The biggest barrier to cycling uptake is the physical environment. Survey after survey, study after study, shows that it is road danger – and in particular, the unwillingness to share roads with motor traffic – that prevents people from cycling. When that barrier is addressed – even on a temporary basis in the form of events like Skyrides – cycling suddenly materialises, thrives and flourishes, quite naturally.
By contrast, we should be deeply sceptical of claims that the way individuals behave or dress while cycling has any bearing on cycling uptake. That behaviour, the way people dress, and the way the current cycling demographic is skewed towards men and away from the young and the elderly, isn’t the problem, merely a symptom of the actual problem. Or as Beztweets puts it, ‘a product of the true barriers to participation, not a barrier itself‘. Sure, opponents might like to score what they think are easy points about lycra, about middle class men on bikes, about bad behaviour, and so on, but these aren’t barriers to cycling for ordinary people. The demographic we are after won’t even identify as ‘cyclists’ when they happen to use a bike for sort trips.
In any case, it’s futile to attempt to address these alleged barriers while road conditions essentially guarantee this kind of skewing, both demographic, and in clothing and behaviour. And you can’t win. Forgo ‘safety equipment’ to appear normal, and you are branded as irresponsible. Wear ‘safety equipment’ like hi-viz and helmets, and you are branded as a weirdo. The kind of cycling behaviour that’s normal in countries with high-quality cycling environments – the kind that’s alleged to change hearts and minds here – is just as easy fodder for haters as things that are conventionally moaned about, like lycra. Wearing dark clothes (also known as ‘ordinary clothes’), no helmets, no hi viz, cycling with young children, wearing headphones – just mark them on on your bingo card, alongside ‘Spandex Taliban’.
Even if – by some miracle – we could get everyone who rides a bike to behave perfectly, at all times (and that would be a genuine miracle, because people who ride bikes are human beings, and human beings are idiots) that’s still not going to make a difference, because the haters will just move on to something else. Flagging up ‘behaviour’ is simply the easiest deflection tactic to hand.
All that said, however, I do think there is a genuine marketing problem with cycling in Britain. The way cycling is represented in visualisations of road and street changes; the kinds of bikes that are sold in shops; the way it is associated with sport and exercise; the way it is presented as a hobby; the emphasis on personal responsibility as a response to hostile roads and streets; the way ‘safety equipment’ is pushed onto people – all things that are relatively easy to change, and that could make a big difference to public perception.
One of the biggest indicators that this is a serious problem is the prevalence of what I would call the ‘not everyone can cycle, cycling isn’t practical’ canard. This is the argument that cycling won’t work for ‘ordinary’ people – people who don’t want to get sweaty or wear special equipment, or ‘rubber knickers’; people who have to cycle with children; people with disabilities; people who are elderly; people who have to carry shopping, or a briefcase, or any kind of load; and so on, ad infinitum.
Nobody would make any of these kinds of arguments about walking.
- ‘Not everyone can run around in lycra shorts and running spikes’.
- ‘Elderly people can’t walk’.
- ‘Why should we build pavements? People with disabilities aren’t going to use them.’
- ‘You can’t walk from the shops with your shopping’.
- ‘You can’t walk into town with your children’.
These are absurd claims, and yet they are routinely made about cycling, and measures to enable cycling. Why is this? Because walking is an easy, everyday mode of transport (at least, relatively easy) that people don’t think twice about engaging in. Cycling, by contrast, appears to be complicated, strange, difficult, sporty. People who make these claims about the impracticality of cycling simply aren’t aware that cycling could work them, and that’s a failure of explanation, a failure of message, and a failure of marketing.
Of course, as I stated at the start of this piece, the main reason for this problem of perception is a road environment that limits cycling to a subset of the population, and limits people to buying faster bikes, and wearing athletic clothing, in an attempt to adapt to the conditions. Cycling very often is complicated, difficult and unpleasant, thanks to the way roads and streets are designed. But at the same time we are getting straightforward, easy things wrong, and actually reinforcing those image problems.
We need to reframe cycling as enhanced walking, or (to use a phrase others have coined already) Wheeled Pedestrianism. In other words, it’s pretty much the same as walking, but just an extension of it, a version of walking that allows you to go further, to go faster, to overcome disabilities, to carry loads, and frankly, to have more fun.
It’s straightforward and easy – you can do exactly the same things you would do if you were walking, just with the advantage of wheels.
