Social Contract

Slow Down

Speed kills (and may make you fearful of letting your children out of the house).

Speed kills (and may make you fearful of letting your children out of the house).

A long time ago, I drafted this blog post but never officially published it. It was a story I picked up from the local community newspaper. Two mothers were concerned that cars on the residential street they lived on, were traveling in excess of 80kph. The speed limit is 50kph and the street is in a school zone.

“They fly through here. I don’t let my girls play out the front – I won’t even let them go to the letter box”. The street is used as a ‘rat run’. The women were planning to approach Auckland Transport to see if there was anything that could be done. I think the street has had speed bumps installed since then. I wonder if that made a difference.

At the time of writing it initially, I was not confident enough in my convictions to publish it. That’s since changed. I think it is no longer heresy to suggest that it will be demand and traffic calming rather than design and bike lanes that will make the biggest contribution to getting more people riding bicycles. Below, is the remainder of the original post. I have left it as I originally wrote it (apart from the inclusion of a link to a recent Wheeled Pedestrian post). Why? Because I have being going through the site’s archives recently to see if I have strayed from my original intentions. And I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised to see that my original observations and beliefs still hold true. However, being confident in my convictions is one thing. Convincing others of the merit of these convictions is a completely different matter. When you are in a hurry, progress is a relative thing.


It went like this…

A similar scenario plays out throughout Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. The Death Star, revealed in all its glory. And in the context of promoting cycling as a serious transport form, it should be clear by now, that cycling will remain the preserve of the ‘brave and fearless’ while this dominant car culture remains unchallenged. These mothers won’t let their children out on the front lawn, let alone ride a bike.

So while quality separated cycle lanes is what’s required to get people riding bikes, it is not going to make any significant difference until the issues of speed, that these two mothers are concerned about, are addressed fully. In fact, I would be so bold as to suggest that addressing the issues of speed need to take place before the introduction of cycle infrastructure. Or at least they need to happen in tandem. Because regardless of the quality of a cycle lane, it is the element of subjective safety that will determine whether individual members of the public will feel safe to use the infrastructure.

That’s why the ‘build it and they will come’ approach needs to be taken at face value. Any quality infrastructure needs to be matched with a high provision of subjective safety. A significant reduction in speed will go someway to addressing that. In The Netherlands, the ‘Stop the Child Murder’ Campaign was the precursor to the bicycle infrastructure and culture that the country is now renowned for. Until something similar happens in New Zealand, our dreams of a cycling revolution will remain only dreams. If cycle lanes are built, they will remain largely empty.

‘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.

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.

E003111

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.

Before any serious cycling infrastructure gets built, you’re going to have to get them to like you

Japan: people on bikes but without any specific cycling infrastructure. How come?

Not a cyclist

Dear Wheeled,

I am a cyclist and an all-round nice guy. I want to be able to ride to my job in the city safely but they won’t build any separated cycle paths. Cycling is great. Everyone should be doing it. What do we have to do to get some quality cycle paths around here?

Regards,

A. Cyclist


 

Dear A. Cyclist,

I sympathise with your situation. It may be reassuring to know that you are not the only one struggling with this issue. This plays out in almost every city in the World. If we look closely at those cities that have high rates of cycling, we can see that not only do they have separated cycle paths, they have managed to create an overall transport environment that prioritises moving of people ahead of the moving of cars. This environment makes the city a more pleasant and easier place to move around for all its residents. In this kind of environment, the car is a guest and invited in under very strict conditions and requirements. This could not be any more different to how other cities treat cars. Cycling is given priority because it is proven to be such an efficient and sustainable form of transport. And most importantly, it has the ‘buy in’ of the general population. Cycling flourishes in cities which have a strong social contract like this.

But we have to remember that this is very forward thinking and did not come about by accident. Politicians rarely act unilaterally. They need to know that their actions will be supported by the voting public. The catalyst for this new transport environment came about as a result of some serious campaigning. You may have heard about the Dutch ‘Stop the Child Murder’ campaign. What distinguishes that campaign from what we see in non-cycling friendly cities is that that campaign had the backing of a large and broad representation of the population. It obviously also helped that there was already a lot of utility cycling taking place in The Netherlands.

