Have you ever considered the idea that we are ordained with certain privileges when we drive cars and trucks that we simply don’t get when we choose to ride bikes?
This idea of “driving privilege” has bounced around my head for years and I often think about it as I ride around town. Any time we step into our cars (I own two of them and drive weekly), we benefit from driving privilege. It’s not something we have to opt into, it’s just always there. Because driving is heavily favored by the system of policies, projects, and people that influence how we get around.
The flipside of course, is that people who use the streets while not driving a car or truck, do not benefit from these privileges.
To help flesh this out, I’ve made a list.
Driving privilege is…
- when you can lose control of your car, let it smash into other people and property, and then have the media excuse it as nothing more than an “accident.”
- when you don’t have to worry that road debris will give you a flat tire and make you late for something important.
- when you can know that any road street or highway that you’re on will never, just, suddenly, end.
- when even minor road projects don’t create hair-raising work zones.
- when loved ones don’t fear for your life every time you leave the house.
- when you don’t have to spend hours of your time doing advocacy just to make road conditions a little better.
- when your main concern about our growing population is that you won’t have anywhere to park.
- when you’ll never be asked to get out of your car and walk around a busy area.
- when politicians, judges, bureaucrats and cops will always sympathize with you.
- when you can drive 11 miles over the speed limit and not get pulled over for speeding.
- when you know that if you make a tiny mistake, you probably won’t die or get badly hurt.
- when you don’t have to worry about strangers making lewd comments about your body when you drive.
- when you’ll never have to get out of your car to push a button so the signal will change.
- when every time you plan a route you don’t weigh the chances of dying versus directness.
- when you just expect that your route to work will be plowed when it snows.
- when you never have to worry about a random stranger throwing something at you just for fun.
I’m sure you can think of others.
To me, driving privilege is just another reason why I cringe when people act like our conversations about safe streets and policy issues are somehow a level playing field. They’re not. And we need policymakers to understand this and help us work toward a more fair and balanced system.