Taglanguage

Terminology debate: crash versus collision

The following is an email conversation between myself and Travis Wittwer, a cool guy in Portland, Oregon, whom I stayed with in April 2010. We’ve had similar conversations before about the language writers (mainly newspaper article authors) use when speaking about and describing situations where “people and their bicycles make contact with people and their cars” (yes, there’s an easier way to say that, read on).

Travis: Continue reading

Policy insights for Moving Design

I’ve collected into a single website all seven of the policy insights I gave at Moving Design in July and August 2011 about bicycling and planning.

Policy Insights

If I had an actual photo of me giving a policy insight to 40+ designers, the facilitators, and Rick Valicenti, I would post it here. Instead, here’s what Rey Colón looks like talking about policy and planning and our Bike/Walk35 presentation, and me listening. 

Policy insight for Wednesday, August 3, 2011

WORD CHOICE

Biker versus bicyclist?
Person riding bike or bicyclist?
“Avid cyclist” or “bicycling enthusiast”? Are you really enthused about bicycling? How avid does one need to be so that others will consider him or her an “avid cyclist”?

Bicycling on Milwaukee Avenue

What about driver versus motorist? Motorist can imply that it’s a person who enjoys motoring.
Or, car versus motorist?
Did the car hit you, or did a person driving a car hit you?

“The car stopped and talked to the guy. The car left-hooked my friend.” Do cars talk? Do cars operate by themselves?

Crash versus accident? (don’t have time to talk about this)

When you describe a bicycling riding, and you say they had to “SWERVE out of the way,” do you think that some people may interpret that as the bicyclist doing something they shouldn’t be doing? Maybe they were just swerving to avoid a pothole and crashed, or they swerved to avoid getting hit by someone driving a car when the cyclist disobeyed a red signal. A more objective phrase would be, “the bicyclist maneuvered to avoid hitting the pothole.” In that sense, I’ve made it seem like the bicyclist was riding assertively and in their best interest. Notice earlier how I said “disobeyed a red signal” instead of “blew a red light”?

POINT
When we open our dialogue in order to understand others and to be understand ourselves, language and word choice matters. Be specific, but more importantly be descriptive so that you’re not misunderstood.

Some have called Mayor Rahm Emanuel an “avid cyclist.” Does this photo of him make you think of yourself as someone who bicycles, or your peers?

Cross posted to Moving DesignRead more policy insights from Steven Vance. 

Be specific. Be, be specific.

Update September 5, 2011: I gave a short speech to Moving Design participants about language and word choice, a kind of follow up to this article, as a “policy insight of the day.”

When speaking or presenting, be as specific as possible. The following are examples specific to the course of transportation discussions.

“Car traffic banned from this road.” Are you also banning trucks and SUVs?

“Vehicles will be rerouted.” Does this include those riding bicycles? Here’s an example of a current detour that only mentions cars, buses, and trucks. Which route should someone riding a bicycle take? Sometimes state and local laws will classify a bicycle as a vehicle, but then exclude it in specific passages – it’s weird. Better just call out specific vehicles, be they of the motorized or human-powered variety.

“Cars are aggressive to bikes.” Cars and bikes don’t operate themselves.

“We plan to narrow the road to calm traffic.” Are you going to narrow the road, or narrow certain lanes and reassign portions of the road to different uses, like a protected bike lane, or wider sidewalk? Then give the measurement of lanes, the sidewalk, and the curb face-to-curb face width. Consider that “street” is not a synonym for “road.” Road often represents what’s between the curbs, and the pavement, while street includes the road as well as the sidewalk. Street is a bit more abstract as well, sometimes meaning the activity that occurs on or around roads (like “street life”).

“Ignorant drivers…” Or do they lack specific education and relevant information?

This bikeway in Bremen, Germany, uses both color and pavement design to delineate space for people bicycling (like me) and people walking.

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