In an intriguing interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast, Johann Hari laid out the logical and emotional case for turning away from the “war on drugs”.
The War on Cycling is real and is even more difficult to budge for the following reason: to turn away from it toward different behaviours, you must convince the addicts (car addicts).
Who to convince about the “war on drugs”
The people Johann he is trying to convince are NOT drug addicts. Rather, he’s trying to convince popular opinion, and in turn policy makers.
Who to convince about the War on Cycling
For a societal change in perspective, we need to convince those who ARE addicted to driving cars. This is worse than the “war on drugs”, since at least that is a project to convince the non-addicts rather than the addicts themselves.
In Ireland, The War on Cycling is being being spearheaded by agencies including the Road “Safety” “Authority” (in truth, it’s being spearheaded by the auto industry, and the Road Traffic Act 2006 and RSA are a symptom of this). It is clear that it is a war on cyclists, rather than advocating for the development of protected cycle infrastructure. For example, the family cycle day held by Limerick “Smarter” Travel in 2018 on Bishop’s Quay included broadcasting on loudspeakers to families to obey laws. The RSA, through the Gardaí, spoke at my son’s school to tell them they should not cycle to school. This is in contrast to work that the RSA could be doing, such as lobbying for development of pedestrian- and cycle-first infrastructure that would transform the daily life of people in Ireland for the better.
Where are the addiction hooks? Does the Netherlands hold clues?
So this is my open question to you: how to you begin to convince addicts of the promise of changing their behaviours? How is it that the Netherlands, in particular, seems to be a country with policies more in tune with non-car-addicts than car addicts? What happened in the 1990s or before that that swung popular and political opinion?
(Note, there’s a tension in my classification of driving as an addiction. Gabor Maté classified addiction as any behaviour in which you seek relief from pain but you are unable to avoid despite the long-term consequences. The habit of driving absolutely does have long-term consequences to your health and the risk of death to people that are sharing the same public space as you. However, I can’t stretch this definition to say that people drive in order to get relief from pain.)