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When you’ve giggled over “Commas Save Lives” memes, you’re probably the kind of person who enjoys words, grammar and punctuation. On the other hand, you might find that sort of thing to be trivial word policing. But there’s a serious side to utilizing proper language – saving lives.
Best Foot Forward started that ped safety conversation and now it’s time to get emotional and connect to people. “Pedestrians” sounds a lot more clinical than what it really is: People walking.
When we use our words to connect with people, we remember that they are people. Not just a tribe of us versus them, drivers versus cyclists and pedestrians. When we break it down away from these labels, it’s easier to see how safety initiatives can benefit everyone – not just a generic group of cyclists or pedestrians where it’s easy to say “that doesn’t apply to me.”
Safety applies to everyone – and we’re dedicated to keeping people safe. Raise your voice and chime in on good language with Best Foot Forward here.
People like your seven-year-old on his way to school. People like your neighbor with her friendly golden retriever. People like you, your family, and your friends, enjoying Florida’s famously-beautiful sunshine.
When you see it this way, it feels different than just “pedestrians” because you can visualize them as people and emotionally connect to wanting to keep them safe. We need to change our language to make a difference.
Take for example a tiny nonprofit group called Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. The group was determined to spread a new vocabulary after the phrase “war on cars” threatened to turn every conversation about improving bicycling in the city into a personal battle. Instead of talking about how bicycling, walking, or transit could be improved, everyone was arguing about whether driving made it worse.
So SNG didn’t call themselves biking advocates, they were neighborhood advocates. Instead of bikers or cyclists, they said people biking. Instead of drivers, they said people driving. Instead of accident, they said collision. By fighting bad language with good, descriptive language, they were able to calm the fires of the “war on cars” and focus on what was really important: safety.