Mobile Phone Lights For Sydney Pedestrians A Contrast To New Cycling Laws

Ain’t harm minimization a wonderful thing? Me, I never discipline my children with a baseball bat unless it’s a Nerf one. And when I’m abusing drugs, I do it Hackett style, with prescription drugs. That way there are known side-effects when I’m hospitalized.

Relax, I don't have children.
Relax, I don’t have children.

That’s why I’m so happy to see the morons who can’t look up from their phone, even when crossing roads, are being protected in Sydney. In a trial for which there seems to be no known outcome, Sydney phone morons are getting $250,000 worth of lights installed. It appears they have no baseline figures, except to say petextrians (as they call them) are “highly prevalent”.  Just how they’ll measure the outcomes and decide whether other dickheads in other streets are worth saving isn’t clear yet. Still, all Australians are precious, even if they’re terminally stupid, and it’s great to see we’re protecting these idiots from themselves.

This from the government that recently introduced such bicycle safety laws as 5x higher fines for not wearing a helmet and licensing for adult cyclists. Yes, you have to get tattooed and carry and card now if you’re want to roll down the street to get milk.

Oh. My wife just informed me the tattoos aren’t mandatory. So why has everyone got one?

The NSW laws are there to protect us. I have no doubt about this. The government told me so. They’ve raised the fines for trivial offenses up to 500% to make us safer. It’s not like there’s any evidence showing us that better cycle paths, particularly for women, has any effect on cycling. Or that the government’s own figures show that bicycle lanes reduce accidents by up to 50% and actually increase overall traffic, even when pinching a bit of road from cars. (Yeah, turns out one person in a car isn’t an efficient use of space.)  The NSW government quite rightly campaigned against the bike lanes because they’re not peasants and they don’t ride bikes. When they said they wanted a transport policy for the people, the meant real people with fat bellies and coronary problems, not cyclists. Still, I’m confident they love cyclists and what looks like a mean, punitive and ineffective attack against cyclists is their way of showing they care.

When the draconian new measures came out, people wanted to know what I thought about them. Like Mao Tse Tung when asked about the French revolution, I replied, “It’s too early to tell.”  The real measure of the laws was be how they were applied. It’s not for me to say they’re the most disgustingly biased attack on a minority since Gonzo corralled chickens and forced them to sing. Not yet, anyway.

A commentary on the road laws perhaps.

But lo and behold! The laws have been proven equitable by the figures published on how they were administered. According to this SMH article, of the 1545 people fined under the new laws, 4 of them were drivers. That’s a whopping 0.25%. Wait…I’m not very good with numbers. 0.25% is a lot right? It’s looks like a tiny number on paper and kind of indicated that 99.75% of fines were therefore given to cyclists. And that kind of looks discriminatory. I’ll do the math again. Or discount the proof altogether. People get too hung up on evidence based practises. Like homeopathics and lights for zombie pedestrians, we should just accept some things on face value.

I’m sure that no government that ever forced a group of people to carry identification ever did it for the wrong reason. Nothing heavy handed there.

But it does bring me back to our pedestrians. I’m not usually terribly sympathetic to text walkers. They stagger zombie-like along the shared bike/pedestrian ways I use. They’re a menace to bicycles and other pedestrians alike. Sometimes, they look up startled when I glide past them (having double-guess their weaving passage three times) and yell abuse at me. It’s this kind of behaviour that has become the source of the pleasure I now take in scaring these useless lost wandering souls. Also, it’s hard to have any respect for people who can’t even walk in public, when cycling on and off roads requires all my attention to do it right and do it safely. I now take great pleasure in startling them and look forward to their reactions. I did even, on a day when I was feeling a bit too mean, drop a big skid in front of a young man texting on his phone. His iPhone nearly shot out of his hands. Credit to his friends, I think they enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s mean I know, but I’m probably a more effective deterrent against text walking than some lights set into the road. And if I kept count I’d have some verifiable stats.

Putting aside my delight in abusing their distraction for my own enjoyment, I have to admit that deep down I care about our text walkers. Far be it for me to push them under the wheels of a car. Or you know, watch and laugh as they step off the curb. No! That would be a bit mean wouldn’t it. I’m glad that the NSW government has seen fit to spend $250,000 on them without any proof either way that the problem exists or will be helped by lights. What are statistics anyway? Apart from the only way to measure the efficacy of such campaigns? I mean, when they proved that the bicycle lanes of Sydney increased road use, they still wanted to rip them up. So why bother counting?

According to a friend of mine, who quite likes statistics, enough to use them quite comprehensively in his working life, the statistics from NSW prove the laws aren’t working. To his logical way of thinking, if laws were a deterrent, then a 56% increase in the amount of fines would indicate they hadn’t altered behaviour. In fact, they indicate quite the opposite. We’re assuming, in this analysis, that the pigs who make and administer these laws haven’t gone out of their way to target cyclists. We’re assuming that no-one is that mean, beant of discrimination and hateful of cyclists. If this is true, then the laws are actually encouraging cyclists to misbehave. So there you have it, either the laws and the people who administer them are discriminatory, or we’re a bunch of idiots and we’re getting worse. In my case at least, no doubt the latter.

You might expect a government that had proper goals to reduce cycling injuries and fatalities (and not just reduce cycling) would come out with a campaign to inform and warn cyclists first. You might imagine, especially in the first month of the new fines, that the police might catch and release a lot of cyclist with warnings instead of fines. (Like we do with lower lifeforms, such as fish and small children.) At least for the first month or so. Until word got out that the jackbooted fucktards in parliament had forced us to carry ID and wear a helmet even when you’re rolling along a bike track at 10km/hr.

It was kind of the opposite. Apparently the police were so keen to roll out the new laws they jumped the gun. A woman in the sprawling metropolis of Kingscliff (officially described as a “coastal town” in wiki but don’t be fooled, it’s a dog eat dog urban hell where cars rule and everyone is rushing about recklessly godammit!) was pulled over for not wearing a helmet and not carrying ID. Her defense, that the laws hadn’t been formally enacted by parliament yet, was looked down upon as a poor excuse for her crazy dangerous behaviour. I mean, if you excuse the fact that she was riding along an empty footpath at 5am to attend the ANZAC day memorial, you’ll excuse just about any type of reckless behaviour.

But it does bring me to some ideas of mine. How about we approach petextrians with the all the same love and respect we have cyclist? If harsh laws and steep fines are protecting cyclists, then surely we’re not protecting our petextrians  enough if we don’t fine them enough also. I propose we mandate helmets for petextrians and all adults using mobile phones in public should do so only after they’re passed stringent tests and obtained a license (and tattoos). Fines for texting while walking should increase to $319 so they’re in line with laws against texting while driving. Texting while walking, like not wearing a helmet while cycling, is at least as dangerous as texting while driving. I can’t remember the last time I read about a pedestrian veered out of control and killed a whole cafe load of people but I’m sure it happens all the time.

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