awhile back i got into a debate with my colleagues about the ethics of riding a bicycle on a sidewalk.
in some US states this is illegal, so the argument ends there. but for the sake of this blog post let us assume riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is legal. now we can debate its ethics.
i took one (1) critical thinking class in college. here goes!
meet your players
- cyclist — yuppie who works at a startup
- pedestrian — also a yuppie who also works at a startup
cyclist — riding a bike on the sidewalk is safer.
pedestrian — it’s not safer for me, it puts me at risk.
cyclist — true, but if you get hit by a bike that is less dangerous than me being struck by a vehicle.
pedestrian — OK, but when did i sign up to risk any danger on the sidewalk?
cyclist — hmm. when did i sign up to be at risk on the road?
pedestrian — haha. silly biker. you agreed to risk your well-being on the road when you traded safety for speed. by increasing your odds of accident you travel faster to your destination.
cyclist — what do you trade?
pedestrian — nothing! that’s the point. i take the slow path, a sidewalk, in exchange for low risk and high safety.
cyclist — unfortunately for you, sidewalks are made for all of us to share.
pedestrian — true. but you have the option to ride on a street. i am not allowed to walk on the street.
cyclist — so? why would i ride on the street when i can ride on the sidwalk?
pedestrian — because riding on the sidewalk puts people like me at risk.
cyclist — look, i’m careful. i will do my best not to hit you.
pedestrian — how is this any different from drivers, doing their best not to hit you?
cyclist — drivers aren’t as careful as i am.
pedestrian — you can’t prove that.
cyclist — 50,000 (made up) cyclists were killed last year by motorists. only 1,000 (made up) pedestrians were killed by cyclists.
pedestrian — that is 51,000 too many. neither number concerns me as you should not be voluntarily endangering pedestrians. the 1,000 figure that does concern me is therefore preventable by you.
cyclist — but the 50,000 cyclist deaths are not preventable by me.
pedestrian — that’s true. they are preventable by me, when i am driving. but i am not driving, i am walking. so we each ought to do our part to prevent death or injury.
cyclist — i am doing my part. by riding on a sidewalk i reduce chance of injury by 98% (1k vs 50k accidents).
pedestrian — not exactly. you are increasing chance of injury infinitely, from 0 cyclist <> pedestrian injuries to 1,000.
cyclist — agree to disagree.
pedestrian — no, ride on the street.
cyclist — whatever, you have no skin in the game.
pedestrian — no, YOU have no skin in the game. i have 1 transportation option (sidewalk), you have 2 (road / sidewalk). i have no ability to inflict harm. you do.
cyclist — sounds like you are in a weaker position.
pedestrian — that is correct! i value safety over speed and choice. you are attempting to achieve both speed and safety.
cyclist — agree to disagree.
pedestrian — next time i’m driving, if i see you i will try to hit you.
cyclist — i’m calling the police.
pedestrian — good, the deputy is my uncle.