Just Stay Indoors

How best to get the road safety message to the yoof of today? A catchy hook? A rap? Too passé. A cartoon? Too juvenile. What about zombies. Brilliant. Depict an apocalyptic world populated by undead victims of road traffic accidents. The kids will love it. Or be too terrified to ever leave their homes. But that’s a risk you take if you’re Newcastle City Council. The first line of the council’s new Road Safety website states:

Traffic is the single biggest cause of accidental death for 12 to 16 year olds.

The second is suicide. Being a teen is ace! Alongside gory, gratuitous mocked up photographs of zombified traffic victims, are tabs on cycling and pedestrians. These are divided into facts and, er, survival skills. Because transporting oneself outside of a vehicle is that dangerous. Here are a few of those facts.

  • Teenage boys are six times more likely to be killed or seriously injured on bikes than teenage girls.
  • Young people aged between 11 and 16 are more at risk of being killed or seriously injured as a pedestrian or cyclist in road accidents than any other age group.
  • Wearing a cycle helmet can improve your chances of survival, and reduce the chance of serious injury.

Firstly, your chances of being killed as a cyclist as ridiculously low. Far, far lower, than as a motorist. There were 104 pedal cyclist fatalities in 2009. To begin a section on cycling with the assumption that YOU MAY DIE is to basically scare off a generation of teenagers from forming walking and cycling habits that could become embedded in part of a healthy lifestyle.

In a similar vein, the section on walking warns teens that:

  • Young people aged between 11 and 16 are more at risk of being killed or seriously injured as a pedestrian or cyclist in a road accident than any other age group.
  • Traffic is the biggest cause of accidental death of 12 to 16-year-olds.
  • 1 in 5 teenagers report having been involved in a road accident.

Again, I see this as scare-mongering – in addition to being told that if they walk home late at night they will be kidnapped and murdered, they will now also be mown down by vehicles, unless they drive or board them.

Why are the council ploughing money into an “edgy” campaign that will only serve to turn teens away from cheap, healthy modes of transportation? People who start walking and cycling in their teens, generally keep walking and cycling. I’ve lost count of the number of peopel I’ve met in their twenties who want to cycle, but are unsure of where to start, and wish they had kept it up instead of stopping once they hit 13. Cycling isn’t dangerous, if you teach drivers to look out for cyclists properly, and if cyclists feel safe on roads. Similarly, if pedestrians have places to cross, they don’t get run over.

A savvy website may grab attention, and make the council feel “hip”. Unfortunately, the cost of outreach schemes, when the health service is overstretched due to heart disease rates skyrocketing years down the line is a lot harder to predict.

–Dawn

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11 responses to “Just Stay Indoors

  1. Quite right – they are highly selective with their stats.

    Better to use their money on cycling proficiency tests for the primary school children.

    • It is NOT ‘cycling proficiency’ it is BIKEABILITY. It’s not riding around traffic cones in the plaground but learning how to ride in the roads and interact with other road users.

  2. What Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize fame calls ‘Ignoring the Bull’, I believe;

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2009/10/sacred-bull-in-societys-china-shop.html

    Great work, guys, someone at Newcastle Council ought to be really ashamed of themselves.

  3. Sadly, they’re just taking their cue from the national govt:

    http://road.cc/content/news/26338-new-dft-game-blames-children-carpedestrian-collisions
    http://iamnotacyclist.blogspot.com/2010/11/reply-to-my-complaint-about-brighten-up.html
    http://lazybicycleblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/dft-tosseresq-update-two.html

    This is how “road safety education” has been done for decades. The stats would suggest that it has been a brilliant success as injury and death rates have fallen over their years. (Fallen in line with people giving up cycling on or walking near roads, but lets not mention that.)

    Here, perhaps, is how the campaign should be done:
    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2011/01/stop-child-murder.html

  4. So it’s ok with these guys that motorists are running down children?

    Isn’t this a form of terrorism? Look at what they’re saying, clearly it is a threat to kill more kids unless they stay inside. I think we’ve got a camp in Cuba for people like this.

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Just Stay Indoors | At War With The Motorist -- Topsy.com

  6. still, since when did teenagers *ever* stop doing something because adults told them it was dangerous? Perhaps it’s a cunning, counter-intuitive campaign to promote cycling if you think you’re hard enough… Probably not though

  7. Scare tactics have indeed been the staple of the “road safety” lobby for decades. Recommended reading is “Murder Most Foul”. Published… 1947.
    How does the saying go? Something like: “The only thing we learn from history is that nobody ever learns from history”. Either that, or as the book suggests, the “road safety” lobby is funded by the motor industry…
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/3879141/Murder-Most-Foul

  8. Ah yet the “Taliban approach to road safety“, such a shame they could take the Dutch “Stop child murder” approach which is aimed squarely at drivers. Making it clear it their responsibility not to kill others while in charge of a lethal weapon.

  9. There is an open letter (blog style) to the Newcastle City Council (who have now password protected http://ghoststreet.co.uk/ and removed the poll which was on nearly 80% “No, I do not think this a useful initiative” when I last looked. See what it says now: http://ghoststreet.co.uk/index.php/poll/1).

    http://mattjon.es/blog/2011/02/an-open-letter-to-newcastle-city-council/

    Please contribute, if you can.

    Thanks
    Katja

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