A call for compassion
At Bicycle Colorado, we applaud Coloradans on their bikes, whether riding for fun or for transportation. Despite the numerous benefits of riding, we can’t kid ourselves that the news is always good. Every year people are seriously injured and killed while riding their bikes, and virtually all of these people were in crashes involving motor vehicles.
I wrote a blog last year on this topic. While everything I said last year remains true—especially my call to community members to take action —this time, I want to speak to all the people in business and government who are in positions of power to lead change.
First, it is not okay that the lives of bicyclists are put at risk by drivers. Second, it does not have to be this way. For decades, we have advocated for the solutions that will save lives. It is necessary for local, state and federal leadership to:
- Fund and build safe, accessible places to ride for bicyclists of all abilities;
- Create programs to educate the driving public on how to respect other road users;
- Pass laws that prioritize the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.
As the wealthiest nation in the world, we have the resources to implement these solutions. We have everything we need to save lives, except one thing: political will.
I must confess that I’m tired of hearing about a lack of “political will.” People use the term so frequently to explain society’s failure to address so many challenges that its meaning is all but lost. The term also doesn’t capture a more profound human emotion and thought process. I suggest we replace “political will” with “compassion.” And what is compassion? Compassion is empathy in action. Those who can take action to save lives but fail to do so lack compassion. Spare me your empathy and show compassion, please!
There is one other factor that may be impeding progress. Despite popular rhetoric, leaders may not believe that people’s safety outside of vehicles is more important than the convenience for people in vehicles. As a driver, I believe motor vehicles have their place and, in many cases (often due to misguided land-use choices and infrastructure investments that promote car dependency), are the most convenient transportation choice. But when government and business leaders prioritize the convenience of drivers above the health and safety of all other people, something is wrong. Increased safety and access for people walking, biking and rolling—efficient forms of transportation that are healthy for our bodies, air and communities—is worth it. Anything less reveals a lack of compassion.
So I ask you, our leaders in government and business, do you have the compassion to take action now and implement the solutions that we know will save lives?
And for my fellow community members, one of the best ways to make an impact is by speaking at community meetings hosted by our city, state, and federal governments. You don’t have to participate in every meeting but share your voice when you can. You can learn about opportunities to exercise your voice by signing up here. You can also support organizations like Bicycle Colorado, the Denver Streets Partnership, and other local advocacy groups fighting for the safety and dignity of people biking, walking, and rolling. Our work to change the status quo doesn’t happen without your support.