Alarm bells: marginalisation ahead!
April 15, 2016
The predominant system in transport planning and engineering is that of automobility. And since humans are shaped by their surroundings and environments (habitat), automobility is a system that permeates deeply into our public space, society, and our resultant interactions. The circle closes. How can the closed system be challenged?
From V Wesslowski (2014) “Facilitating a Contested Practice”
Automobility reins so supreme all around the globe that even the big cycle cities cannot ever relax the fight for non-car spaces. Yet, as we well know, the car-based systems are maiming, laming, choking and fattening us, killing society and cities. There is a paradox here. We have left rationality behind. Automobility contradictively is an entirely emotional socio-technical system.
Cycling of course challenges automobility. It presents a threat to this predominant and largely automatic system. Automobility is so pervasive that its (power) structures are often totally invisible. We do not even notice traffic-sewer roads anymore. Perversely, and inversely to their damage, they blend into the background.
But you can feel automobility’s edges. When the system gets pushed, then automobility pushes back. Even where cycling is embedded in society, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, they are space fighting. Just imagine the situation in low-cycling countries: the fight is especially heightened in low-cycling countries with a corresponding low social norm on (everyday/transport) cycling.
But challenge we must
One big remaining question for campaigners is to ask: “who needs challenging?”. In other words, who are the people who can change the environment to better benefit the collective good? For transport definitively is a collective structural matter. Who holds the decision-making power over our transport environments?
What is your campaign addressing?
One of the hard things in campaigning is getting the momentum going and keeping the momentum. But the hardest thing yet in low-cycling countries is dealing with the marginalisation status. And to persistently deal with it whenever it’s thrown at you over and over again. The social norm is not on our side to start with. What am I trying to say by that?
Who is your campaign addressing?
Campaigns should be keenly aware of their inherent status of marginalisation and social no-norm. I have seen many campaign groups whose response was to hide and turn inwards. Marginalisation needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
It is not easy. Human default seems to be one of avoiding marginalisation. It’s not necessarily that we all want to be popular all the time, but we most definitively do want to be part of the herd, the crowd, the in-group, part of the dominant system. It has kept many a person from being good campaigners. Avoidance would be a very natural response to feeling the rejection pains of marginalisation. Groups and individuals then get solely concerned (often obsessed) with providing a safe group for like-minded people. But, these groups have stopped turning outwards, stopped facing the pressures and pressing for change, ultimately ceased campaigning. A self-help group is not a campaign group. But a campaign group can have aspects of a self-help group.