Think of the Children

I keep hearing that we need to think about the kids. I agree, cars pose a serious threat to children and are the leading cause of death for children in the US. Kyiv is slowly transforming into a car first city, so this trend will likely come to Ukraine as well.

For some perspective, kids are far more likely to be killed by a car or a gun than die of COVID. But the sense of perceived risk is so off kilter that districts are paying parents to drive their kids to school to protect against COVID — rather for the feeling of safety despite increasing actual risk

It doesn’t have to be this way. A lot of people assume that Dutch transportation infrastructure and bike-friendly cities have been an eternal fact of life in the Netherlands. It’s actually all rather recent and came about due to protests against cars killing children. Building safer roads is a choice, and it’s one worth fighting for.

It’s odd to be terrified of sending kids to school, yet content to live in car centric neighborhoods. Most roads in North America (and many in Ukraine) are designed to prioritize speed over safety, while Dutch roads are designed for safety. And when children do die on American roads, no thought is given to systemic design changes. In American culture a virus is not considered a natural and unchangeable fact of life, while deaths from cars and school shootings are.

It goes beyond keeping cars away from schools. Pickups and SUVs are killing pedestrians. Meanwhile the NHTSA blames people walking on sidewalks. And the media in English-speaking countries dutifully blames cyclists for every collision.

These are all choices. It’s a choice to focus on masks, which provide negligible health benefits at best, while ignoring ventilation, which provides far greater protection from all viruses. It’s a choice to encourage parents to drive their kids to school in SUVs and pickups, thereby endangering every other child at school. And of course it’s a choice to prioritize cars over people, promote sedentary lifestyles and then live with the health consequences.