Paying a price for a mass cycling culture

June 13, 2011 at 21:00 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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There is a great article here from by Dave Horton, a sociologist (and committed cyclist) who has been studying the barriers to cycling adoption in the UK.

One of the most interesting points in it for me was that Horton used to be a staunch believer that cyclists should be on the roads, but he changed that view whilst undertaking the research, although he acknowledges that this means giving up some of the things he enjoys about riding a bicycle:

‘We need to move cycling out from its still marginal status as an urban mode of mobility. We need to make cycling ‘normal’, or ‘mainstream’, or ‘irresistible’.

In order to to this we need to build a cycling system to replace the car system which is today dominant. Those of us who currently love cycling must recognise that cycling will change as a result. It’s therefore probably unrealistic to expect us all to embrace the necessary changes enthusiastically.

For example, I love having those high quality cycle routes which currently exist (and we have some good ones in and around my hometown of Lancaster) more-or-less to myself, and I love, too, mixing it with fast-moving motorised traffic when that’s the best means of getting where I want to go. But under a culture of mass cycling, in which almost everyone will feel able to get where they want or need to go by bike, I’ll probably lose both of these experiences’

I think this points to some of the problems with much (although not all) of the bicycle advocacy in Australia. The primary goal of many advocates is to get more people cycling like they do it, rather than recognising that there are actually very few people like them (me!), and that creating a mass cycling culture requires cycling to change.

Some time ago I remember reading a blog by an English guy who had moved to Holland; I think he may have been a bicycle messenger. He found Holland a frustrating place to cycle; too many bikes travelling too slowly on busy cycleways.

When I ride the Radish to work, loaded up with stuff, I love Clover’s cycleways. They are perfect for that slightly ponderous ride, usually with me dressed in jeans. But when I ride the fixie, I often eschew the cycleways, taking a longer way around Hickson Road in order to enjoy getting the legs flying, keeping up with the traffic and working up a sweat.

I guess it’s an interesting question. How would you feel if you had to ride predominantly on cycle-specific infrastructure and were held up by lots of slow cyclists? Is that a price you would be prepared to pay to get 25% of people onto bikes?



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