For me, ‘cycling’ is an activity that is as easy as walking, but faster. Short trips, slow and comfortable. Riding a bicycle. But my image of ‘cycling’ is at odds with the image of cycling that we see all around us. The dominant image of cycling in a non-cyclised city is of sports and recreation, brave and fearless.
But thanks to the internet, the way we can now perceive cycling, is changing. Examples of how cities are starting to integrate the bicycle back into city life are only a mouse click away. We can see the bicycle being used as a transport option. As an alternative to the car. For those short, local trips. A viable alternative for young and old, male and female. These international models provide us with real inspirational and aspirational value.
So, if we accept the possibility that riding a bicycle can simply be an extension of walking, then we can also accept that it is a relatively safe activity. It is the inevitable ‘interactions’ with fast moving traffic that makes moving about our city on foot or on a bicycle less safe and less attractive. So, what can be done to make these ‘interactions’ less inevitable?
At present, most of the effort to increase rates of everyday cycling is focused on the building of separated cycle lanes. Separating the person on the bicycle from motorised vehicles makes obvious sense. But there are also other strategies that could be pursued to enhance the safety of cyclists;
- transport policies that are bicycle/people friendly such as reduced speed limits,
- promoting cycling beyond its current dangerous and sporty image to one that is desirous and normal.
Presenting cycling as something that is normal and mainstream is a way of making cycling appeal to a wider audience. And it’s that wider audience that is needed to get the bicycle on to the political agenda, to put pressure on politicians to fund it appropriately.
‘Wheeled Pedestrian’ style of cycling fits the bill. It’s the style of cycling that needs to be promoted. That’s because it’s a type of cycling that the current non-cycling public will most readily identify with. I would go even further and suggest that efforts to normalise cycling is the foundation work to increasing the number of people choosing to ride a bicycle in their daily lives. Because winning hearts and minds will lead to less public resistance in efforts to, among other things, create cycle lanes or implement lower speed limits.
This is not a time for avid cyclists to feel snubbed or under appreciated. It’s a practical thing. Avid cyclists are not the best people to represent the people who don’t ride bicycles yet. Whether we like it or not, a book is more often than not, judged by its cover.
‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.
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