March 30th, 2011

Companies that insure cars, will not insure health.

The NRMA is Australia's major motoring group and car insurer, that grew to be a major home insurer as well (Oh, let's face it, I know diddly swat about them, whether they're mutualised, pasteurization, baptized—I really don't care). I don't know when they started selling health insurance either. I do know they stopped on 16 August, 2010. Why is that, I wonder?

The UFO watching conspiracy theorist within me, wonders if perhaps NRMA came across research by people like Anne Lusk at the Harvard School of Public Health, who add up the dollar cost of ill health that results from people driving, when they could be cycling or walking. For a pro-motoring lobby group, hoping fewer folk claim on their health insurance, findings like these would be problematic. Promoting cars, promotes morbid illness. Promoting health, promotes modes of transport other than driving. So I'm thinking NRMA might have seen their interests conflicting, then decided to go to dark side.

From Left: NRMA "helping people die early"; the NRMA are grim reapers; the NRMA sponsoring safe cycling programs in schools, but only until they realise the conflict of interest inherent; a cartoon from this site

I saw their latest advertisement on 17 March, and immediately posted a link to it on twitter. Oh I was heartened when my twits twittered back, as outraged as I was. This week on the Copenhaganize blog, the same commercial is causing the same stir again. The advertisement's message, that cycling, walking and public transport will expose you to all sorts of indignities, is so irresponsible, that the NRMA really need to be outed, as profiteering from death. I name you Jezabel NRMA. I bind you with chains of iron. Lessen your hold and come of her now. Ha ha ha ha. OUT Jezabel, OUT! (Time to put on some music, while we exorcise this evil within our midst) Jezabel, you gotta listen to me...

Cyclists' unbalanced perspectives

From Left: Reyner Banham, architectural critic or crazy cyclist?; Lincoln Cathedral; your average bicycle shed.

Oh we cyclists are such a prickly bunch, aren't we! The architectural critic and theorist Reyner Banham rode his bike everywhere, right the way across Arizona, if we are to believe the photo above. So when the architectural historian Nicolas Pevsner wrote—meaning no harm—that Lincoln Cathedral is "architecture", but a bicycle shed isn't (and really, Pevsner was merely illustrating a point), Reyner Banham went frickin' ape shit my loves:

This was not only a piece of academic snobbery that can only offend a committed cyclist like myself, but also revolves a supposition about sheds that is so sweeping as to be almost racist. How can he know that any particular bicycle shed, or even the whole typology of "bicycle shed" in general, was conceived without aesthetic intention?
                 — Reyner Banham, page 204 of this online book.

Reyner, I think we can know. Bicycles sheds, in your day at least, were absolute shite.

But can you see how this sacred cow of ours, cycling, can turn an otherwise incisive architectural critic, into an outraged defender of anything at all to do with his faith? Had Pevsner compared Lincoln Cathedral to chook sheds, or hay sheds, or anything other than bicycles sheds, we can be sure Banham would have let the remark go through to the keeper.

But we are like this, we cyclists. A funny ad by a motoring group, sees us putting the NRMA in league with dealers and pimps (just read the vitriol here). An embarrassing combination of adrenalin, fear, endorphins, sanctimony, testosterone, and moral indignation runs in our veins, dulling our judgement, as happened to poor Reyner Banham. The opportunity these days to twit, blog and you-tube, turns us into a mob, all competing to squawk louder than the rest in the twit feed. We're like Banham unedited, less educated, and far far less relevant. And I'm not sure what we can do.