Top Down Vs. Bottom Up

I used to be a bottom upper, I really was.

To backtrack for those who are not in the know, there is a debate on how to solve environmental problems. Somehow this has infected the cycling world as well.

The first approach is the Top Down which means that the government solves the problem by fiat. For example, when they discovered that cholera was killing lots of people, they created sanitation standards and we have no more cholera. Or when they decided that we should all have electricity and they build power grids and now we have electricity in our houses.

This is becoming more and more unpopular because unlike cholera, many people don’t see our problems as real. There are many reasons for that, but mainly people think that the government sucks at doing stuff.

This brings in the super-popular, Bottom Up approach which means that everyone does their best on their own.

This works well for some things. For example, the sleeping problem is best solved by this problem. We don’t have the government coming into our houses and tying us to our beds for eight hours.

(At least most of us don’t get this service, but it’s hard to be sure knowing some of my LTRs). 🙂

On the other hand, when it comes to cycling safety, I think that the bottom up approach sucks.

I first had an inkling that this was stupid when I read about an environmentalist talk about how if we all do a little bit, we’ll only get a little way to solving the problem.

This is also true of cycling safety.

I have noticed that the things that people really carry about we have a top down approach. It does not matter if you are a conservative or a liberal, the government is the answer to your problems in these cases.

For example, if you need a road, we don’t all go out there with pick axes and shovels, we get tax dollars and contract it out.

I feel that the same solution should apply to cycling.

I have also noticed that there is a pattern with the bottom up solutions which all suck.

Here are some shitty bottom up solutions that don’t work:

1. Wear a helmet

2. Education

3. Public awareness (yet another form of education where we hope that motorists are more aware)

4. Wearing bright colors

See why these are so popular? They don’t really ask anyone to _do_ anything. They cost only a little amount of money.

And best of all, they force a cyclist to bear 100% of the responsibility of her safety even though I have all ready proven that by riding a bicycle, she has all ready made the safer choice.

Now we’re going to penalize her for that by making do a bunch of other stuff that doesn’t work?

Does anyone really wonder why cycling is more unpopular than drugs?


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