30 May 2011

Get the Hell Away From My Children


My son brought this home from school the other day. He showed it to be with a smile and said "Daddy... I think you better put this on your website..."

Clever boy. By and large I have faith in the Danish education system. My boy goes to a good school and has brilliant teachers. Once in a while, however, they let people from the wrong side of the rationality tracks into the classroom. Without me, the parent, knowing about it or allowing me to choose if I want my children to particpate.

Denmark is largely a secular nation. Only 7% attend church in Copenhagen. When my son started going to school, however, I was rather amazed to hear that they were led down the street to church on occasion. So much for separating church and state. Now, he let's me know when it will happen and I take him to the Zoological Museum or the Science Museum to talk about Darwin and/or science instead - when work allows me to.

It's the same thing with this ridiculous reflective vest that was handed out to his class recently. Without any prior knowledge, some safety freaks from something called Børneulykkefonden - something like Childrens Accident Foundation in English - were allowed in the classroom.

They handed out reflective vests and flyers to the children. The headline on the flyer reads "It's Cool to be Seen in the Traffic". The text starts out with the bold claim that "Reflective vests save lives".

The funny thing is that there is very little scientific evidence that backs up this claim. One study from Norway is all they're basing their claim on. One study.

They go on to say that you should always wear a vest in the dark, the rain and in fog. Which is basically 7 months of the year in Denmark.

Seriously. This is what this little flock of worryworts wants. That everyone wears reflective vests.

250,000 years of Homo sapiens and now THESE ridiculous people are flogging their personal perception of fear to MY children.

These are the poster children for The Culture of Fear. These are the people society at large should be wary of. Together with The Danish Road 'Safety' Council (Rodet for Sikker Panik), this group of unelected safety nannies are allowed free access to society so that they can preach their fears. All so neo-religious. All so North Korean.

Regarding my son, he has great humour and knew that this reflective vest thing would be right down my alley. However, it's not all flippant. We have great conversations about safety and traffic and I try to be as balanced as possible when I try to explain the mentality of these safety nannies and why indepedent thought, based on experience and research, is more important than a little group of communication consultants vainly attempting to project their personal fear on the population at large.

Nowhere on the website for this little Borneulykkesfonden.dk website is there a call for lower speed limits, fewer cars on the streets, switching short trips to the bicycle or anything remotely rational and positive for society. Just the usually scaring people off of bikes and attempting to wrap citizens in bubble wrap while blatantly ignoring the bull. They are merely spokespeople for a car-centric society. Together with the rest of the Fear Culture Safety Brigade we should send them to a remote island with suits like these:


Addendum:
I spoke with a teacher who teaches a 7th grade class a month or so ago. She had given the students the task to research bike helmets. They all agreed that the only reason some of them wore them was because "their parents told them to". The teacher told them to research the subject thoroughly, looking at science and other sources and to reach their OWN conclusion. That's it. Nothing more said.

She told me that the conclusion made by these students was that here in Denmark - where they've from - there was little reason to wear or promote bike helmets and that their parents knew little about the subject.

What thrills me is that this cool teacher gave these 7th graders a task in independent thought, research and collective decision-making. Whatever the outcome of their project, independent thought was the winner at the end of the day.

And independent thought and rationality will defeat the Safety Nannies. Until then, stay the hell away from my children.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Being English, I read "Rodet for Sikker Panik" as "Rodent for Sicker Panic".

dothebart said...

having trouble with sweat on my arms I tried to get a vest to replace my gore rain jacket, which would cause me discompfort because of my sweat would run down the arms after 20 minutes of cycling...
Now try to find a vest which is not here to protect skinny people from the bad bad gods of windchill, so their back is all open...
one of those actualy delivering water proofing for the body happened to be a reflective thing like those on your picture...
So, i'm wearing a reflective vest during the rains.
oh my...

David said...

One wonders if the same people aren't behind the Marmite ban as well...

Anonymous said...

Wow if only their logo was self-parody...http://www.borneulykkesfonden.dk/_layouts/images/RSA.BufDk.UI.Layouts/logo.png

kfg said...

The point of a bait ball (safety in numbers) is that no individual stands out.The group as a whole becomes the visible entity.

If small numbers of individuals seek to stand out it breaks down the bait ball affect; endangering the group as a whole.

If all individuals seek to stand out the effort is self negating; and therefore pointless.

It is important to remember when dealing with these issues that while light reflected from or absorbed by an object is an objective event, seeing is a subjective experience. It happens in your consciousness, not in your eyes. Where there is consciousness it actually becomes very difficult to not be seen. Ask any hunter or ninja.

To the extent that there is value in "I can see you from space wear(tm)" it is for the isolated cyclist(s) riding where they are not expected and/or respected.

In this light I leave a comparison of the cycling environment of Norway to that of Copenhagen as an exercise for the student.

Ryan said...

Brings back memories to when I was in grade 3 and my school handed out bicycle helmets.
I believe the helmet sat in the basement for close to 10 years.

There have been some recent incidents in the Niagara region as of late between the sport/visibility cyclists and motorists.

From observing cyclists in the city, those who wear such vests are passed much closer and given less respect from motorists.

Anonymous said...

Your best post yet.

didrik said...

kfg is right. If a few people are wearing these things, then people will be trained to look for only bright vests. I.e. "if I don't see a bright vest, then nothing is there."
Also, the visual impact of devices like reflective vests seems to diminish if everyone is using them. Day running head lamps were made mandatory on all new cars in the US after a study (Norwegian if memory serves) showed that headlights in the daytime reduced head-on collisions. Lo and behold, now that everyone has day-running headlights, the safety advantage went away. Most probably, because it doesn't stand out anymore since everyone has them.

Luis Peters said...

Follow the money ...
http://velomondial.blogspot.com/2011/05/road-safety-follow-money.html

crapbournemouthcyclist said...

Funny how no-one ever calls for all motor vehicles to be covered in day-glo so they can be seen more easily!
How many car-on-car SMIDSY accidents happen every day?

Anonymous said...

I'm a Believer and a Bike Rider. Just a hand in the air to let you know that the two can be combined. Not all of us are irrational fear mongers. It's a shame that those who shout the loudest end up representing the rest of us regular folks.

Peter Jacobsen said...

Reflective vests are to traffic safety as gas masks are to clean air...

Anonymous said...

Interesting.
As a race car/motorcycle driver/rider you are taught how important your vision is - where you look is where your car will go.
Look at that vest...oops!?

aronman said...

this is a "souvenir" from a bicycle promoting event by mcdonalds in budapest 2 weeks ago:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=202783216429415&set=a.202783213096082.49233.128441543863583&type=1&ref=nf

Anonymous said...

The below the line promotion of car values are amazing. If the logic of this action was consistant then all cars would be fitted with hazzard "yellow and black" bumpers like trucks, But that might suggest a car is a dangerous thing.
looked up TED on I,Pad App, but could not find any thing about bikes or bike helmets. Did find 15 presentations on the car etc.
As I said the below the line promotion of cars is amazing

Morten Lange (Reykjavík) said...

I laughed out loud when I read that comment from you son Mikael :-)

Here is a gang, not very dissimilar to one that I met in Copenhagen during Velo-City Global 2010.
They seem to be taking the hi-viz thingy very jestingly :-) Youtube video featuring "Rad Rowdies" in Vienna

(That group in Copenhagen was somewhat related to the bike messenger community, as I guess Rad Rowdies might be ...)

Kristin Tieche said...

Your post reminds me of this video I made: http://vimeo.com/13012455
xo miss you.