I’d like to imagine wheeled pedestrian cycling as a community – a growing community, not just of people on bikes but people who share a vision of what they want a modern city to look, feel and sound like.
Cities used to be ranked on their car parks, skyscrapers and motorways. Now they are being measured by their livability. The rules of the game have changed. Cities that are at the top of the livability stakes are the cities that are full of bicycles. People using bicycles to get about their business. But ultimately, it’s about people and how they interact. Thats why bicycles are so wonderful. They amplify the ability to engage with the city, its people and surroundings.
Around the world, cycling is taking its rightful place as a credible means of making our cities more livable, our bodies healthier, our air more breathable, our planet cooler, and our bank accounts ‘balancier’. But more than that, a cyclized city is also about community and equality. The benefits are enormous.
Time for a new approach
So, it’s time to assume that there are many other people who want to enjoy the benefits that a cyclized city brings. And it’s time to assume that there are others who are willing to be sold on the benefits that a cyclized city brings.
It’s time to start selling the idea of ‘cities for people‘. That’s a pretty radical departure from the ‘cities for cars’ paradigm that we currently live in. It’s not going to be easy. Cars are in our DNA. Or at least they have been since the post-war oil boom. The negatives associated with our love affair with the motor vehicle are increasingly outweighing the positives. But as with all addictions, denial is a major barrier. We are all victims to this addiction, directly and indirectly.
It’s going to be hard to present a compelling vision of the merits of living in a city that has reduced its reliance on the personal motor car. “Save us from what?”, they ask. We have been promised solutions that go along the lines of ‘more motorways’. Those ‘solutions’ are simply prolonging our inevitable time in rehab.
Look at the opportunities we are missing.
Right now there are cities that are working models for us to emulate. They have managed to raise their livability stakes by reducing their reliance on the private motor vehicle. And it’s no coincidence that the bicycle features strongly in the transport mix in those cities. But back home, we are still discussing the merits of the latest research on the issues of livability. It’s as if we believe that we are some special case and those successful models do not apply to us. There are also cities that are well-advanced in the process of invigorating the community to push back against the negative influence of the motor car. They have moved on from analysing the research, to acting upon it. They have well supported and fully funded campaign groups that regularly challenge the status quo with their city officials and politicians.
Where to from here?
The conversation and the actions need to be broader and smarter. The benefits to a city that has disarmed the destructive qualities of the car are there for all to enjoy. The beneficiaries just don’t know that yet. There is a lot at stake. There needs to be opportunities for a wide range of people to be inspired to join in the conversation and get active. We are all in this together.
‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bike’ is everyday activity. No sweat.