Creating space on the street is a piece in the puzzle of ‘how’ to get people on bikes. But it doesn’t tell the ‘why’. Campaigning solely for separated cycle paths fails to tell a compelling, convincing or inclusive story.

Clearly, the city in which you live, does not have a similar broad based support for cycling. In fact I suggest that rather than just being ambivalent, there is a downright animosity towards cycling in your city. That’s what this research seems to confirm. Motorists just don’t ‘get’ cyclists. And while this scenario prevails, while there is so little support for cycling or cyclists, it’s unlikely that any significant number of separated cycle paths will be built. You may also find that if they do get built, they will be under-utilised and be at risk to #bikelash. Having the moral entitlement to be on the road with motorists isn’t worth much at this point. Sure, there is room for an emotional argument, but it needs to presented carefully, appropriately.

Well designed separated cycle paths may encourage people to ride bikes, but what strategies are being employed to get those desired cycle paths built?

I fear that making requests solely for separated bike lanes at this particular stage of the evolution, may be a strategy of limited value. If the public hate cycling, then that needs to be addressed. Specific strategies need to be employed for this purpose. An image of cycling needs to be presented that is broad, relevant and inclusive. You need to be very clear about the image of cycling you want to present. Not for cyclists like you and I. We know the distinction. But for the 99%. The non-cycling public. Mostly, they are only exposed to sports and recreational cycling with high doses of hi-viz, lycra and helmets.

An alternative needs to be provided. Differentiate recreational and sports cycling from the #wheeledpedestrian variety – slow, easy, comfortable, utility, urban, short distance – and keep repeating this with images and words, ad nauseum. It is this type that will have the widest appeal and outreach.

It will take more than well designed separated cycle paths to encourage people to ride bicycles. Slower car speeds would improve real and perceived safety for everyone too.

I also recommend that you campaign under a banner of safe streets for everyone. Once again, bringing it back to an issue of inclusivity. You need to avoid being seen by the public as a special interest group. That outlier label is going to be a difficult one to kick. You don’t want to make it any easier for those motorists to hate on you. It is not only motorists either. It always pains me when I see pedestrian advocates firing barbs at cyclists who ride on the footpath but somehow manage to sidestep the reality of the caroverkill situation and how it has arisen.

Mikael at copenhagenize regularly tells us how to build the cycling infrastructure but I am not sure if he has told us yet about how to build the political will. Or maybe he has, but we have just failed to hear to him.

It’s not an anti-motorist stance, but it is the car that is hogging all the space in our cities. It is the promotion of the car as the singular transport solution that is the cause of all the mayhem and destruction. Of course, it will not make you very popular to challenge the status-quo, but there are precedents. Are you aware of #VisionZero and similar campaigns? And there is no need to take it personally. Decades of policy settings have set up driving to succeed. Motorists are simply responding to behaviour cues. Try taking cigarettes off an addicted smoker. Try taking a car space away from a retailer’s front door. Same issue really.

At the moment, campaigning resembles a one sided monologue between cyclists and politicians with the politicians simply covering their ears with their hands.

Finally, an effective advocacy organisation is one that is financially independent and employs the people with the right skills. Effective campaigning would engage the wider public in a proactive way and be based around themes of –

  1. presenting a vision of a city that provides a wide range of financially and environmentally sustainable transport options that are safe, easy and convenient,
  2. presenting cycling as an effective transport solution; as an option that is safe, easy and convenient.

You’ll recognise it when you see it.

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

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

The day I give up riding a bicycle just got a little bit closer.

I have a confession to make.

Everything I have written on this site about how wonderful riding a bicycle is, how easy and empowering it is…it’s all just been one big lie. It all seemed a good idea at the time. “Aspiration” is how I liked to think of it, phrase it. I realise now that the lie has gotten so big and complex that even I have started to believe it.

I thought I was doing myself and others a favour. What a quaint concept. It all began years ago, when I stopped riding like a warrior, like a two-wheeled motor vehicle. I learned to chose my routes carefully. I took the slow, indirect routes in order to avoid ‘space conflict’ with the more powerful, dominant road users. I deferred to these faster, dominant road users when it felt necessary to do so.

