Tipping Points, Boosterism and Next Steps.

Not all cycling is about sports and recreation.

Not all cycling is about sports and recreation.

Janette Sadik-Kahn’s use of the phrase ‘tipping point’, during her visit to these shores got me pondering. While there is clearly an increase in the number of people riding bicycles (albeit small in terms of mode share) I think she may have been referring to a growth in confidence amongst those advocates who get a sense that they are on to something; the shared vision that we need to create cities that are better for people, not cars.

It suggests that this vision is being validated and the people promoting them are feeling energised and invigorated. It can be encouraging to connect with people from other cities in the world who have first-hand experience of the significant changes taking place in their own city. It’s a cause for celebration. In this context, we are at a ‘tipping point’.

But in terms of actually seeing physical/cultural change happening, it is clear that we still have a long way to go. It is perhaps, the speed in which the change takes place that is up for negotiation.

Years of experience in the classroom have taught me that while positivity is essential ingredient to creating behavioural change, it needs to be supported by pragmatism and the setting of precise goals. In terms of cycling, there is little value in claiming that ‘cycling’s booming’, when it clearly is not. Such ‘boosterism’ simply allows those people and organisations responsible for increasing cycling numbers ‘off the hook’. I wonder what the current growth target for cycling ridership in Auckland is. I recall a time when it was 0%. Surely, the setting of a mode share target needs to be the most pressing first step.

So how do we take things to the next level? What do we need to do in order to start seeing some real change taking place?

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

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