21 January 2013

Cyclists' demonstrations – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Cyclists’ protests can be a good thing arising out of a bad thing. Confused?
by Pedro Madruga

The Good
The number of actions protesting for more cyclist and pedestrian rights is becoming more common, large-scaled and with increased outcomes.  Most of us are aware of the protests in Denmark and Netherlands during the 70’s, aiming mostly for increased safety. If you're not aware of that then here’s a whole article waiting for you here.

Back then, a message was sent to politicians: the ink was made of cyclists and pedestrians and the paper was the city hall square – as you can see in the below picture (Copenhagen). It figuratively said: “enough”.



And it worked. Without violence, just pure human kinetics.

Throughout history there were several protests were cyclists and pedestrians claimed for better rights. Just last year, a massive protest gathered 10 thousand cyclists in the UK and 50 thousand in Italy.  And the list goes on, whether it is in France, U.S., Greece or anywhere else.

And there's also a number of demonstrations promoting bicycle use. A slightly different subject. 

The Bad
The cause that leads people to go outside and protest for or against something (or someone) is often the downside of the whole process: everyone was/is tired of seeing all-white painted bicycles furnishing their cities. Also, too many pedestrians were/are killed, including children in both groups. «Stop the child murder» was a pressure group and one of the reasons for protests in the 70’s, in Netherlands. An example where a bad thing led to a good thing.

The Ugly
Inertia. Living in the past. From politicians to professionals. Possibly from me and you too. There’s still more to strive for: if one pedestrian or one cyclist dies, then we have failed our goal by one person.

But not everyone is suffering for inertia, far from it. Laws have changed and will continue changing due to these demonstrations.

The future (will be) good In Portugal, there was a demonstration on Saturday, 19th of January. 27 cities around the country will ask in unison for better rights on the road for pedestrians and cyclists. This wasn’t the first attempt at better conditions for cyclists and pedestrians on the road: 13 years ago, José Miguel Afonso was organizing a protest with similar reasons as now. He died two weeks before that protest, hit by a car while cycling. The protest never happened.

When you have emotion backing up a reason to protest, good outcomes are expected - if you do it right. Lean back in your chair and look at your computer screen: “the good” sub-chapter of this post has much more info. Good things have happened before and will continue to happen.

The future can only be good.

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Footnote: all cyclists' protests mentioned here were peaceful and non-confrontational. Unlike the movie referenced in the title of this post.

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