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A wheeledpedestrian in Seattle on the 4th of July.

Guest Post: Dale Wambaugh of Seattle has taken up the invitation to share his #wheeledpedestrian story. Thanks Dale.

You can read more of Dale’s bicycle adventures here.

View of Seattle from ?? Bay

A view of the Seattle skyline from Alki Beach

Fireworks are a big part of the 4th of July celebration in the USA. The fireworks display in Seattle draws hundreds of thousands of viewers in every possible spot with a view of the lake. Unfortunately, I was required to work a 4-11pm shift in downtown Seattle. The display was due to end at about the same time as my shift, which meant traffic gridlock of epic proportions and streets full of drunken celebrants.

That meant only one thing…B-I-K-E!

It was also the hottest July 4th on record at 92F/33C and I wanted to arrive at work fresh and rested. So, I took advantage of the bicycle racks on the front of the Metro Transit buses. The bus stop is just two blocks from my home and I was dropped off just 1/2 mile from work. It worked perfectly. I got to work in plenty of time and the bus fare was just $2.50.

A phenomenon of events like this is that the crowd assembles over a period of several hours, but when the show is over, they all leave at once.

Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail would be perfect for the slow and gentle ride home. It’s a great rails-to-trails bicycle path that runs from the north end of Lake Union into the northern and eastern suburbs. It passes within 2 miles of my home.

Multi-modal transport

Multi-modal transport

My initial path from work took me quickly through some downtown side streets and into the maw of the retreating crowds. I had my helmet light blinking, my handlebar-mounted headlamp on full, two tail lights blinking away and a bell at my left thumb. Every intersection was being controlled by several police officers and traffic was so gridlocked that moving through with a bike was easy.

My route north to the trail was along the west side of the lake. People were walking back to their cars and many were tipsy after an evening in the heat waiting for the fireworks. They wandered around the parking lots, blocking traffic. This made it easy for me to pick my way through the stalled cars, laughing and shouting every time I rang my bell.

I continued across the Fremont drawbridge and connected with the trail, passing Gasworks Park along the way. This park was a main viewing area on the lake of the fireworks display but most people had left by the time I passed by.  The path was clear enough for full speed travel…just a few miles more and I would be home.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

If it’s not about cycling, what is it about?

Biker on bridge

There’s a story waiting to be told.

It’s not about me, or you. It’s not about how individuals choose to ride. It’s not a personal issue at all. In fact, it’s not even about cycling.

It’s about better cities, mobility, transport equality, making roads safe for all road users. Once that has been established, it’s about choosing strategies that will help turn those goals into reality.

The bicycle is one of the potential solutions to building a better city. It’s a transport tool. Not to be confused with a sports and recreation tool. Effective advocacy can convince risk averse politicians and a sceptical public, that urban cycling is worth investing in, even if they personally don’t want to do it.

Every action needs to be predicated on those goals. Put the passion for ‘cycling’ in a separate box and start speaking in a language that the uninformed will understand. That will require the involvement of people with a wide range of expertise and interest. A ‘building a better city’ team.

It requires nuance and an ability to embrace contradiction. How do you get more people cycling without focussing on cycling? How do you make something that is so life affirming to be so common and normal?

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickr or Vine

I’ll have some culture jamming with my tactical urbanism, thanks.

It was one of those moments that I love. One of those moments that, perhaps unsurprisingly, is often delivered by bicycle. I was being inspired. There was an element of puzzlement too. But I can live with that. I’m learning that thought experiments don’t always progress in the way that I want them to; in the way that I initially hypothesise. I also know that just because others aren’t thinking like I am, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.

That moment of inspiration came while I was listening to Mike Lydon talk ‘Tactical Urbanism’ to what I would like to suggest, was a pretty reasonable number of Aucklanders. He was talking to me. He was speaking a language I understood. He was talking about stuff that I have been dwelling on and been puzzled by, for years.

Blogging can be a tough gig. I’d like to think I’m doing the world a favour. Sharing ideas and opinions, with the faint hope that someone will agree with me and join in the conversation.