I’m now reassessing my options. It may be to find employment that is on a bus route, and reduce my riding to endless loops around the local park on weekends. Resort to ‘A to A’ cycling. Tie my bicycle to the back of the car and go somewhere that is car-free.

My faith in humanity has dipped. I feared for my life today. Actually. The motorist saw an obstacle on the road that was impeding her progress to the child care centre. I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I wasn’t doing anything different than what I have done everyday, for the last 10 years.

I was on a ‘designated’ cycle route. It’s a ‘rat-run’. Actually. It runs parallel to 8 fucking lanes of motorway. This is a story that, for the first time, have kept from my loved ones. I don’t want them to worry about me. I will just let slip one day that I have taken a new job…a change is as good as a break. You know.

If you see the driver of the Blue Toyota DNU62, tell her I’m doing ok. I’m just in the process of making some life changes.

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.

Reflections on our transport landscape.

I want to live in a city that promotes a humane transport culture.

I want to live in a city that promotes a humane transport culture.

I live in a city that does no favours to those who choose to get about by means other than a car. I have (rather foolishly, some will say) used other ways of getting around the city. You know; walking, riding a bicycle, public transport. The car is usually the only realistic option. But my household has also deliberately incorporated our transport choices into our life style.

The Ninja Princess and I have always been urban explorers. The bicycle has increasingly become the means of adventure and exploration. Increasingly, we have been documenting the stuff we have been doing. And experiencing the city by bicycle is a revelation for the senses. It really is magic.

Having her beside me on her own bicycle has also put a completely different lens on the ‘mobility in the city’ experience. My sense of the hostile state of the transport landscape has been heightened dramatically. We ride slowly. We avoid busy roads and intersections. We don’t always feel welcome on the road by motorists, even though we do our utmost to ‘share with care’. But most importantly, we keep on riding and exploring.

The stuff that appears on this site are simply reflections of my/our experiences in the transport landscape. Sometimes it may sound strongly worded and emotional. Or anti-car, heaven forbid. But it’s not. It’s just observational. I wish that the people who are responsible for planning our transport landscape will read this and go for a ride on their bicycles with their young children or grand children. It would be a valuable experience, for everyone.

If I was in charge of our city I would set it up like I set up my classroom of new entrants. Nobody gets left behind or forgotten. Everyone is catered for. It’s a cultural thing. And the children love it. It’s good for everyone. It feels human. Now that would be a radical departure from where we are currently at.

‘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.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The killing roads: why our car culture is not sustainable.

Speed Kills

Suburban residents awoke to this scene.

A 14-year-old boy died when a car he was in crashed into a power pole on Te Atatu Peninsula. He died at the scene. The driver and front-seat passenger, both 16-years old, suffered moderate injuries and were taken to Auckland Hospital. Police said early indications were that speed was a factor. Enquiries were underway to determine whether alcohol was also involved, Sergeant Shaun Palmer of Waitakere police said.

“We now have a family who are devastated, they’ve received news this morning that will change their lives forever, and we have a community that is grieving.

“This is the awful reality of the combination of youth, cars and speed and our thoughts are with the boys’ family.”

And what’s even more tragic about this event is that it hasn’t prompted a widespread call to address the consequences of our deadly car-culture. It’s going to be impossible to create a civilised, cyclised, people-focussed city until we take this ugly car culture seriously. Cars are dangerous. They are a health hazard. They are like tobacco. Enough is enough. For everyone’s sake. This culture is not sustainable.

I fear that the crew at Bike Te Atatu are going to struggle to convince significant numbers of parents and their children to ditch the car in favour of walking and cycling. That’s for the simple reason that cars project an envelope of danger.

Just the thought or the sound of a speeding car is enough to put parents off letting their children ride to school independently.

Children don’t need to be taught how to ride a bicycle or how to wear a helmet. Experience tells me that that’s the easy part. But they do need to be protected from the danger of speeding cars. That’s where we, the adults, come in.

Arrogance of space: wide roads are invitation to speed.

Scene of the crash: all that space devoted to moving cars.

