A recent article in the New York Times covered the closure of the Third Street entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Apparently, some motorists are inching around the barriers and driving through the park, ignoring the “Do Not Enter Except Bikes” signs prominently displayed at the entrance. This is not so surprising, and on its own wasn’t worthy of a blog post, but I couldn’t help but notice the language used by Seth Solomonow, the city Department of Transportation spokesman who was quoted for the article. He said, “The idea is to reduce the spots where cars conflict with people.”
The concept is great, and I support closing roads to automobiles where it’s appropriate, but I’m sorry, cars don’t conflict with people; motorists conflict with other road users. Without a driver, a car doesn’t do anything. This kind of language, whether spoken subconsciously or purposefully, moves responsibility away from the vehicle operator and places it on an inanimate object (the car).
Some will say that I’m picking nits, and I’ll admit that I may be over-sensitized to this issue, but this sort of bias is so widespread that it astonishes me. Start looking for it and you’ll be amazed by how often it turns up. We bicyclists do ourselves a favor by being aware of it and pointing it out whenever language of this sort shows up in the mainstream press.
For more on the pro-motorist/anti-bicyclist bias, check out Bob Mionske’s article linked below.