And while my thinkings and musings make sense to me and are all based on life experiences and from reading widely, it is all pretty much going against orthodoxy. People drive cars. That’s normal. It’s futile to suggest otherwise. Well maybe not. At least not according to Mike Lydon.

Based on what he said, I would now suggest that this blog is a form of ‘culture jamming’. A social form of ‘tactical urbanism’, if you will. I don’t share videos of people riding without a helmet because I want to be viewed as a law breaker. It’s about challenging the status quo. To inspire, inform, enlighten. That kind of stuff.

And that’s the value of social media. It allows the dots to be joined. In this case, the dots being people. Because at present, there is not a sufficient critical mass of people who share the same thoughts and values of wheeled pedestrian cycling. It’s still too early. Too counterculture.

When that critical mass has grown sufficiently (assuming that it will, in a timely fashion), we can ramp up the tactical urbanism and then maybe, just maybe, get started on some full blown campaigning.

I’m also curious to know why the Council would want to host a talk about ‘tactical urbanism’. Is the Council trying to encourage some activism, some boldness? Build some political will, perhaps?

In the meanwhile, keep making and sharing the cool stuff you are doing. Stand up and make some noise. Connect the dots.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickr or Vine

Riding a bicycle can be as easy as walking, but faster.

You can help make riding a bicycle a normal, everyday activity.

You can help make riding a bicycle a normal, everyday activity.

It is not well known or appreciated that bicycles are ideal for short utility trips. And even in the most bicycle unfriendly city, many of the journeys we do every day are ideally suited to and achievable by bicycle. So while you are waiting for those separated cycle paths to be built, dust off your bike and practice doing some simple and easy trips around your neighbourhood. Yes, you may need to ride on the footpath slowly when it feels safer to do so, or walk up a few hills to begin with but hey, just getting started is the most important thing.

Ignore those people who are inclined to make cycling sound more difficult than it actually is. You will soon find that a short trip on a bike is as easy as walking. Ignore invitations to participate in events like ‘Bike to Work’ week. At least initially. Those are for seasoned #cyclists and may require you to ride a longer distance and in heavier traffic than you are prepared to do just at the moment. You are aiming to be a #wheeledpedestrian.

Just get into it gently. It may have been a long time since you have been on a bike. But you won’t have forgotten the buzz and excitement of rolling along as though you were on a magic carpet, or the sense of achievement of getting to your destination under your own steam. Go slowly. You don’t want to get all sweaty, do you.

You may also find that your bicycle is not as comfortable or as practical as you wish. There is a reason for that. You are probably riding a bicycle that has fat knobby tires. You will probably also find that you are leaning forward. This puts extra weight on your arms and means that you are having to lift your head up into an uncomfortable position.

This bicycle’s lack of mudguards may also make it likely that you will be covered in road spray if the roads are slightly wet when you are riding. There are bicycles available that can enhance your riding experience. They are perfect for the aspiring #wheeledpedestrian. Go on-line and have a browse. It’s quite possible that the bicycle you need is not available at your local retailer. It is also quite possible that your local retailer will not understand your needs and try to convince you to buy something that is not suitable for you.

Finally, share your story. Inspire others. Help make riding a bicycle a normal, everyday activity again.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

A light rain had just started to fall

Sun shower

Sun shower 

I climbed the last gentle hill before home. A light rain had just started to fall. As I got to the top, I ducked under a tree for shelter. I didn’t put my rain pants on and carry on home. Instead, I decided to wait for the shower to pass. I looked back to where I had come from. In an instant, the sky had changed dramatically. I dropped my bicycle on the grass, grabbed my camera and ran into the middle of the road.

I love this #nofilter photo. It’s like all the colour’s been drained out.

These days when I’m out and about on my bicycle, I inevitably see an image that I want to capture. It means being observant, stopping often, getting sidetracked and taking longer to get to my destination. The pleasure is all mine and hopefully yours, too.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

12 Questions: How to be a Wheeled Pedestrian

Riding slowly

Challenging perceptions that cycling is only for the fast and sporty.

