Sunday, February 20, 2011

Transportation as a Human Rights Issue

In 1948 the United Nations issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While the United Nations was not then, nor is it now, a democratic institution in which all people in the world have an equal say, it is nonetheless an interesting document.

I got the idea for this because every time I see an urban or suburban place without a sidewalk I think to myself "that should be considered a human rights abuse". Let's take a look:

Article 3
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Right off the bat I think of the nearly 34,000 people who died in U.S. traffic collisions in 2009. That's a serious breach of "security of person". This means even our most vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists, who after all are included in "everyone", have a human right to be safe on the road.

Article 7
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

All are equal before the law, including the cyclist and the motorist who end up in court over a collision, without regard to "race", color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or preferred mode of transportation.

Article 13
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

Freedom of movement is a human right. Therefore it must be a human right even for those human beings who cannot afford cars (this is most people in the world, but not most people in the U.S.), or choose not to use them for socio-environmental reasons.

Article 20
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

This one made me think of group bike rides like Critical Mass and CicLAvia. Streets are usually the most ubiquitous public spaces in our cities and they should exist for association as well as for transportation. Part 2 made me think of AAA. When you live in suburbia, you sometimes feel compelled to belong to that association, although some of us are starting to switch to the Better World Club.

So, let's no be shy about asserting our human rights!

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