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How Automotive Culture Colonized Our Thoughts and Our Languages ​​| Languages

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Blocking traffic from a road, such as a sporting event or street party, is said to be “closed.” But who is it closed for? for drivers. But really, that street is now open to people.

This is because we are accustomed to thinking of streets in terms of “traffic logic”. Over the centuries, streets have been places of many purposes: conversation, trade, play, work, and movement. It is only in the last century that traffic has been able to pass through as quickly and efficiently as possible. This idea is so pervasive that it has taken root in our thinking.

I first found out about this Roland Kager, data analyst and multimodal transport researcher. So he’s interested in traffic, but not in cars. Car logic pervades the language we use, he says, Kager. “We talk about vulnerable road users, and they became vulnerable only after the advent of high-speed traffic with big, heavy vehicles. Why not call those fast, heavy vehicles? dangerous road user? ”

Why are roads called highways when you can’t live next to them, cycle on them, or walk them? So why talk about “segregated” or “segregated” bike paths? As Belgian mobility expert Chris Peters wrote 20 years ago, the language of traffic is the world’s “windshield”. Instill a view.

Kager believes traffic lingo prevents us from really seeing what’s going on in the street. “Why do we talk about traffic accidents? As if a cyclist runs over a pedestrian—which happens very rarely—almost always involving cars, killing people every day. It’s like they’re part of the same system that kills.”

I hear in the news that heavy fog is disrupting “traffic”. That “traffic” has stopped. Delays in “traffic” after a crash. That “traffic” is slowly returning to normal after incidents like this. Traffic means cars in these examples. But it sounds as if it means all of us.

According to Kager, the way we talk about transport is that we recognize the importance of cars over the Dutch context. “Only 15% of the Dutch are stuck in traffic every week, and only 5% of the population said it was a personal problem. 35% say they see this as a social issue because they want it, meaning 1 in 3 think traffic congestion is a problem that affects others, but other people People are in the minority.”

Kager says many of the non-automotive phenomena he encounters and studies in his work have no name. There’s just no conceptual framework for anything specific. There are no categories. This makes it difficult to make them visible in government reports and advisory documents.

For example, in the Netherlands, almost half of train passengers either cycle to the station or continue their journey. Kager calls them “train cyclists,” and despite their large numbers, they are not included in the official Mobility Survey category. One of the reasons why so much travel in Holland is done by bicycle, he says, is that it’s very convenient to get on the train. And the Dutch trains are just as intensively used because so many people ride their bikes. Dutch Railways is surprised by the popularity of bicycles in public transport. These continue to break new rental records year after year. However, Dutch travel planning websites have only recently adopted door-to-door itineraries that include bikes and have very basic functionality.

Fascinated by this discussion with Kager, Thalia has written an article introducing the concept of the train cyclist to see how new words can change reality. Flemish MP Dirk de Kort read the article and was contacted for more information. Talia put him in touch with Kageru and they shared their stats and experience in Holland and Flanders. After this, De Kort incorporated “train cyclist” into the political lexicon. He even came up with another variation, “Bass Cyclist”. Six months later, De Kort backed an expansion plan to help cyclists on trains and buses in Flanders, and he was also allocated €1 million (£860,000).

Kager made a group of invisible travelers visible and named them. They now constitute a formal category and policies are actively being developed to take them into account.

Kager continues to tinker with new categories. What if he divided the drivers into four groups? The quarters that drive the most, the quarters that drive the least, and he in between are two groups. He studied this new classification at Eindhoven. Now we can have a meaningful discussion. Should local governments make things easier for them? Or do more and impact cities for the remaining 75% of people who use cars infrequently or rarely? Will we take their wishes more into account in our decisions?”

Imagine a quarter of the people living on the streets producing two-thirds of all the trash in recycling containers. Therefore the container is always overflowing. Should local governments provide more containers? Hire more bin collectors? Or do something completely different? What kind of city do you want to be?