Maths was my favourite subject as a kid (and I still love it now). One of the interesting problems I remember learning about is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. The premise is this: you and a pal are suspected of wrongdoing. You are taken into separate rooms and questioned. If both of you say you didn’t do it, you both serve a short sentence. If both of you say you did do it, you both serve a medium length sentence. But if one of you admits to the crime and the other does not, the one who talked goes free and the one who didn’t fess up gets locked away for a really long time. What should you do?
The mathematically correct answer to the dilemma is this: if each prisoner acts solely in their own interest, they will always turn each other in, even though they would be better off if they both kept quiet.
Sometimes I think that the choices people make around transport modes are a kind of prisoner’s dilemma. Except the losing option if we all act solely in our own interests is “large parts of the planet become uninhabitable”.
If everyone who could ride a bike to get where they were going chose to do so, the roads would feel a lot safer for all of us.
When I walk my children through car parks I have to remind them to stay extra close to me around SUVs, because the drivers are so high up they might not be able to see them.
I agree, our roads are narrow in places. If I were queen for a day I would bring in legislation around bringing down vehicle width. When I’m on my bike, I really feel the difference between being overtaken by someone in an SUV or someone in a smaller lighter car.
I gave you the mathematically correct answer to the prisoner’s dilemma above. However, I’ve always felt that the actually correct answer is to associate with the kind of people who won’t turn you in. I also reckon the morally correct answer (leaving aside the issue of the crime committed at the opening of the problem) is to be the kind of person who is willing to do what’s right for your friends.
We are in a climate crisis. I know you all know this. I do think we see more and more bikes on Reading’s roads as the years go by. I’m grateful to all those people who make the sometimes difficult choice (I know we don’t have the best infrastructure yet) to travel this way. The more people make that choice, the easier it will be for others to do the same.
So, Dear Reader, if you want a new year’s resolution but haven’t yet settled on one, how about this?
When you travel, look at the options reasonably available to you and consider as a factor the impact that your choices make on other road users.
When your car reaches the end of its life maybe a car with a smaller footprint would be sufficient to transport your family.
Perhaps public transport is viable for your commute.
Maybe some of your journeys could be moved to active travel.
And if, after all of that, you sometimes find yourself on a bike in Reading, do pop by to join one of our rides.