I suspect the general public has no idea that cycling could actually be this easy; that it involves nothing more complicated than walking, once you have the right cycle. If roads and streets are designed well, as they are starting to be in London, it’s a tremendously easy, enjoyable and painless way to cover relatively large distances, distances that would be a chore (or even unthinkable) to cover on foot. It’s just about making life easier, not about virtue, or healthiness, or exercise.
Just rode from Parliament Sq to Broadway Market in 35 mins on a very very heavy old post bike. New CSH helped. No delays. Stunning evening.
— James Holloway (@JamesNonchalant) April 19, 2016
Just cycled with a work colleague to a meeting in Berkeley Sq from City. In 11 minutes. Also dodging a goose. pic.twitter.com/SBbaXHJg6x
— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) March 29, 2016
This message about the essential straightforwardness and utility of cycling is not getting through to the general public. As this blog observes, perhaps the best cycling advert in recent years still manages to make cycling look niche, and a bit odd, a specialist activity that looks like hard work, requiring equipment, exertion and effort.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the car industry that manage to make bicycle adverts with the same kind of selling power as, well, car adverts.
Cycling shown as a fun, easy and painless way to get around. What’s not to like? The United States is managing to do a good job too, selling bicycles with quite overt nods to the weird image of cycling that most ordinary people are subject to.
Or take a look at this (slightly wacky) Japanese video marketing a bicycle specifically for use while wearing a kimono –
It captures the essence of transport cycling; travelling around as if you were walking, but at a faster speed. No hassle, no equipment, just the enjoyment of travelling around.
We also don’t sell bicycles that enable this kind of cycling, the kind that looks like walking – robust, everyday, upright bicycles, maintenance-free ones with mudguards and chain guards that keep your clothes neat and tidy, with built-in carrying capacity, and practical features like integrated dynamo lighting and wheel locks that make it incredibly easy to transition from walking to cycling, and back again. I regularly see this kind of thing –
And it’s so needless. The bicycle actually becomes a hindrance because it’s not practical, and yet bike shops are still full of bicycles that – like this one – simply aren’t suitable for everyday transport cycling. I appreciate that the market for practical bicycles might be tougher – they will of necessity be more expensive than your bog-standard mountain bike or hybrid – but markets can be created (that’s what advertising is for) and for these bikes to even be sold in the first place they have to be visible to the public, and that so often isn’t the case.
The way roads and streets are designed remains the primary barrier to cycling. No matter how well cycling is marketed, no matter how convincing a case we make for its essential usefulness and practicality, and how it’s just a different form of walking, people simply won’t do it if it involves struggling with a hostile environment that looks and feels (and almost certainly is) dangerous. But there are simple things we can get right, particularly the way cycling is presented and framed as a mode of transport. This certainly isn’t about asking individuals to dress differently, or to cycle differently – I think that’s fundamentally illiberal, as well as pointless. Instead it’s about the message sent out by people with power and responsibility, and by people with an audience. It’s starting to change – to take just one example, I think councils are doing a better job when int comes to visualisations, including ordinary people cycling, rather than ‘cyclists’ – but there’s an awful lot more that can be done.
Pingback: Wearing dark clothes (also known as ‘ordinary clothes’), no helmets, no hi viz, cycling w/young children, wearing headphones -‘Spandex Taliban’…bingo!
Hahaha, oh this IS coincidental timing!
Though the advert I imagined is slightly more about selling the infrastructure (as the cycling will follow). Indeed I see people argue “not everyone can cycle” – let’s, for once, turn that around: what about people who can’t drive, for whatever reason, and need their cycle?
Like the primary school kids getting themselves to school or hobby club, like the teen girls going downtown to shop, like the mom with young kids who takes them to daycare/school while hubby commutes in their only car, like the young woman with Down syndrome on her trike (“But disabled people need cars!” Who says she can drive??), like the guy commuting by bike because his epilepsy means he can’t have a driver’s license, just like that woman who uses certain medication, and that man who has sensory issues (or something – there must be plenty of (subtle) health issues that exclude people from driving), like granny who’s now too old to drive, etc. Someone who’s simply afraid to drive. (Because it isn’t always obvious why someone wouldn’t ‘just drive’ or even ‘grow up & get a car’).
People for whom the cycling infrastructure opens up real (better) possibilities that improve their independent mobility and thus their live.
