Volvo has launched a great initiative called LifePaint. It’s come from their belief that road safety shouldn’t just be for the few, but for everyone.

Like all great ideas this invention is brilliantly simple.

It’s a spray can that has smart water in it. You spray it onto your clothes or your bike frame. It’s invisible during the day, but becomes highly reflective when headlights hit it. It’s water-soluble and it lasts about one week from when it’s sprayed on.

Now you see it, now you don’t

It’s part of Volvo’s stated aim that: “By 2020, no person will be killed, or seriously injured, by a new Volvo.”

And you can’t argue with the results.

The spray makes cyclists far more visible. And that’s surely got to be a good thing.

Highly visible when headlights hit the spray

Highly visible when headlights hit the spray

Or so you’d think. While researching this article, I came across a group of people who think that this is a bad idea. And they’re all cyclists. They argue that this is part of the automotive industry’s plan to blame everyone except car drivers. Which I just don’t get. Volvo doesn’t appear, to me, to be blaming anyone. They seem to be genuinely trying to make a difference.

Surely anything that makes cycling safer has got to be a good thing?

Some protesters have suggested that Volvos should be sprayed with LifePaint. Others argue that the paint isn’t particularly effective.

Even the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) seem to be against the paint.

Rosie Downes, Campaign Manager at the London Cycling Campaign, says:

“Life Paint and its accompanying marketing campaigning is a slick idea, but will it reduce road danger? We don’t think so: collisions aren’t caused by cyclists not wearing reflective paint.

“The video tells us that cyclists need to make themselves visible, but neglects to mention that drivers who are not paying attention can and do hit anyone, whatever they are wearing. The money spent on this campaign – and on the product itself – could be much better spent on concrete measures to reduce road danger, by improving street design and tackling driver behaviour – not giving drivers a reason to take less care.”

I don’t see it as giving drivers another reason to take less care.

I see it as a great idea that’s part of the solution to making roads safer. I absolutely agree that driver education is the way forward. But enforcement by the police would make a big difference.

How often do you see people on their phones? How often do you see people in slow-moving traffic texting or using their phones to get online? How often do people drive without paying attention?

These are the things we need to eradicate.

Here’s a great advert from Tower Hamlets that shows how dangerous texting is while driving (it’s as dangerous as driving drunk!). They’ve simplified the problem and then exaggerated it, creating a hugely powerful image that hammers home the point.

Simple yet hugely powerful

Simple yet hugely powerful

Volvo has a history of safety firsts. They’ve been responsible for many safety features we all take for granted nowadays. The first three-point seatbelt. First rear-facing child seat. First to offer side-impact airbags. First to offer a blind-spot information system (that really benefitted cyclists). The list goes on. They are true innovators. You can see more of what they’ve created in this timeline video.

This history of innovation in safety has underpinned their advertising for a long time. I think LifePaint is another area where they’re trying to use smart thinking to make the roads safer. Here are some previous examples:

Designed to crumple and protect the occupants

Designed to crumple and protect the occupants

Volvo cotton wool

Simplify, then exaggerate

A great thought that won loads of awards

A great thought that won loads of awards

One of my writing heroes, putting his money where his mouth is

One of my writing heroes, putting his money where his mouth is

There are a huge number of things we need to improve to help make our roads safer. Driver behaviour and concentration have to be at the top of the list. But anything I can do to improve my chances of being seen while I’m cycling is a great idea by me.

And I think that LifePaint is a great idea. Let’s not forget, Volvo is under no obligation to do this. So let’s try and not be cynical. Let’s embrace a great idea that will help cyclists be more visible and safer.

Hi. We’re Americans and we can’t see the link between having lots of guns and there being lots of people killed by shooting.

It’s a puzzler!

I noticed that a group in the US has started trying to make a difference and shock people into waking up and smelling the cordite. They opened a shop in NYC and started selling guns for the first-time buyer. The twist was that as the salesman told them about the gun he also told them its history and who it had been used to kill. Which is pretty powerful. You can watch the video here.

Not your average gun shop

Not your average gun shop

They produced this clever advert, using the commonly recognised target outline.

Guns destroy families

Guns destroy families

I despair virtually every week when I read of another senseless slaughter in America. You see families ripped apart. The people who are left, trying to make sense of it and wondering why their loved one (normally ones) isn’t (or aren’t) around any more.

There’s a simple solution – get rid of guns.

It’s that fucking simple.

Fewer guns mean fewer deaths.

It’s. Not. Rocket. Science.

There have been some great adverts done in the US to try and get gun controls implemented.

God bless America indeed!

God bless America indeed!

The line reads: All in favour of gun control raise your hand. All against, raise both.

