Changes in traffic culture

When I ride a bicycle or walk in a motor-oriented context, I sometimes feel very frustrated by the unequal power relations demonstrated in street level traffic culture. In such contexts, pedestrians or people cycling are rarely ‘seen’ by those behind private cars.

I then remember what a respondent said to me about changes in Chicago. He had been commuting by bicycle and was also involved in grassroots mobilisation. In 2015 he said:

When we started out, people often talked about fearing for their safety. People were not used to us being around. You would be yelled at. There would be people like, what the hell are you doing? So in 12 years I have seen amazing turning around in public opinion. In terms of being yelled, feeling terribly scared on the streets. And now I am in a pack of cyclists. And I see motorists acknowledging you have that right of way. As I see it we are all taking turns. I am finding it a little easier to get your place in line and be acknowledged at an intersection on a bike than it used to be.

That gives me hope then about the possibilities for change – even though such changes appear to take long to realize:

trends in bicycle mode share Chicago

Data Sources

Active Trans. 2018. “Regional Mode Share Report.” Chicago, Ill., United States: Active Transportation Alliance. www. activetrans.org.

Berkow, Matt, and Nick Falbo. 2014. “Chicago Bike Monitoring 2014: Technical Report.” http://www.activetrans.org/.

League of American Bicyclists. 2014. “Where We Ride: Analysis of Bicycle Commuting in American Citie.” http://www.bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/ACS_report_2014_forweb_edit.pdf.

Vance, Steven. 2015. “New Census Data Says Chicago’s Bike Mode Share Is at an All-Time High | Streetsblog Chicago.” StreetsBlog Chicago (blog). September 25, 2015. http://chi.streetsblog.org/2015/09/25/new-census-data-shows-chicago-bike-commuting-might-be-up/.

Published by

Njogu Morgan

I am currently a post-doctoral researcher based at the History Workshop in the University of the Witwatersrand.

One thought on “Changes in traffic culture”

  1. Thanks for this piece. Clearly I was not consulted. I continue to feel threatened and intimidated by the reckless behavior of many bicyc

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