(Then top it off with a pedestrian enjoying the relative silence and clean air and a driver enjoying the relatively empty road.)
People the general public can relate to, not ‘smug sporty environmentalists who don’t drive because they feel better than us’ (or whatever the image). Make it a societal issue, a matter of ‘don’t you want these people to have this fantastic possibility (and if not, what’s wrong with you, don’t you have children/old parents/a disabled neighbor)?’
And these things tend to inter link together. We have the kinds of roads where only vehicular cycling gives you any kind of chance on, making people feel like cycling is only for the fast and furious, or for those who remain on mud trails and racetracks, you get racing bicycles and mountain bicycles, neither of which are practical for everyday transport, then the government starts to make footways shared use, making people think that cyclists are inconsiderate and anti social, but also that cycling is slow and inefficient.
The practical bicycles are useless in this kind of vehicular cycling, slow shared use footways and sport facilities environment, so they are not sold. There is nothing to keep them profitable, and they go away from the stores.
The cycling market is reduced in size, and people use their cars more to fill in the transport needs. We need more and more room for cars, but we get nowhere as LA proves with it’s still congested insanely wide motorways in the city centre. We simply don’t remember to build cycle paths and footways for pedestrians as practically everyone drives a car, or are taken by their parents in cars. If you’re lucky then you get a bus system and narrow sidewalks to connect them, giving way at minor side roads. The way neighbourhoods become organized, the collector roads are designed to keep through traffic out of them because people begin to realize that excess motor traffic in the residential streets is not good, but they are the fastest roads still close to houses and close enough to walk to, so the buses go on those, being less efficient by going on curving neighbourhood roads, often using the stop signs or miniature roundabouts to control speed and slowing down for school zones. The buses become less popular, and thus less investment is put into them, the bus stops are very plain, the frequency is low and the hours are short, and the maintenance is lessened. They become considered places for only those too poor to afford a car, and thus people avoid the buses. This begins to take over the trains too for similar reasons.
I think this is how cycling, walking and public transport became so inefficient and so poor over the years. At least it’s how it feels from a North American perspective, I know that British trains are actually still useful and are becoming more popular. This all comes down to how cyclable and walkable we are, and the types of bicycles we ride. Bicycles that make locking it a hassle when it could be as simple as using a wheel lock (anyone know where I can get a Japanese wheel lock with the mechanism on the side, the defender lock won’t fit on my bicycle?), the lack of lights and the pressure people put on you to have them at night. The exposed parts making them require extra maintenance. The inability to carry anything on them. You get everything all wet while using them in the bad weather. And the comfort is terrible, so older people don’t use them as often.
This is all from one source I believe. The conflict between fast and slow cycling, vehicular vs safe, well, the false dichotomy of this and the conditions that suggest that this conflict is inevitable and eternal. We can change it as many people have written about, me, the two Marks (Wagenbuur and Treasure), David Hembrow, whoever Schronigners Cat, and a lot more people, primarily by making cycling and walking safe and attractive, but also fast and efficient.
And something else interesting on that kimono compatible bicycle ad. When she pulled up to the temple, did you notice what kind of lock she used?
Locks – you may find something on the many pages here:
I think the lock on the kimono bike with the side slider looks a bit like this (hope the decoded kanji/kana works)
There’s lots of similar on the first reference.
I don’t entirely agree with “practical bicycles are useless in this kind of vehicular cycling, slow shared use footways and sport facilities environment, so they are not sold. There is nothing to keep them profitable, and they go away from the stores” – that seems like an oft-repeated legend. I’m sure there are some which aren’t much good, but many practical bikes have springy frames and decent saddle springs so they can actually achieve a higher unladen speed more comfortably over the type of rubbish that English councils often build (you’d be wearing the saddle of a racing bike internally if you ride at speed over some cycle track surfaces), but most hub gears or e-bikes can still settle down and get up to fairly high speeds if your route includes a section of racetrack-smooth stuff (such as NCR 51 around the MK Bowl).
The main reason few shops outside the cycling hotspots stock practical bikes is that cycle sales remain stubbornly fashion-led and most companies (including horrible Half-odds) are still pushing racing fashions, not versatility/utility.
However if bike adverts did follow car adverts, then what would they be?
