I ring my bell, but they don’t hear. I shout, but they don’t hear. I wave my hand, but they don’t see. Eventually, I swerve my bike around them and make tut-tut noises.
When I was working with a man with vision impairment, he referred to them as “the drones”. He was describing the increasing amount of people he observed who were unaware of their surroundings. Deep in the digital world, they walk with eyes on the screen and buds in their ears. From time to time, they look up to check their navigation, but largely eyes are down. This posed a particular problem for him as a white cane user*.
On the bus, I hear too much about their private lives. Someone describes the details of their most recent doctor’s appointment. Someone else records a vlog.
We seem to share so much and nothing at all.
One of my teachers, Kimberly Ann Johnson is a Somatic Experiencing practitioner. Her course Activate Your Inner Jaguar is all about understanding our nervous system responses and how to tune in to them to navigate life more effectively. Kimberly suggests when we disengage from our surroundings, our bodies enter a state of high alert. When we shut off one or more of our senses our bodies read this as a problem and can switch on our flight or fight response.
When humans disconnect from our surroundings it’s a problem not only for us but for the Earth. I’m not a researcher, but I imagine the data would show a link between being disengaged from our surroundings and increases in our levels of anxiety.
Sarah Wilson’s book This One Wild and Precious Life includes a call for people to engage with the environment through hiking, as a way of increasing attachment and passion to fight for our survival.
At the recent Motherload movie screening event, I asked mums what they liked best about cycling. Their answers were remarkably consistent:
- Connection with where you are, with nature.
I like that I can’t use my phone when I’m cycling, and cycling with kids means it’s not practical to have my earphones in. I also feel that my hearing is vital to my ability to stay safe when cycling, especially as I navigate driveways, intersections, and tantrums (sometimes mine).
When I look up, I engage with those around me. People ask about my bike, and my son asks them about the meaning of life, why they are wearing that jumper and the rules of the game they are playing.
When we were in lockdown, it was these incidental conversations about nothing (and everything) that I missed the most.
A connection to nature and to each other is a protective factor for our wellbeing. With so much to be worried about, I want my children to develop a keen awareness of their relationship with nature, with people, and with their bodies.
To that end, MGM is partnering with Bike Adelaide and South Australian Parents for Climate Action plus a small team of organisers to stage a Kidical Mass protest event in Adelaide, which will join the global movement of people advocating for safe cycling for children on Sunday 25 September 2022.
If you would like to join the organiser’s group or contribute in some other way to the event, get in touch. It’s shaping up to be a wonderful family-friendly celebration.
You can get your free Kidical Mass Adelaide ticket here or support our crowd-funding campaign to cover organising costs. We’ll launch our social media in a couple of weeks, so please keep an eye on the MGM socials.
A note to readers:
* – I have also worked with people who are neurodivergent and manage their sensory input by using earphones when out and about. I also regularly walked the streets with headphones on as I tried to get my sons to sleep in the pram, using the time to listen to podcasts or chat with friends. This piece is meant to be observational in tone rather than judgemental, I invite you to read it in that vein.