1. What do I do if it’s raining?  Put on a raincoat and, ride slowly.

2. What do I do if it’s hot?  Wear something light and, ride slowly.

3. What do I do if it’s cold?  Put on something warm and, ride slowly.

4. What do I do if I have things to carry?  Put them on a carrier, in pannier bags or in a basket and, ride slowly.

5. What do I do if it’s hilly where I live?  Get a bike with gears or walk up the steepest part and, ride slowly.

6. What do I do if I want to socialise with friends?  Dress as you would normally and, ride slowly.

7. What do I do if I have to leave my bicycle?  Get a good lock and, ride slowly.

8. What do I do if my friends or neighbours see me riding a bicycle?  Smile, feel smug and, ride slowly.

9. What do I do if water from the road splashes up on me?  Fit mudguards to your bike and, ride slowly.

10. What do I do if I need to be somewhere in a hurry?  Leave earlier and, ride slowly.

11. What do I do if there is a lot of traffic and I don’t feel so safe?  Ride on the footpath when it feels prudent to do so and, ride slowly.

12. What do I do if I’m fashion conscious?  Buy a stylish bicycle, sit up and, ride slowly. Congratulations! You are the real deal.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Driven to distraction.

Distracted drivers

Distracted drivers kill

It is not widely known or accepted that the current approach to road safety takes place in a ‘shit happens/blame the victim’ kind of way.  So it would be nice if this latest local campaign was the beginning of a new era; to address the real issues of road safety.  A metaphorical first step in the process of coming to a general consensus around the negative consequences of cars; that road safety is a serious issue and deserves our undivided attention- pun intended.  So this kind of campaign could be the very beginnings of our first, tentative steps at starting that process.  Could be…

It’s how the anti-smoking lobby has worked so effectively. It’s about using peer pressure to change behaviour.

In terms of making a real difference, this kind of campaign is a ‘soft option’ and low level initiative but a necessary first step to any improvements.  Let me explain.  There is already a large number of drivers who understand the risks to themselves and other road users, and drive appropriately (given that the road infrastructure is designed in a way that is like an open invitation to drive too fast and unforgiving of errors).

There is also a large group of drivers who identify themselves as law abiding citizens but, due to a pervasive culture of casualness, do not take the issue of driving as seriously as it needs to be.  This is the group that this kind of campaign targets because they can be taught to drive slowly, safely and respectfully. It’s this group that can help shift the balance towards a social contract that makes that kind of behaviour normal.

…most importantly, roads need to be re-engineered to physically discourage speeding.

It’s how the anti-smoking lobby has worked so effectively. It’s about using peer pressure to change behaviour. Being smoke-free is presented as something that is normal and desirable.  And get celebrities to start supporting the cause.  (Let’s clarify something first; hands-free car phones are not safe like Kerre suggests).  But of course, I hear ya… a media campaign alone will never be enough.  It needs to followed up by intense police intervention and enforcement.  The police need to be ready and able to counter the inevitable backlash of ‘waging a war on motorists’ and just focused on revenue gathering.  This is not a victory to be won over night.  Backlash should be expected.

And of course, policies and laws such as reduced speed limits and tougher driving tests need to be introduced and most importantly, roads need to be re-engineered to physically discourage speeding.  Good public transport that is inexpensive, fast and efficient also needs to be provided as an alternative to driving.  Cycling and walking needs to be made safe and accessible to all.  It is a massive issue and change needs  to be made systematically and strategically.  There is too much at stake.

There is a third category of drivers that unfortunately, will be harder to shift.  It is that minority of drivers who don’t respond to normal behavioural cues.  The industries of big tobacco, big oil and big car have done their job so well.  Seriously.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that I can see the future.  I am going to predict the effectiveness of this campaign based on the experience of the last one.  I hope my prediction is wrong.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

The casualness of driving.

Bathed in light

Bathed in light.

It was a day like any other. I was heading home after another day at the chalk face. Slowly. The sun was still high enough in the sky to make its presence felt. The benefits of slow cycling far outweigh the few extra minutes added to my journey time. I could hear a single car coming up from behind. I glanced over my shoulder to confirm. The car came up beside me. It was close enough to touch. The driver had his eyes fixed on the screen of his mobile phone. I saw red.

