I spend too much of my time pondering why it’s so hard to get others to appreciate all the personal and social virtues of riding a bicycle. Cycling is too often on the receiving end of public and political opprobrium. Unfortunately, the media present cycling as it currently looks (lycra, hi-viz, sweat, helmets, sport), rather than what it actually could be. That’s not the media’s fault though.
Riding a bicycle is as easy as walking. Well it can be. In some enlightened cities around the world that’s how large numbers of the population roll. Pedestrians on wheels; for those short A to B trips. You can also ride a bicycle for sports and recreational purposes.
Bikes are a tool to promote ease of movement as well as a lubricant for interacting with people and place.
Highlighting this distinction between different types of cycling tends to generate criticism for allegedly creating unnecessary divisions. That is definitely not the intention. There is no preferred way of cycling. “I mean, aren’t all cyclists in this together; with the goal of getting more people riding bikes more often?” Well, yes and no.
All cycling is good cycling, but not all cycling will be equally effective at convincing a sceptical public of the merits of creating an urban environment that embraces the daily use of bicycles.
But there is a conflict of agendas here, and that’s a real barrier when trying to promote the idea of a cyclised city. I experience this confusion everyday in my personal daily interactions. And it’s regularly in the media…like here and here. The public could be forgiven for believing that cycling is for a ‘special interest group’ only. We don’t want conversations that will distract from any meaningful discussions on the important topics of how do we design our cities. We don’t want to give politicians an excuse to avoid taking cycling seriously.
Of course, cycling should be available to everyone, young and old. It should be viewed as a tool to enhance one’s daily city experience. The bicycle needs to be sold for its potential; as an essential part of the fabric of the city. Bikes are a tool to promote ease of movement as well as a lubricant for interacting with people and place. Cycling has a role in creating the great people-centred cities that are being increasingly talked about and desired. It’s part of a vision that challenges the reality we currently have; of cities built around prioritising the moving of cars.
Be reassured that bicycles will feature prominently in any genuinely people-friendly city. Making cities fit for people is the top priority. In the meanwhile, won’t you join me in #bikingforabettercity. Sit up, ride slowly and enjoy your city like a #wheeledpedestrian.
‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat.