mobility

The easy 3 step plan to get more people riding bicycles more often.

Nice bike stand, but where's the bike?

Nice bike stand. Now we just need bikes to go with it.

So you really want to know how to get more people riding bikes more often? Then read on…

  1. Set an achievable target. Eg. We want the council to commit to a cycling mode share of 5% of all trips that are less than 5 km in 5 years. This goal needs to be targeted in locations/suburbs where this rate is most achievable. This would provide a successful ‘fail fast’ model and will allow for other groups/locations to piggyback off any successes.

2. Run promotional campaigns. Eg. We want the council to commit to an ongoing cycling promotion campaign that;

  • highlights cycling as an easy and attractive way to travel, and show the enormous health and economic benefits of cycling to individuals and society, and highlights how safe cycling is.
  • highlights the enormous health and economic costs of motoring to individuals and society, and highlights how dangerous driving is.

 3. Build infrastructure. Eg. We want the council to build the necessary push and pull infrastructure that makes cycling more attractive and driving less attractive. All infrastructure that will help achieve the goal are on the table. You can put Policy into this category here too, if you like. Policy to remove parking, reduce speed limits etc. All the things that will help achieve step 1.

Of course, the building of cycle paths is just a part of step 3. A part of step 3. Sorry to be repeating myself. For me, step 3 suggests a broad range of infrastructure and policy options that will need to be implemented in order to help tame The Death Star. And as you may have guessed, it’s at step 3 where things currently start and stall. Steps 1 and 2 are the foundations of step 3. Building “political will” is what some people like to call it. And interestingly, achieving steps 1 and 2 will require a broad range of skills. Less engineering, more communicating and selling. There’s no conundrum in getting bicycle infrastructure built, as I have heard some say – simply start at the start.

Unfortunately, there is no short cut to cycling utopia.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

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The Death Star

The Death Star casts a long shadow.

The Death Star casts a long shadow.

“The Death Star is the codename of an unspeakably powerful and horrific weapon. A weapon capable of destroying entire planets. The Death Star is an instrument of terror, meant to cow treasonous worlds with the threat of annihilation.”

The reign of the ‘Death Star’ continues. Unrestrained, unscathed, and as deadly as ever.

A range of strategies are going to be needed if we are to ever disempower the ‘Death Star’. Strategies that will discourage driving and encouraging people to take public transport or ride bicycles. Strategies that will increase the demand for traffic calming. Issues such as speed, urban sprawl, parking and infrastructure will all need to be brought to the public domain.

Responsibility for the obscenely high number of traffic deaths and injuries also needs to be placed firmly where it belongs. There real economic and social costs that driving has on our communities needs to be on the agenda. I suggest we copy the anti-smoking lobby and start by placing health warning labels on all cars and trucks.

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Lethal weapon

To grow cycling numbers to a significant extent, the ‘Death Star’ needs to be defeated. Every journey starts with one step. Who is prepared to take on this noble cause? Who will take on the responsibility of reclaiming our cities from the tyranny of the motor vehicle?

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Auckland, the city of bicycles?

Rat running

It’s nice to hear that, according to the latest survey, the number of people riding bicycles in Auckland is up. Though it seems as though they are the recreational type, waiting to be converted to the wheeledpedestrian type.

I can’t vouch for the numbers. I’m just too busy avoiding motorists using my “designated cycleway” as a rat run. We are told that new motorways will keep motorists off local streets. I prefer the theory that says motorways just encourage more use – “induced demand”, is the official term.

I’ve been doing a little casual investigation. It would appear that motorists use Hendry Ave to get between Onehunga and Hillsborough Rd. In the video, the motorist does a right hand turn onto Hillsborough Rd and then makes a quick left onto the motorway on ramp. And just to clarify, Hillsborough Rd ticks all the boxes for many of Auckland’s arterial roads. It’s residential, high speed and 4 laned (in part).

