Biking for a better city.

Hey guys, wait up!

Hey guys, wait up!

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.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

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2 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Sustainable Wellington Transport and commented:
    One of the consistent points that we try to make on the Sustainable Wellington Transport blog is that we’re concerned with accessibility and mobility. There are two comments in this post that I’d like to expand on a bit.

    “My bicycle serves a purpose. It helps me connect with people and place. I don’t love cycling, but I do love what it offers.”

    We have a series of transport tools, starting with our feet and sometimes adding equipment that suits us. Not a single one is the right tool for every situation, but a good mixture of modal support can bring us to an optimum network of access and mobility.

    In this frame of mind, the concept of cyclists being a Special Interest Group is farcical. We are all people trying to get places to do activities and accomplish tasks. Whether it be on foot, on bike, on transit or with a car, we are all equal. Of course, we are neither regarded nor funded equally. That’s where the problems start.

    “Making cities fit for people is the top priority”

    Like

    1. Hi Gregory, Thanks for reblogging and for making your considered comment. Your collective website presents the issues well.
      Also, I agree that cycling should be regarded and funded appropriately. But the point that I am trying to get to grips with and express an opinion on, is that it’s not. I present some reasons for why I think this is and what could be done about it. It is obvious that the media misrepresent cycling. But this should come as no surprise, being an alternative narrative has yet to be made on any significant scale. This blog site is full of posts that highlight why the presentation of an appealing, everyday, accessible type of cycling is so imperative. It is unreasonable to expect the public to support cycling emotionally and financially until this occurs.
      I then argue that the ‘special interest group’ scenario is not ideal but that is pretty much the current status quo. I have no intention to denigrate the existence of sports and recreational cycling but if we are to be successful in presenting a case for establishing cycling as a transport solution, it needs to be done with an eye on the role of human psychology. And rather than try to undermine the sports and rec fraternity, I suggest that the #wheeledpedestrian cycling that I refer to, is embraced and packaged in a ‘love your city?’ kind of way so that the public (eventually) have no excuse to ignore it. Highlighting the current situation is meant to be read as a critique and used for finding a way forward…more people on bikes in a vibrant, people-centred city.
      Once again, thanks for getting involved.

      Like

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