Yesterday, to pass time on the bus, I started playing a game with my children. As I looked across the intersection of Tudor and Parry Street in Newcastle West, encircled with car dealerships, I was trying to spot something nice. There was a man walking along with a dark pink shirt. So I said who can spot the man walking with a pink shirt. This game soon evolved to spotting cyclists, pedestrians, bonus for prams, motor bikes, people waiting at bus stops and buses. We had a point system that we didn’t keep count with (but it was there), and Dante kept declaring he won because a bus was worth sixty hundred thousand points.
But this game got me thinking…. about two things. When we were little we would never let a yellow car, a beetle or a mini go by without noticing it and someone else getting a punch or a pinch. OK, maybe we just were looking for an excuse for small acts of violence, but the key thing was that they became a salient part of our experience on the road. In juxtaposition to this, the advertisement with the bear behind the basketball players is all about not being able to spot something because you aren’t looking for it. This is backed up by research by Herslund & Jorgensen (2003) finding many crashes were caused by drivers looking but failing to see cyclists. So combining these these two lines of thought, surely this must mean we just need to have a game to get people spotting cyclists in order to start looking out for them more on the road and therefore creating a safer cycling environment (but I’m still undecided as to whether there should be small acts of violence involved).
Another logic behind this game, would be the importance of observing various signals in our environment that evoke the descriptive norms of a behaviour. Put simply, if you take the time to notice the people who ride (or walk or take the bus), then you are more likely to appreciate that riding (or walking or taking the bus) is a normal thing to do. And this can be a powerful tool in determining our behaviour as researched by Cialdini (2007). So perhaps this game could not only make cycling and walking safer, but also people might start giving it a go more often. And then this game will get a whole lot more crazy and we might have to limit it to yellow bikes or cyclists and pedestrians dressed in yellow!
Now comes the fun part – what would be the rules of the game? How could it evolve from something I play with my kids, to something the world wants to play? Our scoring system went like this:
Person riding bicycle : 10 points
Pedestrian : 2 points
with Pram : extra 2 points
People waiting at bus stop : 6 points
Motor bikes : 3 points
Bus : 60 00 000 points
My first thought was an app, and it could have different bonus point systems that change weekly (like extra points for pedestrians in pink). However, I realised that for the drivers out there this wasn’t going to work – unless it could be all done by microphone and if it was in driver mode and the phone sensed it was being picked up, it would stop working… Or maybe it just has to continue being a game that families and whoever else wants to play… I have no idea how to popularise it (maybe through schools) and I can’t imagine any level of government willing to promote the idea as a sustainable transport initiative, but I can’t help but feel that it might be a good idea. What do you think? Would you play? What would be your rules?