The Netherlands

And into the vacuum rode “bikeability”.

bikeability

A nightmare called “Bikeability”.

I used to believe that a cyclized city was just around the corner. I really believed that it wouldn’t be long before bicycles would feature prominently in a city’s transport landscape.

And then nothing.

And then the internet comes along and I see for my own eyes what cyclized cities look like and I converse with experts from these cities.

And then I quit my local advocacy group in frustration.

And then I hear Peter Zanzottera and Dr Hamish Mackie telling me that “bikeability” will be the game changer.

And then I say to myself, “aren’t you glad you retired“.

“Bikeability has taught cycle skills to 2 million UK children.” goes the sales pitch. Yeah, and how has that translated into people riding bikes in the UK? “Not so well”, was the reply. They have also chosen to ignore the contradictory research that says this programme will make no significant improvement to ridership rates. As if you needed research to prove it. The evidence is in the cities and towns devoid of people on bikes.

And the thing is, the very act of categorising an activity as something that needs to be taught creates a perception that it is complex; that it is not a normal, everyday activity. Riding a bike is not complex. Learning to ride a bike is not in the same category as learning to swim, as I have heard some cyclists claim it to be. I see evidence of this on a daily basis, in my capacity as a primary school teacher. I would even go so far as to suggest that bikeability and the notion that cycling needs to be taught operates as a barrier and red herring, in the same way that the helmet law does. Calm the streets, people! And then watch your city flourish. Unfortunately, that’s a much tougher proposition and focussing on teaching people to ride bikes simply delays the prospect of any serious change happening.

Either the good folk at NZTA are taking the piss, or they really are ignorant. I think I know the answer to this. There has to be some quid quo pro deal going on here between NZTA and the advocates. Seriously. Who needs enemies when you have allies like this? As I have said before, an effective advocacy organisation is one that is financially independent.

If you want to be good at something, you employ experts. Hey, just across the channel, there is a small country punching above its weight in terms of cycling rates. And don’t believe the line that it is a culture or language issue. The problem for NZTA is that the Dutch would tell it straight. They know what needs to be done. NZTA need a much more benign message. Something that they can work with to allow their motorway building programme to continue uninterrupted.

I’m not actually that surprised by this nonsense. It’s prevalent throughout society and organisations. “Wilful blindness” is all around us. It’s easy to recognise. This is what it looks like in the education sector.

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

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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 pathway to Cycling Utopia starts here.

A car was here

Car woz here.

The request was polite but firm. It didn’t feel like it left any room for negotiation. “Can you move your car please? This is where I park my car. I live across the road.”

A friend was dropping me home. We were parked temporarily on the street, outside my house, saying our farewells.

There’s a word I’m looking for…entitlement. The entitlement that a motorist in a car-centric city gets to experience. “That’s my parking space.” Really?


Until recently, there were a handful of high school students riding their bikes to the nearby high school. I used to see them on the bridge on my way to work each day. I hadn’t seen them for a while. I was curious. Yep. You guessed it. They had turned 16. They were driving now. To school. Driving at every available opportunity, I suspect.

There’s a word I’m looking for…aspiration. The aspiration of a teenager growing up in a car-centric city seeking to join the motoring elite. “It’s better going by car.” Really?


Meanwhile, in a parallel universe.

I get the feeling that the separated cycle path is being touted as the ‘silver bullet’ to get more people cycling. “Build them and they will come”, we are told. But is it really that simple? Sure, the off-road path I use has enhanced my daily cycling experience. Yet, I find it hard to ignore the reality that I see and hear everyday. I’m not suggesting that we should not aspire to build a network of cycle paths but I do have some questions and concerns about this approach. It’s not like I haven’t argued this before. It’s the raison d’etre of this site. But I saw something recently that inspired me to try again.

I’ve been enjoying the stories and insights coming from the Modacity family bicycle adventure to The Netherlands. For those of you who are unfamiliar, The Netherlands is the gold standard of city cycling. The Dutch have very high rates of everyday cycling. So of course, we turn to Dutch cities to see how they have achieved it. And what do we see? Young and old, male and female, riding slowly, dressed for their destination, on (you guessed it), separated cycle paths. “Eureka! That’s the solution”, we hear. “Build them and they will come.” But back up the cargo bike a moment will ya.

