A few thoughts have been percolating in my head of late, around the notion that we ought to be able to persuade both the community and government that it is morally essential to make cycling, as a transport option, safe & normal.


This piece, which Mrs Bean brought to my attention concerns climate change and moral reasoning



OK we already did the carbon tax discussion half a year ago.


Where I am going is a desire to translate this thinking into attitude changing argument. With the recent chip at the motor-transport-is-king RTA perhaps now is an ideal moment to demand a morally defensible approach to transport and safety.


Please post your ideas and thoughts about effecting change via the moral argument.

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I'm wondering whether we might pass this doco over to the people responsible for formulating policy of the new Transport Dept, as input which they might re-use rather than do again.


Does anyone know if this has been done already? BikeSydney??

Rather than a "moral" change, I'd be more inclined to call it a "social attitude shift".


Moral change takes literally generations, and often provokes unintended consequences, namely some people will become even more vociferous in their opposition to what you are proposing to change. Just look at the climate change debate!


Social attitude shift can start with altering behaviour. For instance, make penalties for intimidatory driving (against cyclists) tougher. About 20-30 years ago drinking and driving is considered cool; numerous toughening of penalties later, we'd have no qualms calling someone who drinks and drives a d1ckhead.


Unfortunately Martin I have no "foolproof" argument to offer. One would think evidence for a smoking-cancer link is pretty convincing yet you still get people who smoke...

Sadly, although I don't want to agree with you I feel that I must.


Yes, a social attitude shift rather than moral change. Yup. Well no pain there.


The sad part is that your para about punishment seemed to be confirmed at the lecture I was at just now. "understanding cooperation in humans: lessons from experimental economics"


Prof Simon Gaechter fairly convincingly showed that although groups he researched would cooperate a bit, when they realized that making choices that benefited themselves to the detriment of the whole group increased their share they stopped cooperating. Adding punishment for doing that fixed the antisocial behaviour rather well.


Biological explanations were given for this stupidity, looks like we are stuck with it.

Here's a more detailed explanation:


The research Prof Simon Gaechter and co did was done initially in Nottingham, then repeated in around 20 different countries across the planet to test for cultural differences.



The basic test was a money game with 3-5 participants. They used real money, in varying amounts in different trials. Quite substantial in some cases.



The game:


Each got $20, and was invited to contribute to the common community pool. If they did that then the money in the pool would be doubled.

The pool was to be shared. They used computers in private voting booths.

So if everyone did ‘the right thing’ they’d all get $40


Of course if one person kicked in nothing, but the others did ‘right’ then that one person would get more.

But the rest got a lot less obviously.



The result:


What they found was that all populations contained an substantial element who put in nothing.

The rest of each pop put in something, but not all that much. Only a few put in the $20 max.


Interestingly the proportion of participants who put in nothing increased as the trial continued (repeats of the game).


Unless punishment was introduced, in which case it went the way you would want, with nearly everyone putting in close to the max.

The punishment system was: it cost you $1 to fine a naughty person $3.




The basic finding was repeated across all cultures.

"although groups he researched would cooperate a bit, when they realized that making choices that benefited themselves to the detriment of the whole group increased their share they stopped cooperating."


I get this now.

People would initially cooperate (contribute to pool) to benefit society (pooled resources) and eventually themselves (from the shared pool).

But if/when they found that if they could stop cooperating and still benefit (take from the shared pool which is now smaller), that is what they would rather do.


Mathematically, their actions is very logical - To contribute is a 'risk' lets say there are 3 persons and only 1 contributes $15, the sum would be doubled ($30) and everyone will get  $10 - that 1 person potentially risks $5 (up to 33%) by contributing to the pool while the other 2 non-contributors gets $10 without effort.



Why do you say  "Biological explanations were given for this stupidity" ?

Oh, I probably should have left that out, because I saw/heard nothing to back it up.


What was said was along these lines:

A biological reason was cited: natural selection. It was proposed that we are programmed to make our genes do well, at the expense of competing genes. Thus self-interest wins out over the common good.


Some off-forum discussion here:

"I’m not saying that the genetic argument is ‘wrong’ – I’m not a geneticist. It’s just that saying, ‘well, here is The Answer, thank you for coming’ is very reductionist – I’d doubt that’s all there is to it."


So perhaps I ought not have mentioned biology at all. I suppose it is stupid in the community sense but not stupid in the promote-your-own-genes sense. If you buy that argument at all.

very good q

be good if it were morals with some justification, and consensus/agreement. So no, not necessarily mine.

The doc adrian put up makes an excellent start.

The amount of people killed per year due to air pollution!!! In sydney alone 640 to 1400 peremature deaths and almost 2000 hopitalisations per year are caused by air pollution. In sydney the number one cause for air pollution is motor vehicles.

This report is on nsw health website



To put this into perspective. Think how much media outcry there is when an Australian soldier dies in Afghanistan, a soldier a person our tax's are spent to pay for to fight and risk their life. I agree that it is awful that a person gets targeted and killed for a job they do.But I find it many times more horrifying that 1 person let alone 100's of uncompensated people are killed every year just for living in the presence of other people who frivously pump toxins into the air others breath without any consequences. If you drove a car in sydney over the space of your life you could be guaranteed of killing at least one citizen with its accumulated toxins in a built up area like sydney. 

This astounds me! How have we come to put up with and defend this right to pollute on and poison others in our large cities without paying any consequences? Any government ie O Farrel's which continues to support one person drivers domination of sydney deserves a combined lawsuit from all the people who have suffered from a death induced by vehicle exhaust. This is a clear injustice. The government forces people to pay fines for dumping rubbish in the streets what about a fine or tax for dumping poisonous gases into built up areas where millions of people live? Isn't that much worse than llitter? 

How have we come to put up with and defend this right to pollute on and poison others in our large cities without paying any consequences?


Apart from the 'convenience' argument with cars (which we're all well aware of, and which Martin intimates above: why should I 'co-operate' not to pollute your airspace when I can get there faster by driving?), there's the difficulty that these people are disabled and/or killed slowly and invisibly. Car deaths are much more 'shocking' because they're immediate and visible: we think air travel is more dangerous than it really is, statistically, because a plane crashing is incredibly dramatic and inevitably ends up on the news.

As I've banged on about elsewhere in this forum, long-term health dangers and prevention both 'suffer' from this lack of immediacy in terms of galvanising the relevant parties to action in doing anything about them...

I reckon the air pollution report could go policy people along with the systrans one. Thanks Ben

My cube neighbour's sister-in-law is a Doctor who performs autopsies.


She says that every cadaver from Sydney has black lung disease.

Anecdotal I know, I wonder whether there is formal evidence which we can use.

How about Articles 1,2,3,5,6,7 as spelled out in the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ?


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