Our environment changes, whether we like it or not. For example, if we continue to build more housing around Oxford, will people still be able to drive to the center? Can we fit more vehicles in our limited space during peak hours?
Can we tolerate air pollution and its impact on our children and our elderly? What then is the best solution?
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How flexible are we to change? How adaptable are we to alternative futures?
Although it can generate engagement and conflict online, tribalism does not help us make progress.
Maybe one day cyclists and drivers can have their own separate space, and if more people cycle, vehicle drivers will also benefit from reduced traffic congestion. A win-win. Meanwhile, the eighth woman has been killed in Oxford in recent years while riding a bicycle.
Let’s make everyone’s health and safety the top priority, share the road with consideration, and discuss things in a moderate and empathetic way so we can agree on the best way forward – literally.
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