It’s time to reclaim the definition of cycling.

Hooning around/Go you good things.

Hooning around/Go you good things.

My friends and I always used bikes when we were growing up.  We were mobile and active from an early age.  From four-wheeled toys, to three-wheeled trikes and then finally onto the full monty; a two-wheeler; a ‘real’ bike.  Eventually this plaything grew into a tool that gave us independence, and opportunities to range further afield.  Oh, the stories, the memories.

When I returned to biking in my adult years it had all changed. It had all become about, you guessed it, sport and recreation. I followed the trend (which suggests that there was an element of choice – but there really wasn’t) though I never recall it ever fitting comfortably with me. I had no interest in kicking tyres and doing the technical talk about equipment, distances and times.

I have since made the transition back to how it all began for me. I no longer feel obliged to feign excitement about cycling. My bicycle serves a purpose. It helps me connect with people and place. I don’t love cycling as such, I do love what it offers.

It’s time to reclaim the definition of cycling.  It’s time to remind ourselves that it can also be just a simple and efficient way for connecting people with places.  Just like a #wheeledpedestrian.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat.

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  1. I grew up on a farm, so definitions didn’t matter. But the urban cycling that I want for my son is about access, freedom and exploration. The current environment in Wellington is incredibly unsafe for cyclists. This needs fixing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so right. I do enjoy riding my bike to work but I do it so I can get to work quickly while carrying all of my stuff, not because I’m crazy about bike riding. It would be helpful if governments, councils and people in cars could see the difference between people who ride to get somewhere and people who ride to ride. We have vastly different needs!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for your feedback. I agree with your comments…
    “It would be helpful if governments, councils and people in cars could see the difference between people who ride to get somewhere and people who ride to ride. We have vastly different needs!”

    This task (ie presenting cycling as a normal everyday activity) is missing from the advocates’ ‘job sheet’. Cycling is of course a ‘broad church’ but sports cycling is dominating and skewering the conversation. This undermines efforts to promote ‘normal’ cycling. This is what I try to explain here….

    It is wrong to expect councils and the public to automatically understand these issues. It needs to be spelt out. We need advocates to be speaking on ‘our’ behalf too.


  4. Of course you know this, but just the same, it seems worth mentioning. Like many things in life, any one “thing” can be something quite different to different people. Certainly I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion that cycling is, for many, a means to an end, a utility, a resource for transportation. This applies to some people every time they throw a leg through or over the top tube. This even applies to myself on a daily basis. However, for some – myself included — cycling is also so much more. Cycling, for me, has always been a source of joy for me, an activity that usually endows me with feelings of motion, power, freedom, connection, utility, usefulness, integration with my surroundings, or many other sensations and emotions, concrete and ephemeral. Cycling for me is also often an integral, visceral part of my self-identity; I often “choose” to define my relationships with others, and to define my relation to my environment, in the context of cycling within and throughout those constructs. Personally, this is a meaningful, integral, and satisfying state of mind for me. But just as all people are nuanced in their motivations, perceptions, interpretations, proclivities, and dispositions — so too, are cyclists.

    Having stated all of that, I reiterate: Yes, cycling needs to be presented and re-branded as a normal, everyday activity — regardless of the nuanced variance in riding styles and types. In order for a truly inclusive, integrated transportation system to flourish, and enhance the communities, businesses, and people that it services, bicycle commuting needs to be represented by those who truly use the bicycle as a method of urban transportation, and understand the nuances of cycling for transport, as opposed to recreation or sport. I just wanted to let you know that there are some out there who take advantage of both, and may blur the lines a little bit — but that we don’t intend to be exclusionary or obtuse to the transportation needs of the “utilitarian” cyclists, who are quite likely more integrally connected, dialed in, and dependent upon the transportation network. Part of the equation is getting more cyclists to cycle for transportation, for daily tasks, and we need strategies of inclusion rather than alienation, to convince more of the more recreational cyclists to utilize, understand, and support integral transportation inclusion projects. Ride on!


  5. I was looking for some information from one of the national cycling advocacy groups from last year, and it specifically addressed this issue. I have not yet been able to relocate any articles, but I seem to recall that PeopleForBikes was involved, or was the primary advocacy author of the study or paper. Specifically, the issue was how to broaden the net, so to speak, and capture the experiences, needs, utilization habits, and desires of more utilitarian cycling transport types. There were some spin-off studies, that showed some information on socioeconomic stratification of different types of utilitarian cyclists. This isn’t necessarily important in and of itself; the point is that there needs to be a way to connect the “silent” cyclists to the advocacy groups and urban planning resources. On some ideal level, the answer would be to treat the problem similarly to the answer given to the automobile – an interconnected grid of concrete access, with rarely ever more than a tenth of a mile (3 to 4 seconds travel) between cross connections; a seemingly seamlessly infinite grid of interconnected bliss. The ubiquitous, pervasive nature of unfettered motorized access to this “grid” at every block can seem like absurd overkill – particularly when motorists tend to seem very possessive and territorial of that grid, in it’s entirety. It would make more sense to me to have certain “hub” locations more or less off limits to vehicles, forcing people to park further away, and have to bus, walk, bike, or otherwise hoof the last several tens of meters – but just try to find a place to walk, perhaps with a stroller or children, or bike up to, and/or lock up a bicycle to – most any urban grocery supermarket, or any business, for that matter. Motorists have and take advantage of access right up to, and including, the “fire lane” which is merely a few meters from the door of the supermarket, department store, or other business. On the one hand, it is humorous, to see how entitled, lazy, and self-centered this is – that a very significant number of our society cannot be bothered to walk an extra 100, even 50, even 20 meters — and so the pavement encroaches right up to the entrance, and pedestrians navigate across this asserted motor vehicle travel/parking/access lane in often slightly humorous stuttering interactions, but also at some risk.

    I guess I just mean to say that on some level — the answer is simple: More cyclists on more roads means that at some critical point, more motorists will start see and accept this as “normal” use, instead of an indignant encroachment on their own perceived entitlement. Get more people out there riding as a means of transportation. Involve more cyclists in conversations with planners and advocacy groups. Incentivize sustainable forms of transport (cycling). Encourage or require building codes to include pedestrian and cycling traffic access to grocery stores, shopping centers, doctors offices, apartment complexes, and ALL zoning and building access codes that entail people transacting business, the ability to access said entity in ways other than the accepted but increasingly cumbersome, wasteful, and environmentally irresponsible standard that so many take for granted.


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