Robert Wright is the U.S. industry correspondent for the Financial Times. A journalist! He wasn’t trained to be a road designer or a pro-bike lobbyist. So why feature him on Urbanism Speakeasy? I think the best way to answer that question is in Robert’s own words. Here’s a quote from his biography:
I’m a hefty, 6ft 5in Scot living in New York City, where I moved in 2012 from London. Yet I have a nearly infallible method of making myself invisible.
I put on an eye-catching helmet, pull on a high visibility jacket, reflective wristbands and trouser straps, get on a light blue touring bicycle and head off down the road.
I’m suddenly so hard to see that two drivers have knocked me off because, they said, they didn’t see me.
[The Invisible Visible Man] blog is an effort to explain to some of the impatient motorists stuck behind me, puzzled friends and colleagues and – perhaps most of all myself – why being a cyclist has become almost as important a part of my identity as far more important things – my role as a husband, father, Christian and journalist.
It seeks to do so by applying the principles of moral philosophy – which I studied for a year at university – and other intellectual disciplines to how I behave on my bike and how everyone uses roads.
The premise of Robert’s blog is sad and funny. Hop on a bike in any city, and you’ll probably hear a lecture from well-meaning observers: Get a helmet! Don’t wear black clothing! Where’s your reflective vest? Tie your laces tighter! Get on the sidewalk! Get off the sidewalk! And so on.
Robert begins the conversation describing how bicycling has become a part of his identity — up there with crucial life roles.
Riding bikes with [invisible] kids
Robert has some great stories about riding bikes with kids. He sometimes blogs about the joys of riding with them and takes opportunities to teach while they’re out. One example in the show: hypocrisies of the adult world.
Share the Road (and other gibberish)
“It’s self-evidently bizarre to argue that the solution to drivers’ killing people is to ask everyone to be nice.”
It’s always unpopular to discuss the incredible death toll brought on my people driving cars. But streets won’t get any safer until we’re willing to accept facts and then do something meaningful.
Robert talks about his dislike for “Share the Road” campaigns. You have to hear this. I dare you to disagree with Robert!
These programs originate from transportation planners and engineers who are trying to improve public safety. But maybe these programs are mishandling messaging opportunities about the real dangers of public infrastructure.
Maybe transportation planners and engineers could be better marketers.