The driver probably thought I had been in the sun too long. He told me that he wasn’t ‘that’ close. I don’t know how he could determine that; his eyes and attention were on the screen of his phone. And besides, he wasn’t texting, as I had suggested. He was ‘just’ reading a map.

He seemed genuinely puzzled by my reaction to his overtaking manoeuvre. I wasn’t puzzled. I witness this casualness towards driving everyday; whether I’m riding a bicycle, walking or driving. It’s a cultural thing. Sadly, there seems to be very little awareness of the issue or interest in addressing it.

There’s a ‘slow food’ and a ‘slow cycling’ community. It must be about time to set up a ‘slow driving’ community?

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Success in Seville?

Wheeled Pedestrian

There are many things that could be done that would allow urban cycling to flourish.

Riding a bicycle is easy. It’s an extension of walking and it’s a perfect transport tool for short journeys. But the potential of the bicycle to play a bigger role in the transport landscape is being stymied by government policies that give priority to driving.

The average number of bikes used daily in the city rose from just over 6,000 to more than 70,000.

Our cities are too full of fast moving cars and motorists that have an insatiable sense of entitlement. It will be impossible for the bicycle to flourish while this remains unchanged. In order to get more people riding bicycles as a form of transport, the environment needs to be the focus of our attention. It needs to be made much better. Providing good quality infrastructure is one assured way of getting people to use bicycles for transport purposes.

We have Seville to validate that claim. When connected and safe bicycle lanes were built in Seville, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people cycling on those routes – the number of bike trips multiplied 11-fold in a few years. The average number of bikes used daily, in the city, rose from just over 6,000 to more than 70,000. The latest count found 6% of all trips were made by bike.

But it’s how that infrastructure got built in the first place that also needs to be examined. There appears to be a large element of fortuity surrounding the construction of these bicycle lanes. That they were constructed without significant opposition and before the opposition could act against them even surprised the advocates.

The Seville experience is useful in that it enhances the ‘build it and they will come’ adage but it does nothing to explain how the cycle lanes got to be built in the first place.

The questions that need to be asked of Seville now are;

  • can this bicycle network be grown and developed further?
  • can it also be emulated in other Spanish cities?

Finding answers to these questions is important because experience tells us that your average motorist doesn’t take too kindly to any requests to relinquish highly contested street space. The biggest barrier to building cycle lanes in a typical urban environment is the requirement of motorists being willing to cede territory. People on bicycles belong on the street. They want to be able to access shops, restaurants, schools and work places. But in the current set up, they play second fiddle to people in cars. Some cities are trying to buy their way out of the problem with all sorts of crazy non-solutions. It’s like wanting to have your cake and eating it too.

The road design that is currently offered to us, provides space for moving cars, parking cars and for pedestrians. When a separated space for cycling doesn’t exist, cycling is treated like all other motorised vehicles. This scenario explains why the people who do cycle in these conditions tend to ride and dress for the occasion…like warriors going into battle.

The Seville experience is useful in that it enhances the ‘build it and they will come’ adage but it does nothing to explain how the cycle lanes got to be built in the first place. I’m inclined to think of it in terms of an aberration. Where was the backlash and the resistance? Seville just makes it all look too easy.

The enormous positive benefits of urban cycling are unequivocal. There are a few cities that have already embraced urban cycling. They provide us with fully functional models to emulate. But we are going to have to dig deeper if we are to find the necessary tools for persuading a larger number of the population to support urban cycling; to convince motorists to cede some territory or politicians to reverse decades of harmful transport and land use policies.

There are many benefits of having a cyclised city. And these benefits of wealth and well-being are enjoyed by the community at large. These benefits need to be sold to a sceptical public.

When the (already strong) urban cycling culture in The Netherlands was threatened by a motoring tsunami, cycling advocates engaged in some heavy duty campaigning. Whole communities rallied to ensure that culture was retained. There were protests. They employed a strongly worded campaign called ‘Stop the Child Murder’. Cycle lanes are built on THAT kind of support.