Because check this out…

  • A cycling utopia is created by demand rather than design.
  • The Netherlands is a story of traffic calming rather than of bike lanes.

Say what? I mean, the intuitive response would be to say that the separated cycle paths caused the increase in numbers of people cycling. But according to Modacity, the separated cycle paths came about as a result of more people cycling. They were built as a way to manage the numbers. They were built as a consequence of lots of people already cycling. A mandate to protect people on bikes existed already. A process of traffic calming was already well established. Cycling was already a normal daily activity. That fight had already been fought and won. A fight that has barely started in most other cities.

That’s not to say that building a separated cycle path will not act as an inducement to get people out of cars and onto bikes but…that’s only a part of the story. Of course it would be really great if that approach was the shortcut to a cycling nirvana. It would be great. But in the meanwhile I want to suggest that we reframe the conversation. Let’s move beyond just talking about infrastructure and instead, start talking about building demand for cycling. Because that would open up the possibility to engage in a wide range of push and pull strategies. Making driving less desirable needs to be on the agenda. Building demand for cycling needs to be approached in all sorts of marketing, policy and infrastructure ways. Push and pull. I know my life would be made easier if the issue of rat-running was taken seriously.

I can see the problem. Campaigning for separated cycle paths is relatively straight forward. Relatively. Compared to asking a motorist to address his/her sense of entitlement, that is. But that’s what it’s going to take. If we are serious about rescuing our cities. Getting people out of cars and onto bikes needs to be seen as being about behaviour change. Trying to create a cyclised city by building cycle paths alone is the equivalent of trying to make an omelette without breaking any eggs. At the moment we have a top down approach. There is minimal community engagement. And the engagement that does exist, is premised on a high level of tolerance and acceptance of the current dominant role of motordom in our cities.

It concerns me that what seems to be ‘driving’ cycling advocacy at present is expertise in designing bike paths. I propose that knowing how to design bicycle infrastructure should not equate with knowing how to get more people riding bicycles. Nor is getting people riding bikes a ‘chicken/egg’ conundrum, as I sometimes see it being presented as. There are a huge range of steps that could be taken to get things moving along faster. Just ask. Similarly, advocacy should not equate to knowing all the answers. And nor should it be acting as a barrier to progress. It should be a conduit for building demand.

Finally, I propose that we adopt a new catch-cry. “Make it safe and pleasant and they will come.” That will offer up the possibility of whole new range of ways of engaging with the task at hand. To build that demand. To get the public, the policy makers and the politicians to sit up and take notice.

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

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.

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.

Submission to the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ draft report.

SaferJourneysReport_01

 

Back in 2014 I made a submission to the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ consultation. This blog post reflects what I tried to convey in my submission. It still represents my view on how I think we need to approach the task of getting more people using bicycles as a form of transport – equal measures of infrastructure, policy and marketing. How are we doing since then, I wonder?

I support the draft recommendations proposed by the Cycling Safety Panel and its desire to achieve a transport landscape that allows for the safe movement of people on bicycles. I am encouraged by the panel’s acknowledgement and understanding of the benefits that cycling brings and the barriers to making that happen, as detailed below:-

1. Participation in cycling and cycling safety are inextricably linked.
2. Increases in cycling participation will bring safety benefits to individuals and to the wider community alike.
3. Economic and societal benefits of investing in cycling are irrefutable.
4. Riding a bicycle is inherently safe and the prevention of crashes with motor vehicles is the issue that needs to be addressed.

However, I am concerned that the panel’s recommendations lack the necessary clarity and boldness. Without any clearly stated cycling mode share targets set, there is a risk that the reports recommendations will not achieve its stated goals.

Infrastructure

In New Zealand’s current transport landscape, cyclists are catered for as though they are two-wheeled motor vehicles. This is problematic because cycling is more akin to walking than driving. If we are to be successful in encouraging more people to cycle, this reality needs to be addressed. In New Zealand we rely on campaigns such as ‘Share the road’ which suggest that all road users have equal responsibility to stay safe. Whereas the Dutch have set the standard for best practice in this area. It is called ‘Sustainable Safety‘. As the draft report acknowledges, riding a bicycle is inherently safe. It is being hit by a fast moving vehicle that makes it unsafe. The current environment is far from equal.

