I have a friend who is an enthusiastic cyclist. He’s been talking to me about a submission he’s been making on the New Zealand Transport Agency’s long-term plans for the transport network. He makes a compelling case that cyclists discriminated against by the planning agencies, the legislators, the roading managers, and the driving population. He has the research to back up his case, and many ideas for ways in which the lot of cyclists could be improved. And those ways would have a positive effect on a whole range of quality-of-life indicators for the community as a whole.
My friend is addressing the issues, and good on him.
Another approach to the issue would be simply to change the language. What if we legislated so that the meaning of the word ‘motor vehicle’ was broadened to include bicyles, tricycles, and perhaps monocycles? Such a change would reverberate through dozens of pieces of legislation. All of a sudden cyclists would be able to go all the places that motor vehicles go. It would no longer be legal to bar them from motorways or to prevent them from taking pride of place in a parking space.
To take a more serious example, in New Zealand, one in five people who identify as Maori don’t know their iwi (tribal) affiliations. More have little to do with their iwi. Iwi have – with increasing success – argued for tribal self-government. Many iwi own and operate highly successful businesses, manage their own social support services, provide scholarships for education, and offer other benefits to their members. Those Maori without iwi affiliations might be justified in feeling discriminated against. Don’t they, like any other Maori person, have the right to benefit from being part of a tribe? We could solve the problem by changing the definition of the word ‘iwi’ so that it means anyone who lives in a particular area.
Or how about we deal with the resentment evidenced by many white New Zealanders by changing the definition of Maori? Perhaps it could mean anyone who was born in New Zealand or who has lived here for a set number of years?
Of course these solutions would be unpopular with those who cherish the current definitions. Such solutions would create at least as many problems as they solved. And they would be deeply unjust to those whose traditions and heritage are trampled on. Sounds familiar.