I would suggest that, in suburban environments like Te Atatu, addressing issues of speed need to take place before the introduction of cycle infrastructure. Or at least they need to happen in tandem. Because regardless of the quality of a cycle lane, it is the element of subjective safety that will determine whether individual members of the public will feel safe to use the infrastructure.

That’s why the ‘build it and they will come’ approach needs to be taken at face value. Any quality infrastructure needs to be matched with a high provision of subjective safety. A significant reduction in speed will go someway to addressing that.

Smoking used to be socially acceptable. Thankfully, that’s changed. But it didn’t change by accident. The way we view cars and the unsustainable culture that has developed over the decades also needs to change. That can start with strong community leadership, to gain support amongst the local community and in turn, put pressure on the local transport authorities and relevant agencies, to take this issue seriously.

After all, it’s an issue critical to all citizens, not just cyclists.

‘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.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Our cities don’t need more cyclists, they need more wheeled pedestrians.

via Amsterdamize

I don’t see cyclists, I see wheeled pedestrians. Image via Amsterdamize

My work colleagues will occasionally regale me with their encounters with cyclists. These unsolicited monologues all tend to have a ‘please explain’ overtone. I guess I’m viewed as a suitable target because I am one of ‘them’. It’s easy for motorists to lump us all together and believe we all exhibit the same bad behaviours. It’s easy to do because cycling is such a rare commodity in this city. Similarly, members of the public will regularly ‘advise’ me to wear a helmet when they see me riding slowly through the park on my bicycle. But are these the same people who are content to overlook a motorist that is using a cell phone while driving? It’s an important distinction because one of those activities has the potential to do some serious harm.

The responses that my colleagues tend to prefer are along the lines of, “yes, it was lucky you checked in the mirror before turning so you could avoid hitting that negligent cyclist”. Occasionally I try my luck with a response that presents a bigger picture – that there are a growing number of cities around the world where priority is being given to the moving people over the moving of cars. In those cities, unlike here in New Zealand, motorists are not at the top of the food chain. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Pedestrians, people on bicycles, people on public transport – in that order, are all prioritised over motorists. The sums have been done. The research shows clearly that getting people out of cars and into active modes of transport is a win-win situation. It makes for a healthier and wealthier community and economy. That is what we need to be aspiring to.

Cities with high numbers of people cycling will have a lot of what I like to refer to as, ‘wheeled pedestrian’ cyclists. That is, people riding bicycles that emphasise comfort and utility, over speed. The bicycles feature things like mudguards, chain guards and facilities for carrying things (including children). They are perfect for doing short, local trips. Lycra, helmets and other specialised equipment are the preserve of sports cyclists. Park and Ride facilities around public transport hubs cater for bicycles, not cars.

These cities are also endowed with a network of wide and separated cycle paths. These paths are great because they make cycling safer and more appealing to a larger group of people. Motorists also benefit because they gain from the increased level of predictability. Cyclists are allocated a space for cycling. Motorists know to expect cyclists and know where they will be. It’s the stuff that would make my work colleagues happy.

But there’s more to it. The approach to road design by the transport authorities in cities with high rates of wheeled pedestrian cycling is completely different than it is here. While we are focused on funnelling as many motor vehicles through the city as quickly as possible, cities that have high rates of everyday cycling focus on what is called ‘sustainable safety’. The purpose of sustainable safety is to take the ‘sh*t happens’, out of road travel. Speed reduction and street design that caters for human error feature highly in these cities.

Getting people out of cars doesn’t just happen automatically. It requires well planned and strategic input. Viable transport alternatives to the car need to be provided of course but efforts in making the bicycle a cool and appealing form of transport also need to be undertaken. (I always marvel at how the tobacco industry has managed to make a deadly habit into a socially acceptable practice). Our civic leaders need to take the lead in developing a strong social contract that puts the safety of all road users as the top priority. Driving needs to be viewed as a public health issue in the same way that tobacco has become. It will take time so it needs to start sooner than later.