Quality infrastructure is the critical factor in creating a transport environment that encourages people to choose to ride a bicycle on a daily basis for transport purposes. This infrastructure comes in a variety of forms. The creation of  ‘mobility environments‘ has changed the way road transport is approached. Infrastructure is designed to cater for all road users. Safety is designed into the infrastructure.

A well designed transport/mobility environment:-

  • makes cycling irresistible,
  • is built for the 99% who aren’t cycling now but who could be cycling,
  • follows ‘desire lines’ and goes where people want to go,
  • recognises cyclists are just fast-moving pedestrians and does not try to treat them as cars,
  • has infrastructure that will take cyclists to common destinations such as jobs, shops, businesses and schools.

Policy

Creating a cyclised city will not happen in isolation. Transport policies that promote cars ahead of other forms of transport will make it less likely for people to choose to switch to riding a bicycle. The way a city is designed will impact on the rate of cycling uptake. Instead of encouraging sprawl, housing needs to be built around transport hubs and multi-modal transport needs to be encouraged and supported.

A well designed city is one in which people live in an environment that allows them to work and play in close proximity. It’s about reducing travel demand and creating opportunities for short journeys to be achieved by bicycle. Minimum car parking requirements need to be removed from city planning laws to enable this transition to alternative transport to happen.

Cities that have high rates of everyday cycling also have the following features in common:-

  • reduced speed limits,
  • well developed road behaviour social contracts,
  • freedom to choose to wear a bicycle helmet,
  • bike share programmes.

Marketing 

The ‘normalised’ culture of cycling that we need does not come about by accident. It comes about as a result of a range of deliberate strategic interventions. The need for quality infrastructure and supportive transport policies have already been mentioned. But there is also a role for high quality marketing that promotes the value of everyday cycling. The value of cycling needs to be ‘sold’ to the public in order to build the political will that is essential to encourage a shift away from our present car-centric transport policies towards socially and economically sustainable transport options.

The word ‘cycling’ needs to become synonymous with meaning ‘short trips in normal clothes on a comfortable bike for people between the age of 8-80, male or female.

The dominant perception of cycling at the moment is that it is for sports and recreational purposes; for the fit, brave or foolhardy. That’s a massive barrier to overcome, if we are to get the 99% of people who aren’t cycling now, to consider giving cycling a go. Like issues of real safety are dealt with by building quality infrastructure, issues of perceived safety need to be taken seriously too and addressed by implementing quality marketing.

Currently, cycling promotion focuses on safety by making it look dangerous. It focuses on the wearing of helmets and hi-viz. This kind of scare mongering plays into the fears of non-cyclists by reinforcing their current misplaced beliefs. Even the word ‘cycling’ creates misconceptions. That is why you will see the phrase ‘wheeled pedestrian cycling’ or ‘riding a bicycle’ now being used instead.

The full implementation of the above key strategies of infrastructure, policy and marketing will be needed to bring about the success that the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ report says that it desires. Underpinning this success will be a sufficient level of funding. A level of funding that reflects the value and contribution a city full of people on bicycles brings.

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

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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.

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Catering for people on bicycles can increase property values.

Blah blah blah

It’s just a sign.

This small, unobtrusive bicycle sign can be found throughout parts of Mt Eden and Sandringham, Auckland. It indicates the existence of ‘cycleways’ that run parallel to Dominion Rd through residential suburbs. I refer to them tentatively as ‘cycleways’ because at present, you see more motorists on this network of roads than people on bicycles. During peak travel times, they become ‘rat runs’ for motorists. But according to Auckland Transport, this is all set to change.

The routes are designed to make cycling an attractive, easy, and safe transport and recreation option for communities around the Dominion Road corridor and will provide local connections to schools and parks. The new routes will cover about 12 kilometres on roads and through parks, passing 16 schools serving 12,000 pupils. New safe cycle crossings will be constructed on Balmoral Road and Mt Albert Road.

The PR goes on to suggest that these routes could also be used as a route to the city. Dream on! That is patently false. Apart from being excruciatingly circuitous, there is no decent cycling-friendly infrastructure from where these ‘cycleways’ end, into the city centre. It also needs to be noted that Auckland Transport opted out of providing separated cycle paths on Dominion Rd when the original upgrade was first proposed. ‘Too expensive’ was the call, I think.