There would be the tech obsessed ones…moody close ups of machinery parts with a deep male voice growling “11 speeds…aerospace carbon fibre… electronic wireless shifting… powered by you”
Or the lifestyle ones of some bright and happy 20/30 somethings zipping about some completely deserted city streets with no other vehicles or people on them.
It’s a mistake to think adverts bear any semblance to reality and the actual use and environment the products are used in.
In the examples above, the adverts are selling to tech obsessed males and selling the vision of freedom.
There is a strong gender divide when it comes to advertising, particularly on television. Car adverts tend to be aimed at men, and as you say bear little resemblance to the reality of motoring – most evoke some hi-tech driving heaven with bits of car isolated and fetishised, a focus on performance and the act of driving portrayed as an almost spiritual, out of this world experience, or as far from reality as possible.
Meanwhile, the rest of the adverts are primarily FMCG such as food, drink, cleaning products, health related goods and cosmetics, which are invariably aimed at women (this is the case even for male grooming products), as women – mothers especially – still do most of the household shopping and as such hold the budget and make most of those purchasing decisions.
I’ve not seen many bike adverts on telly, but the print ads do seem to borrow from the world of motor vehicle advertising, focusing on function and performance.
Up to now there has been little room or demand for sturdy bikes designed for everyday use, and the clothes required for that, but I think change is slowly happening. Not many people have had the chance to discover that these bikes are very suited to short local trips on safe infrastructure, but it certainly appears to be happening going by the positive response from the FB groups that support the Waltham Forest and Enfield mini-Holland schemes: there’s lots of talk about cargo bikes, etc. So perhaps as such schemes become more plentiful we will see change taking place on a larger scale.
If bike ads would follow the rules of car ads, then your bike would be the only one on the road, and that would be a good thing. Nothing about how you can meet other people on your bike, or how good it is to be riding alongside each other, having a conversation
Actually, I think it’s one of the Bike Channel idents that comes close to that, showing a small group of cyclists whirring along an empty country road at sunrise. I didn’t find the UK idents online (and have asked at https://mobile.twitter.com/mjray/status/728514370041483265 ) but I did quite like this promo from their Italian sister channel… not exactly typical everyday stuff but does show that cycle-touring isn’t only for extreme sports types https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBjvbYijc_s
I cycle, occasionally, into work. It is a 3 mile journey each way from Newton Hall to Durham City but it is immensely hilly in a fairly short distance.
When I do cycle I always arrive at work sweaty and we have no showers in my current building (or in any of the surrounding buildings my employer owns). This means I have to use a facecloth and hand towel to get a sink wash when I get in, and try to dry them on the radiators. I won’t be able to dry them on the radiators come summer when the central heating is turned off so they’ll sit, damp, in the office.
I would love to have one of those Dutch style bikes as opposed to the heavy mountain bike which I have but a) they are too expensive for the reasons mentioned in the article and b) I don’t know whether the 3 gears the linked article http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2009/01/anatomy-of-reliable-everyday-bicycle.html shows would be sufficient. I have no way of testing this out either. You can take a car for a test drive, why not a cycle?
Additionally, I have yet to find a comfortable saddle that doesn’t cause my bum bones to bruise my bum. I have a gel seat on the widest saddle I can find and I wear those horrible gel pants but it still is uncomfortable. I am only a size 10 before anyone thinks I must be as wide as I am tall.
I bought one of those omafiets, it’s now in my garage and has probably more than 100 km of distance traveled, powered by me, on it, and that was in less than 2 weeks. Given how hostile the conditions I ride in are, that’s pretty good, and that I don’t have a commute.
It is the best bike I’ve ever ridden. It’s so nice that even with the hostile conditions I often forget to wear the helmet I’m supposed to wear by law, even if the helmet is on the handlebars. I never have to adjust my clothing to match how I’m riding, just wear what I would if I were to walk outside.
A bike store near me was nice enough to let me test ride on the normal streets. They didn’t even supervise me. I just gave them a shoulder bag I wear that had my phone, wallet and driver license in it. I see it as absurd that many bike stores, including the one that my dad suggested to go to initially (don’t give into the cheapie bikes from China that look marginally similar but lack a chain case, lights and bent back handlebars), don’t let you test ride it. The only place they let me ride was A inside the store, and I had to go quite slowly given the blind corners, not suitable for even maybe 10 km/h, or in a small test area outside that was maybe 40 metres by 8 metres. Not enough to go 25 km/h like I often do on my omafiets (I got the step through model even though I’m a man, people don’t apparently judge you and I find it to be quite a lot easier, especially if I have stuff on the rear rack).
