Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Citizens' Jury

I don't know if it is a first (probably not) but you will know doubt have read that the SA Government's "Citizen Jury" has been tasked to address the problem of cars and bike sharing the road and how they can do it safely. This is its second task. First time round it was asked to consider the issue of ensuring we have a vibrant and safe nightlife.

With the vibrancy question, in its final report the jury came back saying Adelaide nightlife is already vibrant and safe when compared with similar cities interstate and overseas. And so they dealt with making it even more vibrant and safer.

What was good was that the jury did not simply accept that the right question was asked.

I think (and hope) that will be the outcome this time.

Calls to share the road are all very well but they detract from the real issue. They assume that various road users can be divided into labels (forgetting that anyone could be a "driver", "pedestrian", "rider" or "passenger") and assuming equal responsibility and culpability to each. They forget human error and the consequences of it. Please read this excellent discussion of the problems with sharing the road campaigns:

“share the road” campaigns always fall into the same trap: the belief that if you’re sending a set of messages to one set of road users, you have to send an equivalent set of messages to another.

[They imply] that the journeys – made by the combination of the person and the vehicle – are equivalent, and thus by extension it implies that person-plus-car and person-plus-bicycle are equivalent. They are not. And this is, once more, the crucial failing. The authors of the messages wilfully blind themselves to the fundamental inequality of danger due to people’s choice of kinetic energy and base the whole campaign not on danger, but on diplomacy.

Rather than share the road campaigns, that we have tried and tried, we know how to reduce our road toll. It by using the concept of sustainable safety:

Sustainable Safety is all about prevention - preventing crashing from occurring, and, secondarily, reducing the risk of serious injuries when collisions do occur.

One of the core principles of this approach is homogeneity – equalising, as much as possible, the mass, speed and direction of vehicles, to reduce collision risk. In particular, fast objects should not share space with slow ones; and vehicles travelling at speed should not be travelling in opposing directions, without separation. Likewise measures should be taken to separate bodies of unequal mass; for instance, heavy vehicles like buses and lorries should be not be sharing the same space as pedestrians and cyclists. The basis for this approach – and other Sustainable Safety measures – is that human beings are fallible, and that the environment we travel in should respond to that fallibility, rather than expecting us to not make mistakes, ever.

This has been an issue for a long time. You would think that our representatives would have been able to work it out by now. They never do and inevitably MPs (like all of us) rely on their own biases and prejudices to make their decisions. When you leave it to politicians alone to deal with these issues, the risk is that you end up with this sort of thing:

I actually think it's a joke. That bloke looks far too much like Sir Les Patterson for it to be real.

But that is why I think handing the issue to a jury of 35 sensible women and men for all walks of life may finally provide us with some meaningful change.

I have already provided my submission. The closing date is 5 October.

Providing a submission is quite a challenge because whatever you write has to fit on two pages. Font and margin sizes can only get so small before it becomes a joke. But the information is there and with just a modicum of skill (and a few website links) the message can be put across. Indeed, in less than two pages you can probably find a picture or video and say, "er, yeah, that".

(Danish Cycling Embassy)

Have your say!