The Ranty Highwayman)
Why is it hard to discuss active travel publicly without it descending into “whataboutery”; and by that I mean that despite rational attempts to construct a cogent argument in favour of prioritising active travel, we get “ah, what about” in response.
This common denominator essentially cuts out the use of further facts because the Whatabouter will be unable to provide any data or even a logical discourse.
On Friday, there was a vigil by Stop Killing Cyclists outside Labour’s HQ which highlighted the type on money the UK should be allocating and investing in active travel – 10% of the transport budget by 2020. (There is also a vigil planned at Conservative HQ this coming Friday).
There were tweets on the event and as usual, some London taxi drivers threw in their tuppence worth. This choice comment caught my eye;
In a rare piece of witty (I thought so) chance I was able to recall where I could find a mode share graphic, I tweeted back;
I have blanked out the person I responded to because apart from the fact they have now deleted their account, the words are more important than the person as this is the type of uninformed view people often take. It’s also easier to fire rhetoric than engage in productive debate.
Responses to the tweet trod the well worn path of accusing “cyclists” (that out-group again) of jumping red lights and mowing people down; you know how this goes.
Then we get the the whataboutery which can be found in most threads on the subject.
“What about plumbers who need to get to a job and need their van?”
“What about construction firms needing to shift 10 tonne loads of rubble?”
“What about cyclists who jump red lights”
“What about disabled people who rely on taxis?”
“What about people who need to get to business meetings?”
“What about the emergency services who need their vehicles?”
“What about fixing potholes first?”
“What about traffic congestion?”
“What about people who can’t ride that far?”
“What about buses?”
“What about insurance for cyclists?”
Yes, what about those things? Some are very important such as needing to shift construction materials around, having to deal with emergencies and like taxis being a lifeline for people who cannot contemplate active travel under the current conditions (and for those people who could not even if it was all perfect).
These are important issues which need to be planned and catered for, but please don’t conflate this with needing to make accommodation without question – we’ve tried this for a long time and it clearly doesn’t work. The Whatabouters never think of themselves of being part of the problem;
“What about car-lined streets that block ambulances and fire engines?”
“What about construction vehicles or delivery vehicles being stuck in traffic jams full of single-occupancy private cars?”
“What about people parked on the footway blocking someone using a mobility scooter?”
“What about the van driver trying to deliver from a bus stop and now the bus driver can’t get into the stop and so the wheelchair ramp can’t be deployed?”
“What about people too scared to walk to the shops because of drivers rat-running their street?”
“What about transport poverty – people who can’t afford a car or public transport, how do they get to work?”
“What about pollution by the local primary school?”
Well, what about you being the fanatic?