Some of my best friends are cyclists.

Please excuse the childish attempt at parody.

The interaction with the police officer in the above video came at the end of the Bike to the Future ride that was organised by some of the Gen Zero crew. Between 300-400 people rode their bicycles along K Rd and Ponsonby Rd in central Auckland in support of calls for the installation of a separated cycle path along K Rd. It was a great event and it was particularly encouraging to see such a wide variety of ages as well as many women participating.

I have chosen to highlight the short conversation with the police officer because I think it speaks volumes for the state of our fledgling bicycle culture. I paraphrased her words because it reflects that it was actually more of a monologue than a dialogue and that she was totally absorbed with issues of helmets, cyclists’ safety and traffic flow. That moment was not an appropriate time to broaden the discussion. But broadening the discussion is something that desperately needs to happen. Progress towards making this a great city for people rather than cars, depends on it.

And as I keep repeating, and will continue to repeat, the conversation needs to be broadened from being just about bicycles. It’s about the kind of city we want to live in. Having people in ordinary clothes, riding around their city on sit up bicycles sans helmet is symbolic of a vibrant, energised city. It was very apparent that the police officer had no idea of that concept. She has been taught at police school that the law requires cyclists to wear helmets and it’s a safety thing. Cars are normal, bicycles are not. The gulf in understanding is as wide as ever.

If you are still unsure with what the issue is that I am I am trying to highlight here, please take a look at the my opinion piece that was published in the NZ Herald a while ago. My hope is that sooner or later there will be more willingness to accept this reality. That we, the chosen few who want to see more people riding bicycles, are viewed as a minority, a special interest group. In an environment where the car enjoys such physical and cultural domination, anything outside of that realm will inevitably be deemed as not normal, regardless of how irrational that is.

I don’t keep making this point because I want to bring the party down. There is plenty to love about riding a bicycle in the city already. I had that in mind when I was making this video. But I keep drawing attention back to this issue of perception because if we could achieve a critical mass in understanding and accepting this reality, we could start planning how to counter this problem and start to devise strategies for growing the number of wheeled pedestrians. It’s all about getting our messaging right and starting to make real progress towards a creating a genuine cyclised city.

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

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