Now, it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge the benefit the separated cycleway, built as part of the motorway construction, has provided me. But it’s not continuous and I have to take extreme caution when using the non-connected parts, such as Hendry Ave.

But really, Auckland as a cycling city? Can’t see it myself. Not while motorists are allowed to run so free and easy. Sure, provide the necessary infrastructure for cycling. Those pull factors are critical. But something also needs to be done to push those motorists out of their cars. Make it harder, more expensive to drive and park. Sell the vision of a city that prioritises the moving of people instead of cars.

Stopping motorists rat running through local residential streets would benefit more than just people on bikes. Those people just don’t know it yet. Which seems to explain quite a lot, I think. Clearly, there is work to be done.

And sorry, I don’t know what those two lads on the fence line were doing.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Made in Japan: slow, everyday cycling

 

Riding a bike in Japan - a normal, everyday activity.

Everything looks pretty normal to me.

Well that was interesting. My camera has just had a really good workout. In Auckland, it’s pretty well under-utilised when it comes to photographing bicycles. I typically have to resort to bribing the #ninjaprincess to present an image of what a #wheeledpedestrian could look like. So, it was a real thrill to be photographing bicycles that were being ridden. Being ridden slowly. Being ridden by young and old. Boys and girls. Bicycles that had mud guards and chain guards. Shopping in baskets, children in baskets. No lycra, no helmets. Just ordinary people moving ordinarily. Capturing images of #wheeledpedestrian cycling in Japan was as easy as the proverbial ‘shooting fish in a barrel’.

We are told that separated cycle paths are essential to get people out riding bikes and until this infrastructure thing is sorted, a cyclised city will remain a pipe dream. Or it’s sometimes presented as a chicken versus egg conundrum. No infrastructure means no cyclists. No cyclists means no infrastructure. I am not entirely happy with this way of looking at the problem and the solutions that are proposed as a consequence of this interpretation.

If it’s the absence of the separated cycle paths that stop people cycling, why do people ride bicycles in Japan? Why is Japan different? And is there anything we could learn from Japan?

Let it be said that Japan is no Netherlands when it comes to catering for people on bicycles. Even though there are plenty of people on bicycles, cars still dominate. Motorists possess the typical arrogance of space. They drive too fast. Just like in any other city in the world. But for a country with such a high population density, it seemed relatively free of traffic congestion. That can probably be explained by the the fact that Japan has a phenomenal transport network. These Vine videos here, here and here, will give you an insight to what I am trying to describe. It’s all about moving people. Lots of people. Quickly, conveniently.

Commuters are provided with a range of excellent transport options. And typically, the car is not the first or best choice. For many, the local train station is a short walk or bicycle ride away. Park n Ride. There are plenty of shops handy; distances that are highly achievable on a comfortable bike with capacity to carry stuff. Density done well, anyone?

In Japan, people on bicycles tend to mix with pedestrians but they also ride on the roads, next to cars. Footpaths are sometimes widened to ‘accommodate’ both. This seems to work fine because of the slow speeds at which the people on bikes travel. Long haul commuters and fast moving cyclists that tend to be the norm in less developed cycling cultures, are conspicuous by their absence. The few faster ones that I saw were forced to default to that dreaded vehicular style of cycling that has limited appeal.

Streets are typically narrow and speeds are typically slower. Though in some cases, it still felt too fast for me. But I watched high school students in these situations and they did not appear to be overly concerned. My favourite sight was children’s bicycles parked outside a private piano school. Mothers confident enough to let their children move about on bicycles independently? Long may it last.

Dream on

However, the biggest contributing factor to the existence of people on bicycles in Japan has to be the total absence of on-road parking. Cars are parked everywhere. Above ground, below ground, on every available space. But not on the road. Zero tolerance. Cars will get towed. I didn’t see that happen so it would suggest that this law is taken seriously. This absence of cars parked on the road made me realise two things – not only do cars take up so much space when they are stored on the road, they also take away something – visibility and hence, safety. So I guess if transport authorities in Japan did decide to provide specific infrastructure for cycling, the space is already there. Getting parked cars off the street; freeing up that space, has to be the biggest barrier to cyclising our cities.