So, what does this all mean? What can we expect to see along this ‘cycleway’ when all the construction crew have finally departed?

Although this kind of thing seems rather new and innovative to us here in ‘Godzone’, this kind of mobility environment has been in existence for some time in other cities around the world. In some cities they are called ‘cycling boulevards’ and in others, they are called ‘neighbourhood greenways’. Whatever you call them, if they are done well, they have the potential to bring major benefits to the local community. Of course, like all good urban transport designs, they are based on the Woonerf concept from the Netherlands.

They are used as a way of providing alternative transport options for short, local trips and making residential environments safer and more pleasant. Evidence indicates that the reduced vehicular traffic and access to this kind of facility increases property values and social connections along that corridor. All that’s required is a reduction in the speed limit to 30 km/hr, some traffic-calming barriers to prevent rat running, removal of some stop signs to permit the free flow of bicycle traffic, some signage and the possible addition of traffic signals to allow cyclists to get across the busier arterial roads.

Nor are the routes designated as only for people on bicycles. These mobility corridors can be used by residents from all walks of life and of all ages. Whether they are walking the dog, skateboarding, socialising with neighbours, or simply kicking a ball on the street. Here’s a video for you to watch to give you an idea of how they have been introduced into some cities in the U.S.A and Canada.

But will people in Auckland make the shift to bikes and use these greenways/mobility corridors?

Well, the disconnection at Burnley Tce doesn’t help. And the jury is out as to whether Auckland Transport’s traffic engineering interventions will:-

  • reduce the flow of non-resident motorists using these mobility corridors as through routes,
  • reduce the speed of motorists travelling on these mobility corridors.

Aside from the physical safety factors, these mobility environments need to feel like safe and pleasant places to be on because we know that cars ‘project an envelope of danger’. In order for this project to be a success, dealing with the issue of subjective safety is as critical as dealing with the issue of real safety.  Statistics show that riding a bicycle is an incredibly safe and health giving activity. But this fact runs counter to the perception of cycling among the non-bicycle riding public. And the economic return on investment for projects like this is huge.

There is also a question mark over Auckland Transport’s ability to sell this project to a sceptical and fearful public. It’s going to be a tough gig because we live in a culture that worships the car and the right to drive anywhere, anytime. But it is an issue that needs to be grasped if we are to make this city a place for people to flourish. There will be residents who will resent losing on-street parking. There will be residents who are not familiar with the potential to ride a bicycle to their local shops. There will be lots of barriers and misconceptions to deal with. Normalising the perception of riding a bicycle; making it appear as normal as driving a car will require a range of social engineering strategies to be employed.

Assuming that sufficient traffic engineering interventions have been implemented, how will we know if Auckland Transport is serious about making this project a success?

Data! Strategy! Action!

  • Engage with the local residents.
  • Find out how many people are using these mobility corridors – upon completion and again in 6 months, 12 months, 24 months time, 5 years.
  • Find out who is using these mobility corridors, and when, where, how they are being used?
  • Set aspirational mode share targets (% of people on bikes relative to people in cars), and time frames.
  • Enact strategies to achieve these targets. Working with 16 local schools, 12,000 students and local residents would be a priority.

Watch this space!

 

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

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Prime Minister John Key: Ambassador for Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling?

John Key, New Zealand Prime Minister, modelling Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling

John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand . A potential candidate for the role of ambassador for Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling.

Dear Prime Minister,

This photo of you riding a bicycle in The Hague has come to our attention at Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling. It captures the essence of the cycling that this site is trying to promote. Would you be willing to share that experience with us?

As you are probably aware, The Dutch are recognised as World leaders in achieving high rates of daily cycling. In contrast, cycling does not enjoy the same support or positive public perception in New Zealand. One of the key issues that we have identified is that cycling in New Zealand is largely perceived as a sporting and recreational activity only.

Ultimately, what we are looking for, is a person with a high profile like yourself who would be willing to be an Ambassador for Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling. We would really appreciate it if you would give serious consideration to this request.

Regards,

Wheeled Pedestrian Cycling.

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