The line reads: All in favour of gun control raise your hand. All against, raise both.

And before you get started on “It’s our unalienable right” blah blah blah, I’ll address that head on.

The Second Amendment states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

There, apparently, are two ways to interpret this. The first way (let’s call it the moronic, selfish way) is to argue that an amendment (we’ll come back to that word later, stay tuned) written in 1791 is still valid today and means that lots of people who are of dubious mental state can keep an assault rifle at their whim.

The other way to interpret it (let’s call this the enlightened way) is that it was a law passed to counter the times they lived in (back in 1791). Transport was much slower and communities were far more isolated. So it made sense to have a militia to protect local areas. And arming them made sense too. Law enforcement back then wasn’t around, as such. They relied on local sheriffs who had little in the way of back up. And once criminals left the area there wasn’t a network of officers across the country to tackle them. So protection on the ground was important (and sensible).

Nowadays it makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

Twisted logic

Twisted logic

The US has the highest rate of firearms-related homicide in the industrialised world. One study shows that people who carry guns are 4.5 times as likely to be shot and 4.2 times as likely to be killed, compared to unarmed citizens.

On Friday, 2nd October, The Guardian newspaper in the UK printed figures that showed there had been 994 mass shootings in America in 1,004 days. (They defined a mass shooting as four or more people being shot in one incident.)

And it seems Americans just can’t see it.

Here’s a story of something that happened in 1987 to illustrate how fucked up the approach in the US is.

Seven-year-old Michelle Snow was killed in Riverside, California by a stray lawn dart that was thrown by her brother’s friend. The dart was part of a game, aimed at children, in the 1970s and 80s. The game involved throwing large, weighted darts with sharp metal tips at a target placed flat on the ground.

After the accident, Michelle’s father began campaigning to have the dart game banned. He argued that a full-scale ban was necessary – if you banned them in your house a neighbour’s kid could still chuck one over the fence. And he managed to get a US-wide ban (and they were banned in Canada too). It’s still illegal to even assemble a lawn dart in either of the countries. They used the fact that lawn darts had been responsible for over 6,000 emergency room visits in the previous eight years.

It made sense, and the government listened and banned the darts.

Just to recap – that’s one death caused by these darts and a total ban was enforced.

Yet the very same people can’t see that guns present a far greater and immediate danger to their children.

In 2013 a five-year-old boy in the US shot and killed his two-year-old sister. Which is horrific. He did it with a gun that was marketed to children. It was called ‘My first rifle’ and was a .22 calibre gun. Any normal person might expect a public backlash against guns and the consequences of owning them. But no. The NRA (and what a sane, rational lot of folks they are) held its annual meeting where it continued to market firearms and other associated paraphernalia to children. They had NRA bibs for children, ‘youth model’ firearms and books to make your own little psychopath a proper killing machine. And that’s not right, surely?

Let’s call it what it is – it’s fucked up. Totally, utterly, completely, mind-blowingly fucked up. And a huge part of the problem in America is the power of the NRA. And I don’t understand it. They’re outdated, out of touch and desperate to hold on to the big metal dicks in their hands.

The leader of the NRA is often heard stating the same mantra:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The NRA has 4.5 million members. And they can rely on the backing of arms manufacturers across the US – and we know they’re making plenty of cash. Production of guns in the US saw more than 10.8 million guns manufactured in 2013 (that’s double the total of 2010).

What’s really, really scary is that after a big shooting, the NRA’s membership seems to go up. The Huffington Post reported that, in 2013, “The National Rifle Association’s paying member ranks have grown by 100,000 in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn.” This shooting killed 26 people (including 20 young children). And the response? More guns. Yee ha!

And, as the Second Amendment is an amendment, surely that means that there’s scope for a further amendment to change the way the law works? Well, yes and no. They’ve tried to pass laws to make it harder to obtain a gun. And lost. They’ve tried to ban assault rifles and lost. (They managed to get a partial ban for 10 years from 1994, but then the law expired and they’ve not managed to get a new one passed.) And it will keep on happening until someone with a big enough pair of balls stands up to the gun manufacturers and the NRA and faces them down.

Too many US politicians see that the gun industry has financial power and if there’s one thing politicians like, it’s power. So they tend to do what the money tells them to do. Much like politicians around the world – they seem to have forgotten they are elected to represent the people.

Not the companies.

Not the lobbying groups.

The people.

The very same people whose life expectancy is vastly lowered by having so many guns in the country. Perhaps one day a US politician will actually give a fuck and actually make a difference. At the moment they seem to have decided that the NRA is too powerful to challenge, so they’ve stopped even trying.

If someone told you that your child had a better chance of survival if you banned guns, would you ban guns?

Come on people. It shouldn’t be that difficult.