Roads Run Through Us: 6

From John Bluck writes, 7:10 am on 2 January 2018

Falling out of love with roads

John Bluck explores the ways of the road in this final of a series about the place roads have in New Zealand history, consciousness and identity.​

A memorial to those who have died in traffic accidents

A memorial to those who have died in traffic accidents Photo: Flickr / Anna Guðmundsdóttir

From the talk

Peter Hall argues that falling out of love with our roads was “one of the biggest and most sudden psychological changes of the 20th century.”

In New Zealand this hasn’t hit the public consciousness yet. It certainly didn’t make it to the top of the list during the last election. But our time is coming and the balance between loving and fearing our roads is shifting, as we realise they are an ever more fragile blessing, even as they get smoother and faster.

The best way to keep enjoying our driving and our roads is to use them more cleverly and make safe room for all who want to travel on them.

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Photo: Flickr / Mark Fischer

And above all, to create a new culture among road users that puts a premium on self-policing and safety. Surely the biggest and best-placed group to blow the whistle on dangerous driving is other drivers. Police rely on all of us to report domestic and household crime, and the rates are dropping, so why not extend that to the roads, where the killing hasn’t stopped.

Dash cams and cell phones ought to make it easy to dob in the kind of dangerous driving that kills people. If we saw someone threatening murder on the street we’d report them and be thanked for it. Yet reporting the same lethal behaviour on the road, like passing on double yellow lines for example, creates a mare’s nest of legal complications.

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Photo: Pixabay

To build a culture of mutual responsibility would mean we started to treat each other like adults who hold each other to account, rather than naughty children waiting to be caught out.

For that to happen, we need to start treating our roads as if they really do run through the middle of all our lives, defining and shaping everything we do.

Just imagine if we started to look after each other on the road in the same way we like to be treated off the road.

– If well-mannered motorists were recognised in the New Year’s Honours as often as rugby players and politicians.

– If the fast and furious were replaced by the smart and the civil behind the wheel.

– If our highways felt more like adventure playgrounds than war zones.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound Photo: Flickr / Chee Hong

Other parts of the series

Roads Run Through Us Episode 1

Roads Run Through Us Episode 2

Roads Run Through Us Episode 3

Roads Run Through Us Episode 4

Roads Run Through Us Episode 5

About the speaker

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Photo: RNZ / Paul Bushnell

John Bluck

John Bluck was born in Hawkes Bay, educated at Napier Boys’ High School, the University of Canterbury and the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge Massachusetts. He's had interwoven careers in journalism and ministry for the Anglican Church, spending time as a reporter in Boston, USA.

A former journalism tutor and chaplain at the Wellington Polytechnic, he has edited a number of publications including the World Council of Churches’ "One World" magazine in Geneva.

His ecclesiastical career started in Gisborne and took him to posts as varied as Director of Communications at the World Council of Churches, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Communication at Dunedin's Knox Theological Seminary, and Dean of Christchurch Cathedral. He was the 14th Anglican Bishop of Waiapu.

After resigning his See in 2008, he left moved to a rural setting near Warkworth from which he has continued to write and publish.