Opinions are great. I love listening to people’s opinions more so than the boring nothings of fence-sitters. Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes people’s opinions rile me but there’s something challenging about that as it forces me to question what I think. For this reason, I like listening to RadioNZ’s The Panel segment which is on weekdays from 4-5pm.
Last Friday, when listening to The Panel, I was riled. The topic under discussion was a proposal by the NZ Greens Party to spend $200 million over four years building cycleways and walkways around schools to encourage school students to walk or cycle to school. Apparently only 30% of school children currently do so which is a disgrace. Who could possibly object to this proposal?
I’m not sure who the panelists were but it doesn’t really matter. One of them commented that this sounded like another attack on motorists. Why? What a ridiculous thing to say. Fewer cars on the road = less traffic = better motoring for motorists. Why is this so hard to understand. Car-loving folks should be encouraging everyone else to get their fat arses out of cars and onto bicycles and walkways out of self-interest alone: there will be less traffic for them to have to navigate. Unless they like traffic and I just can’t believe this.
But there are other reasons too. A recent Danish study found that children who walk or cycle to school have better concentration at school than children who don’t. There’s also all the benefits that come with an active lifestyle which include reduced risk of chronic disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Add to these cleaner air and lower fuel bills.
So why do people object? Adam Gopnik has a theory in this article he wrote in The New Yorker which I’ve quoted before, but which is so far the only reason I can find:
“…people who don’t want high-speed rail are not just indifferent to fast trains. They are offended by fast trains, as the New York Post is offended by bike lanes and open-air plazas: these things give too much pleasure to those they hate. They would rather have exhaust and noise and traffic jams, if such things sufficiently annoy liberals. Annoying liberals is a pleasure well worth paying for. As a recent study in the social sciences shows, if energy use in a household is monitored so that you can watch yourself saving money every month by using less, self-identified conservatives will actually use and spend more, apparently as a way of showing their scorn for liberal pieties.”