The latest issue of Scientific American uses the goodwill tour of Google’s self-driving car as occasion to review our evolving psychology with respect to whom or what holds dominion over our streets. To review:
  • In the 1920s: hit someone with your car, you will get what is coming to you.
  • Today: hit someone with your car, and… don’t do it again. Pretty please.

Norms changed over time as more people picked up driving, but attitudes really shifted in 1961 when the phase American’s love affair with the automobile became ingrained in pop culture. Since then, perception has become reality, thanks to a clever turn of phrase and $22 billion per year spent convincing you that the car in your garage doesn’t properly represent the person you aspire to be.
Bicycling, transit, and walking aren’t going to breakup this love affair (energy prices will); but we can precipitate some infidelity by choosing our subjects wisely. David Levinger’s presentation at Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012–A “Complete Education” Approach: State Policies to Mandate Culture-Change Among Drivers— will define some of the critical junctures for interrupting the car-dependent destinies of our young people.
David frames the challenge:

How can we generate large-scale shifts in awareness about walking and bicycling in the United States, where a relatively small proportion of the population identifies these are important? Restated, “how do we get through to people and open their minds to the importance of bicycle, pedestrian, transit and new transportation technology options in a way that gets them actually engaging in these activities?

His panel session will discuss mobility education pilot projects; what legislative adjustments to driver education are available; and the results of large scale experiments to increase multimodal awareness across one city school district, and a state.
The ultimate goal is threefold:
  • improving cycling and pedestrian education by addressing the “100% population” on the verge of adulthood;
  • institutionalizing change to improve driver attitudes toward other road users; and
  • initiating cultural changes that can be achieved swiftly and efficiently through state regulatory efforts.

Transportation norms can (and do) change. Among health professionals, the favored illustrations of shifting norms are smoking and drinking and driving. Both are now socially shameful behaviors, and have declined precipitously as a result of being defined as such. With barely a nudge from us cycling advocates, the travel habits of the Millennials have started to change. Attend David’s session to talk about how we can provide more of a shove in the right direction.
In other news…
This dog has more followers than my blog.
On the plus side: he’s way into cycling, so I’m hoping we can trade links.

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