It is my days spent in a classroom with a bunch of exuberant 5 year olds that tells me that change is possible. These children are naturally inclined to be kind and caring to one another. They want to work together towards a common goal even though they are all unique individuals. My job is simply to let that culture come to the fore. I do the foundation work, establishing a supportive environment and providing positive models. It’s hard to find the words to describe the magic that unfolds. The success I experience in my classroom tells me that a significant improvement in our transport culture could be achieved as well. If we set our minds and hearts to it.

‘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.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Cycle lanes, credibility and culture.

Growing the new breed of people on bicycles is the challenge.

Where is the new breed of people on bikes coming from?

In my previous post, I argued that in order to bring cycling to the masses, it’s going to be important essential to start developing a wider variety of strategies than just simply making requests for separated cycle lanes. We will need to look beyond the obvious. While we languish at a cycling mode share that is in margin of error territory, there are cities around the world that are going gangbusters. Cycling is gaining status and credibility as an everyday transport option .

A network of separated cycle paths on the city’s main roads is of course, the ultimate prize. That’s the obvious commonality that exists between cities with high rates of cycling mode share. It’s a worthy goal to aspire to. After all, people on bicycles want to go to the same destinations as motorists. And the value of such infrastructure is not just in making life safer and more pleasant for cyclists. It puts a value on people. It invites motorists to pay closer attention to what’s happening on the street around them. It entices people to get out of their metal four-wheeled boxes and engage with their community. But that’s not all.

Putting quality cycle paths on the city’s main routes elevates cycling’s status. It puts it front and centre of city life. It’s an ingredient to create the vibrant city that we want and need. So while all new cycle lanes are to be celebrated, being directed to follow the flow line of a motorway or weave through the back residential streets is a clear reminder that cycling still is yet to make the ‘credibility cut’. Not all cycle lanes were created equally, so to speak.

It would be fantastic if all of a sudden the government of the day, as a result of enduring ongoing polite requests from cyclists, started pouring money into building cycle lanes on all the city’s main roads. But having been an eyewitness to cycling’s decline over past decades, I have come to the conclusion that it just aint gonna happen like that. And even if it did, there is significant risk that there would be insufficient people on bicycles to fill them. The cycle lanes would remain empty, raising the ire of disgruntled motorists even further.

Even though quality separated cycle lanes may be the obvious connection between cyclised cities, I suggest that we are overlooking other key elements that will provide cycling with the credibility factor it so desperately needs. As I have already suggested, laying cycle paths throughout a city is not going to guarantee a city full of bicycles. Just take a look at Stevenage. And of course, separated cycle lanes are neither necessary or practical in all circumstances.

We seem to have overlooked all the strategies and steps cyclised cities have undertaken to achieve that enviable status.

It appears to me that we have been over-reliant on simply demanding separated cycle lanes on busy roads without doing the necessary preliminary and complementary ground work. It’s all too one-dimensional. Cycling makes sense to those who do it already. And sure, there is a growing empathy amongst the public (largely due to being increasing exposed to overseas models) who see the value in cycling. But just like knowing that stopping smoking would be good for me, it is not a guarantee that I will do it. And having a separated cycle lane installed on a main road is an action that would require motorists and retailers ceding car parking space as well as as requiring other road users to make a whole host of psychological adjustments.

So rather than just cycle lanes being the common factor between cyclised cities, I would suggest that there is much more to it. These cities all have a strong ‘cycling culture’. I know this term carries baggage with it but I suggest we just take it at face value for a moment. Just because you can’t touch it, doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, these cyclised cities have more than a ‘cycling culture’, they have a transport culture that prioritises moving people over moving cars. They have a strong social contract that ensures the most vulnerable road users are afforded the greatest protection. Policies are put in place to make that possible. Cyclists and users of public transport are prioritised and made to feel welcome. It is a culture that has been developed, promoted and nurtured.

The Dutch have a history of a strong city cycling culture. It existed before cars threatened to overrun their cities during the post war oil boom years. Their advocates of cycling foresaw the risk this car boom posed and adopted a ‘Stop the Child Murder’ campaign. It was a campaign that was targeted at a broad audience. Here in New Zealand we have dealt with avoiding the child murder by simply driving our kids everywhere. Mandating for compulsory helmet use has simply made cycling more marginal and less credible. Problem swept under the carpet. For the time being.

‘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.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.