How to Change Car Culture: Education

I want to expand on the theme of how to change the prevailing all-car, all-the-time culture most of us live in.  I think that this is the most important part of creating a bike friendly world.  I also think it’s the hardest.  It’s certainly harder than painting lines on roads or even creating buffered bike lanes, not to take anything away from people who have done that sort of thing.  It’s important, too.

As America embraces active transportation, we will all learn to use our existing roads differently.

As America embraces active transportation, we will all learn to use our existing roads differently.  Part of the change will be  in engineering new spaces, but a greater part will be in education…in learning how to share the same space.

But I’ve come to realize after a year of doing this that education is far more important.  What we are asking of society is really transformational.  We’re asking people to rethink some fundamental things about how they move around and what a road is.  Existing beliefs are very ingrained, and so this is not an easy thing to change.  It takes time.  It takes a lot of energy.  It requires that we deal with setbacks along the way and take them in stride with our eyes firmly focused on where we’re going.

When I talk about education, what I’m really talking about is not how to ride a bike, but how to share a road.  As a result, I’m talking about education for all road users, not just bicyclists.  This is important for pedestrians, too.  It is especially important for motorists who, whether they like it or not, have to adjust to a new normal.  There are more and more non-motorized people taking to the streets.  When the next gas price shock arrives, our numbers will explode.

There’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to education.  I became a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor (LCI #4661) because I’m passionate about helping people learn to ride effectively.  It has been a challenge.  Most people have a tough time carving out nine hours to take a class, even if half of those hours are on a bike.  If they’re not hard core cyclists or doing it on someone else’s dime, it’s probably not going to happen so we have to compliment it with other ways including online and “bite-sized” education.

logo_newOne education initiative that I’m especially fond of is Utah’s Road Respect campaign.  As I’ve written before, Utah envisions a future where bicycles are 1/3 of the total transportation grid, and Road Respect addresses some of the challenges that creates in a straightforward way.  It lays out the responsibilities of cyclists and motorists.  It is long on common sense and short on iron clad rules.  It’s the sort of thing that when you look at it you think “this makes sense.”

Road Respect is part of a broader initiative called Zero Fatalities that seeks to eliminate traffic carnage in Utah.  Each year, we in the United States lose about the same number of people on the nation’s highways as we do to gun violence.  Most, if not all, of these deaths are avoidable.

Zero Fatalities is different than Vision Zero, the Swedish program that seeks the same goal. It’s much broader in scope.  While Vision Zero deals exclusively with building safety features into roads, Zero Fatalities addresses education and enforcement in addition to engineering.

I am currently working through a friend in Ogden Utah to spread the word about Road Respect and Zero Fatalities.  I’m reaching out to auto dealers to get the Road Respect flyer and wallet card placed in the glovebox of each and every new car sold in Utah.  I’m working through law enforcement, healthcare and the schools to get this information into the hands of everyone who uses our roads.  I think it’s pretty important.

You can help me.  If you’re connected with educators, law enforcement officers, health care professionals or auto dealers, please tell them about what we’re doing and have them reach out to me.  It doesn’t matter where you or they are located.  I want to speak with them.

If you’re interested in advocating on behalf of road safety in your community, please let me know that as well.  I’ll be happy to share with you my experiences and help you in any way I can.  This is a long process but we’re moving forward and we have momentum.  Let’s keep rolling.


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