Derek Pelletier, a member of Portland's Bike/Ped Advisory Committee, had a bicycling question published in this weekend's Ethicist column of the New York Times:
"My wife and I frequently transport our 4-year-old and 1-year-old by bicycle. They wear helmets and ride in a trailer or bike-mounted seats. People sometimes challenge us, asking if this is safe. The chances of our being hit by a car are low, but the consequences could be catastrophic. Is it O.K. to take the kids by bike when our admittedly safer, albeit not risk-free, car is available?"Cohen's answer: of course it's OK. "Your parental duty requires you to find not the safest conceivable mode of travel, but only one sufficiently safe. If you made the former your standard, even the car would be too dicey and you would have to haul your kids to school in the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank," writes the Ethicist.
Cohen also reveals that he rides his bike as well, and considers it an ethical way to get around: "If you forswear bikes and travel with them only by car, you teach them to do likewise, promoting the sedentary lifestyle that contributes to obesity and other health problems, and you express acceptance of the environmental damage cars inflict even on nondrivers — two disheartening lessons."
He even goes so far to suggest that Pelletier "might actively promote the construction of safe biking and walking infrastructure in your community."
I'm happy to report that Derek is already doing that here in Portland. Thanks for your certified-ethical behavior, Derek - keep on riding with those kids!
Read the full back-and-forth here.