The Dutch are known for their bicycling. How exactly this happened includes some interesting tidbits, such as the 1970s protests against cars (as told by Wikipedia):
The trend away from the bicycle and towards motorised transport only began to be slowed in the 1970s when Dutch people took to the streets to protest against the high number of child deaths on the roads: in some cases over 500 children were killed in car accidents in the Netherlands in a single year. This protest movement came to be known as the Stop de Kindermoord (literally “Stop the Child Murder” in Dutch). The success of this movement — along with other factors, such as the oil shortages of 1973–74 — turned Dutch government policy around and the country began to restrict motor vehicles in its towns and cities and direct its focus on growth towards other forms of transport, with the bicycle being seen as critical in making Dutch streets safer and towns and cities more people-friendly and liveable.
In the United States, over 32,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2015. The number was over 40,000 less than ten years ago and deaths in accidents peaked at over 50,000 a year in the early 1970s and late 1970s. (See the data going back all the way to 1899 here.) So where are the protests in the United States? A few reasons why the experience of the Dutch may not be replicated here:
- Americans love to drive. They have since the car was introduced. We have designed our lives around cars (think single-family homes with garages, highways, fast food, the vast system of gas stations, etc.). Could people protest about something they like?
- Mass movements in the United States where people turn out to protest in large numbers are relatively rare.
- Americans are willing to take risks in areas that other people in the world are not. Maybe it is due to a love of driving, perhaps it has to do with emphasizing individual freedoms.
It is fun to imagine Americans taking to the streets against cars…what exactly would it take? For some reason, I suspect they might protest more because of really high gas prices rather than high number of deaths by car accident.