There are many benefits of having a cyclised city. And these benefits of wealth and well-being are enjoyed by the community at large. These benefits need to be sold to a sceptical public. Campaigns for separate cycle paths need to be presented as bringing benefits to everyone and not just to a special interest group. A wider public audience needs to be engaged.

That’s why it’s important to make cycling look normal and appealing. The process of making cycling appeal to a wide audience needs to be viewed as a specific goal and therefore, specific strategies need to be employed to make it happen. So step aside cycling enthusiasts, it’s time to call in the marketing experts. Dare I suggest, look to big tobacco and big motoring for inspiration.

By all means, celebrate the success in Seville. But also see the real task at hand. It will take more than polite requests to convince the current breed of mainstream politicians that cycle lanes need to be built. At the present time, a vote for cycling equates to an act of political suicide. The building of cycle lanes may be the prize but all focus should now be on building political will. Achieving that task will require a completely different skill set. Being able to ride a bicycle may not even be one of the required skills.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Words of an addict: “Just one more motorway.”

Traffic is not like water; it doesn’t evaporate.

“No city in the world has ever been able to pave it’s way out of traffic congestion”,

is what I wanted to yell at say to Duncan Garner when I heard him announce on his radio show of his support for the removal of six pohutakawa trees to make way for an extra lane of traffic. Duncan, cities that are overrun by, or over reliant on cars are not happy or healthy cities. Please, wake up and smell the fumes.

And besides, it was Janette Sadik-Kahn who told an Auckland audience in 2014, that our “current transport model is a luxury we can no longer afford; change is an economic imperative.” It’s the economy, stupid. I know whose wisdom I prefer.

To his credit, Duncan recognises that his support is based on selfish needs; he wants his driving experience to be enhanced. But he also repeats the familiar line that our addiction to cars and the lack of decent public transport means we have to keep building and extending the motorway/roading network. That there is no alternative. That is such a crappy argument.

My children would also eat KFC everyday, if I gave them no alternative.

 

I’m hoping that the six pohutakawa will be saved. I’m also hoping that their survival will be the catalyst for a higher level of engagement on how we want Auckland to develop. I fear that its wonderful natural endowments are being eroded by poor urban (non)management. Sprawl is no longer our friend. It never was.

Our arrival at this point is no accident. Sprawl, and the induced demand for the more motorways, cars and driving it has created, have come about through decades of deliberate policy settings at a national level. Give the people what they want, but first, starve them of informed debate. That’s how the political process seems to work.

We are told that the removal of the trees will create space for new cycle lanes. I really hope that the people who speak on behalf of cycling in this city, publicly reject this offer. But ‘at the end of the day’, pragmatism is the chosen path. I mean, for a change, how about the trees are left alone, AND the cycle lanes are built? How about we ask the transport agency (the public organisation charged with catering to all road users) to nick a bit of space off the motorist? That’s a novel idea. But while the person on the bicycle is known as the ‘outlier’, that’s always going to be a tough sell.

The bridge without access to walking and cycling

That Auckland harbour bridge that does not provide access to walking and cycling

Within this context, it comes as no surprise that Aucklanders can still only get across their magnificent Waitemata harbour by motor vehicle or ferry. Needless to say, you drive for ‘free’ but pay to take the ferry. No provision was ever made for walking or cycling. But that may all change with the #skypath project inching ever closer. You can add your voice to growing calls to make it happen, by completing a quick submission form.

There is a lot of stake here. The 6 pohutakawa and the #skypath should not be seen in isolation. Together they are the physical manifestation of the government’s continued commitment to funnel the ‘lion’s share’ of transport funding into roading projects at the expense of alternatives. That’s the big picture that needs to brought into relief. There’s a bigger story to be told and people like Mr Garner will not do us any favours.

It’s nice to get a new cycle way built but does it have to come bundled with an oversized motorway or roading project? It has all the connotations of a Faustian bargain. How long will the juggernaut roll on, unchecked? Addiction is hard to deal with. Acknowledging the addiction would be a good first step. Saving the 6 pohutakawa would feel like progress is being made towards moving beyond denial.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.