On the need to feel unsafe

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The Chalkening

The New York Times has an article about #TheChalkening: “Pro-Trump Chalk Messages Cause Conflicts on College Campuses” Samantha Harris, director of policy of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is quoted as saying.

 

““With the Trump candidacy, this is the first time we’ve sort of seen calls for censorship of, literally, support for a candidate,” Ms. Harris said. “For a long time there’s been a sense by students that they have a right not to be uncomfortable. You do have a right not to feel unsafe. The question is: What does unsafe mean?””

I do not believe you have a right “not to feel unsafe”. You have a right “not to be unsafe”.

We cannot really determine how any other person feels. We can imagine how someone might feel, if we have a good Theory of Mind, but there is no way for anyone to know the path that every other individual took to get to the place they are emotionally at now. You can try to be sensitive, but that may or may not be enough for the other person. The threshold for outrage steadily lowers.  The students and administrators opposing the chalk messages clearly do not care how those writing those messages feel (nor especially do I), or what provoked them. I imagine it comes from the pleasure of annoying other students foremost, and supporting the candidate in question second, but I am not in the chalkers mind.

More importantly, it is the feeling of unsafety that makes you be safer, it causes you to be aware of your surroundings. We see this in traffic all the time. Drivers who feel unsafe because lanes are narrower drive more carefully, and are not any generally less unsafe than drivers in wider lanes who do not feel unsafe (this as everything depends). We should strive to make you actually safer by changing the environment, but safety depends on the individual as well as their environment.

Now there is no reason to be rude for the sake of rudeness, but rudeness is not a crime, and should be protected. Symbols like swastikas and burning crosses are clearly designed to intimidate. However one of the major US parties is on the verge of nominating a candidate with views that one year ago where considered beyond the pale. You can either confront this or not confront this. Living in a chalk-free world will just delay your response, and position you from farther behind in attempting to stop it.

If you go through college in a bubble, you will imagine the world is a far safer place than it really is. If you are not exposed to racism, sexism, prejudice, and the like except in books you might actually imagine it doesn’t exist, or not much, or just used to, or it can’t happen here. And then you get a rude awakening when someone like the current Republican front-runner comes along.

Why Bike Lanes With Lots of Bike Traffic Can Still Appear “Empty” | Streetsblog

Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog writes: “Why Bike Lanes With Lots of Bike Traffic Can Still Appear “Empty””

Wherever there is a bike lane, there is probably an angry driver complaining that it is always empty.

San Francisco’s Market Street bike counter. Photo: U.S. DOT

That tends to be the case even when plenty of people do use the bike lane. And there are reasons for that, writes University of Minnesota professor David Levinson. Mathematical, geometrical reasons. Like the fact that free-flowing bike traffic will look much sparser than gridlocked car traffic, even when the number of cyclists using the bike lane is the same as the number of motorists in an adjacent car lane.

“The view from the dashboard, from the front window of the car, is going to be looking at the view of cars and the density is high,” Levinson told Streetsblog. “And you’re going to look at the other lane and see there’s no bicycles in it and you’re going to think nobody’s using it.”

So the view from the dashboard is, not surprisingly, skewed in a way that works against bike lanes. If you want to get a real read on how well a bike lane or a car lane is being utilized, you need to count how many people pass through each lane during a given period.

“The productivity of the system is measured by throughput,” Levinson said. Unfortunately, he added, few places do bike counts thorough enough to assess how many people are using bike lanes.

Which doesn’t mean that today’s bike lanes actually get more use than car lanes. After all, it takes a whole network of safe bike lanes to make most people feel comfortable biking for most trips, and almost all American bike networks are still pretty sparse. But Levinson’s observation highlights the fact that looks can be deceiving when it comes to bike lanes, and you can’t reach a firm conclusion based on a casual glance.

The Smithsonian Museum of Problems

WMATA-37950The Smithsonian Institute today announced a new addition to its collection of Museums on the Mall in Washington DC.

The National Museum of American Problems is devoted to problems that never go away, and are simply to be admired. Some of the objects to be found in the Museum include

  • the National Debt
  • Poverty
  • Tax Reform
  • Entitlement Reform
  • Partisanship
  • Campaign Finance
  • the Environment
  • the Weather
  • Kids These Days
  • misuse of Language
  • Imperial Measurement
  • The Weak Dollar
  • The Strong Dollar
  • Financial Market Reform
  • Farm Supports
  • Police Brutality
  • Computer Security
  • Violence
  • “Accidents”
  • The Global War on Terror
  • Misassessment of Risk
  • America’s role in the Middle East, with a special collection on the Israel – Palestine conflict

The transportation wing is particularly large. Exhibits are devoted to

  • Congestion
  • Infrastructure Maintenance
  • High Construction Costs
  • Pursuit of Ribbon Cuttings
  • Lack of Funds
  • Escalator repair

The exhibits are permanent, as none of these problems is ever expected to be solved. It will be housed in vacated Metrorail Blue Line tunnels, and can be accessed via broken escalators and elevators.

 

The Museum welcomes ideas for additional exhibits, which can be added in the comments.