What I am trying to argue here is just a repetition of what I have been trying to convey throughout this blog. There is a whole swathe of the population that is currently being ignored. There is #wheeledpedestrian cycling waiting to be done right now. No special equipment or preparation needed. A young adult I spoke to in Japan said she received no special training to learn to ride a bicycle when she was at school. We aren’t quite there yet, but please, let’s not overcomplicate it. Normal is good. Let’s redefine cycling. Broaden its appeal. Treat it like a transport tool, not a sports tool. Our cities don’t need more cyclists, they need more people doing short utility trips on bikes. Make it look more appealing to a wider audience. Let’s call that ‘promotion’.

Even without specific cycling infrastructure, people in Japan ride bikes. And being that I am into redefining, can we also broaden the definition of separated cycle paths? I think turning residential roads from ‘rat runs’ into a slow speed zones, for residents and bicycles only, would fulfill the role of separation. This needs to be given priority. That’s an inclusive goal; in that it would benefit all residents, and especially children. Instead, our streets are a place to be feared, it would seem. Watching or hearing cars zoom up and down your street has to be a compelling reason why people choose to drive rather than ride. “It just doesn’t feel safe”. Let’s call that ‘policy’.

So, instead of seeing the status quo as a conundrum that loops endlessly, how about we employ all three strategies equally – infrastructure, policy and promotion. A stool is at its strongest with three legs on the ground. Anyway, it’s good to be back. I bet you missed me too. 😉

You can see my photos of cycling in Japan here.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Connections

 

I think that storytelling and visual imagery is an under-utilized strategy for shifting perceptions of cycling. And I think that the need to address how the public perceive cycling and how it is allowed to be presented in the media is overlooked.

The cycling I want to talk about is the one that is connected to making better cities. Build the political/public will and the cycle lanes will come?

Anyway, here’s my latest attempt to tell a story. Apologies for the low budget hack of the Modacity cycle chic videos. My hope is that someone(s) with some expertise in visual storytelling will take this idea and run cycle with it. 🙂

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

 

Ask me why I cycle without a helmet.

3 Little Birds

We are not against individuals choosing to wear helmets, however we are against mandatory helmet laws and shock-horror helmet promotions.

So say the European Cyclists’ Federation. And that’s an advocacy group we can trust on these matters. This is an advocacy group that is able to see the big picture with clarity and rationality. Unfortunately, it is a culture of fear that dominates, not rationality. Of course, the motor industry fully understands how it is financially lucrative to allow and encourage that kind of fear mongering.

If there was any rationality in arguing for the merits of helmet use, the car industry would also be promoting helmets for motorists. After all, 1.2 million people die annually in car accidents crashes. That’s about one third of the New Zealand population being killed every year. Meanwhile, the unfettered freedom to drive continues. And besides, if preventing deaths was a core objective, tobacco would have been legislated out of existence long ago.

It is the ‘outlier’ status and distorted perception of cycling that is the issue. Helmets do a fine job at reinforcing these realities.

I have learned to be way more scared when my teenage son gets into a car with his mates than when he chooses to be a pedestrian on wheels and cycle without a helmet. That’s rational.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

The pathway to bicycle love

I grew up in a time when riding a bicycle just was; before it got reinvented as a sports and recreation thing. I recall those days with such fondness. The bicycle was a pathway to independence and life experiences.

We are depriving this experience on a growing number of generations. And even with the best intentions, my family are overly dependent on household car. I have had to go out of my way to recreate that experience; an experience that previous generations took for granted.

All ways of attracting people back to cycling need to be explored

All ways of attracting people back to cycling need to be explored

It’s going to be essential to recreate that sense of value that the bicycle can bring to individuals and society. We are going to have to be creative and strategic in reversing the trend.

Riding a bicycle needs to be presented as something that is a normal but life affirming thing to do.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

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

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.