26 April 2010

Why cyclists break the law and hosepipe bans save water

Cyclists have an emotional connection to the energy needed to travel at speed.  Acceleration on a bike involves sensations of heat, tension, moisture, movement and exhaustion.  In contrast, a car driver's communication with the use of stored energy is muted and abstracted.  It comes from this strange liquid fuel hidden from sight in a tank.  In other words cyclists experience a sense of having invested a part of themselves into the process of moving and are inclined to be efficient in everything they do.

Whatever vehicle you are in, if you see a clear and safe route through a red light, one way system or pedestrianised area you have a choice to stop or continue.  Not only do cyclists have more options of routes due to their size but also a psychological reasoning heavily weighted in favour of not stopping.  It's easy to forget that every time you press the brake or take the long way in the car you are wasting fuel.  But the immediate sense of loss when you squeeze the stop lever or get redirected on a bike is inescapable and being told to stop by an unnecessary red light or signpost simply feels more insulting and unfair.

Whilst washing the car yesterday, idly spraying gallons of crystal clear aqua over the soapy contours of the Toyota, I thought about hosepipe bans and realised it's the same type of emotional connection that makes them work.  They reduce wasted water by simply changing the method of application.  By making people transport the H2O in a bucket you force them to build a relationship with the stuff which encourages conservative usage.

I was then reminded of a phrase my friend Andrew often uses.  Whenever we see a case of blatant overspending in public sector business he sums it up by saying "It's easy to spend someone else's money".  I know I have been more liberal when spending a company's budget in the past.  Happily paying over value for an item that I almost certainly would have shopped around for if buying with my own cash.  It's the same lack of emotional connection with the enabling resource and complete absence of personal accountability for it's wastage.

I personally would like to see every moaning driver spend a day using a bike as their normal form of transport.  Not a leisurely ride to the canal and back on a Sunday afternoon but an actual time critical commute to an arranged meeting.  I bet these motorist would change their attitude to the numerous automatic lights once they'd spent a day being legally forced to give way to the invisible man every hundred yards.  I want to make every motorist become more understanding of cyclists who break the law.

Please comment now and don't forget to say if you use car, bike or both for time-critical travel.  (Facebook users click "View original post" first)

Credits:  Thank you to Pip Broadribb for snapping the incriminating photograph of me above.  You captured my inner public school boy well.