An old joke is that driving/cycling is safe as long as everyone gives me the right-of-way. Sadly, it seems as if conflicts amongst different road users in Norway continue to increase.
Cyclists are shunted aside by cars. Pedestrians dodge cyclists at marked crossings. Even a puppy got into the fray in August on the E6 around Oslo. People commute with skateboards, motorcycles, skis, and many other transport modes.
It is not just on the roads but in car-free zones too. Also around Oslo last month, a cyclist crashed into a horse rider and then disappeared. Motorized scooters zip down pedestrian/bike paths.
The interaction becomes lethal on occasion, usually because of one party’s error. For car versus bike/pedestrian, it is usually the latter who ends up the worse off. For bike versus pedestrian, both can be injured.
It is not always the larger party in a collision who is at fault, however; pedestrians need to give motorists and cyclists enough time to stop at a crossing before stepping out.
Unfortunately, motorists and cyclists too often speed up when they see a pedestrian waiting. I have had cyclists and motorists weave around me when I am already in the middle of a crossing!
We sometimes seem to be so focused on asserting our right to the road or pavement, that we forget that others have rights too. Perhaps we are forgetting that we have duties as well as rights as drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
These duties are to share the space, to respect what others can and cannot do, and to take it easy while travelling, even if that adds a few minutes onto our journey.
We can also see how others act to avoid conflict. I have had drivers politely wave me across as they stop at a crossing. Cyclists have dismounted and walked past me on narrow pavements, rather than brushing by at top speed.
Commuting takes time. The same journey every day is indeed boring. Graciousness towards others, even just a swift smile and thank you can make the journey more fulfilling—and safer.
Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).
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