Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cycling Propaganda the Norwegian Way

This video, which is from a Norwegian government agency and features the well known Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd, has been out for a while. In the U.S. such things when presented on television are known as "PSAs" - a "public service announcement," or advertisement that is provided for public benefit (generally at no cost).

In Norwegian only, no closed captioning in English - however little is said ~

"'Del veien' is Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) campaign to increase understanding between cyclists and drivers in the traffic." - according to the YouTube information for the video. Their agency web page doesn't provide more information (unless you speak Norwegian). The video shows different situations where the cyclist, Hushovd, almost has serious crashes with different motor vehicles, yet (miraculously) arrives home in one piece - the punch line is "for those who don't have nine lives" (in Norwegian) - it makes sense when you watch it.

I would imagine a fair amount of thought went into coming up with different seven different "interactions" between motor vehicles and the cyclist (in one case, while he is riding with a group). Although set in a village, each of close calls is an illustration of a typical high risk situation where cyclists and motorists can end up crashing in a more urban setting. There is a little of everything, which is remarkable in the 45 seconds allotted. Also, if one (whether cyclist or motorist) stops to think about each of these situations, it isn't so obvious who is at fault in most of them - so (apparently) the notion from the government agency is to "increase understanding between cyclists and drivers in the traffic" by showing the ambiguity in how they sometimes interact. I read this as quite different than the usual American approach, that to me can be summarized as, "if we (but particularly those cyclists) all obey the law, everything will be OK." Laws are fine up to point, but you can't legislate common sense, and you can't rely on traffic laws to provide guidance for every aspect of what works on the road for safety and what doesn't. Or so it seems to me.

As an example of this American thinking, the NYTimes had a recent "debate" with different viewpoints expressed - "should the laws and infrastructure be altered to recognize differences between bikes and cars, or should cyclists be treated the same as drivers?" was the question discussed. The differing responses to a considerable extent lined up on opposite sides by choosing to focus either on "laws" or on "infrastructure," ignoring the "and" in the question (that suggests both should be addressed). The perennial American stalwart of "vehicular cycling" John Forester presents his usual view, that "cyclists are fully capable of obeying the rules of the road; they fare best when they act, and are treated, as drivers of vehicles" while the expert from Copenhagen points out that there cyclists are "separate but more than equal" - but not in terms of the law, but in terms of infrastructure that means they get where they are going (up to certain urban-typical distances) faster on average than motorists.

A 3:50 minute mini-documentary on how the one-minute video was made

In the English speaking blogs mentioning the Norwegian video that I have seen there is just a pointer to the 60 second YouTube presentation but the Norwegian agency also have this short video on the making of the video, which is interesting even if one doesn't understand Norwegian - cramming as many different cycling-motor vehicle scenarios into one short video turns out to have been a pretty elaborate (and by the look, expensive) project. One assumes that Norway's oil wealth makes possible such productions from a government agency.

1 comment:

  1. Great video - not too preachy and not taking sides. Simply showing the dangers to both cyclists and drivers. And thank you for the translation otherwise that ending would have just been weird!