You will love it. Trust me, and Mark Treasure, he wrote a post on it. I got mine for only ~$650 Canadian, a really good price for a bike like this. And it’s much cheaper than a car anyway.
I was a student in Durham, and I come back regularly to visit. My bike is not Dutch, but I have gradually adapted it over time to be more and more Dutch in style. (Upright riding position, hub gears, chain case, wheel lock etc). I would be happy to give you a shot some time when I’m in Durham, but as I’m 6 foot 3 and the bike has a 60 cm men’s frame that might not work so well…
I rode a bike with a 3 speed hub gear for a while in Durham. It was OK, but I’d really recommend an 8 speed hub gear for somewhere so hilly. You can get a larger rear sprocket fitted to lower the gearing, so you have the low gears you need to get up hills.
It might be possible to adapt your existing bike. An older mountain bike without suspension could make a good basis for a city bike. If you currently have knobbly mountain bike tyres then switching to smooth ones (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon) will make a huge difference. Switching the stem and handlebars to give a more comfortable upright riding position is also relatively easy. Changing to hub gears and adding a chain case is a bit more radical, but should be possible if the rear wheel slots are horizontal. However, I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself unless you like tinkering…
Hope that helps!
Stephen that is so kind of you, what a lovely offer.
My partner is a more keen cyclist than I am and he loves tinkering with his bike and mine. I had tried changing the seat and handlebar height so that it was a more upright position, but I still feel like I’m hunched forward. I think it has a lot to do with the handlbar style being almost straight rather than swept backwards, but then it is a mountain bike that I was given by his mother.
I will heed your suggestion about changing the tyres though; they aren’t uber knobly but they are bumpy and not smooth like road tyres, and I think I may start a savings pot to get a quality dutch style one.
I have these handlebars on my bike and I like them. (Previously I had fairly straight handlebars). I’m sure there are lots of other good swept back handlebars out there. As long as your bike has a 25.4mm diameter stem clamp, which it most probably will unless it is new and fancy, then almost any swept back bar should fit fine.
Thanks Stephen, they look like they’d make for a much more comfortable journey.
When you have a lot of hills, weight of the bike makes quite a difference. I’d recommend going to a shop like Cycle Heaven in York as they are very geared up to practical cycling needs. They have a good website so you can research the options, and York is a good day out anyway. We bought a tandem from them a few years ago, and I was worried about the gearing not going low enough for Durham’s hills. They were happy to advise and modified it to lower the gearing. The tandem is aluminium and weighs about the same as my day-to-day steel bike.
Thanks Matthew. As it happens, I am visiting the in-law’s in two week’s time and they live in Beverley, so York is on the way. I’ll look the shop up and I’ll pay them a visit. Thanks 🙂
My suggestion is not to bother trying to adapt a mountain bike. No amount of fiddling will ever get you close to the comfort of a real Dutch bike. If the Durham hills are anything like the ones here in Wales, an 8 speed hub will not quite be enough to take on the steepest hills with ease. For that you need another type of Dutch bike, unfortunately not very well known (yet!), the ‘touring hybrid’. Very very comfortable, fully equipped, plenty of gears. I import these (second hand) from the Netherlands in an effort to show people in my area how comfortable cycling can be (we are blessed with plenty of quiet but hilly backroads). Even those cyclists married to their Galaxies admit they have never experienced such a comfortable ride uphill (and wonder why they thought the weight of such a bike would make that impossible). It is fortunate that you are passing through York, as Cycle Heaven is one of the few enlightened shops in Britain stocking them. Try the Gazelle Vento 24, a good example for a reasonable price. For more choice, take a trip overseas, the Netherlands are awash with good quality used specimens, and the money saved will pay for the trip.
Try to find a bike like those the french call randonneur, or a british touring bicycle. The best of these are built like road bikes but with a less extreme riding position, integrated fenders, racks and lights. You can go fast and far on them while still being comfortable. A lot of touring cyclists ride leather saddles like Brooks, as they conform to your anatonmy after a while (the break in period can be somewhat uncomfortable however).
I ride every day from Chester le Street to the Arnison Centre at Durham. I go to the nearest gym to my work and have a shower then cycle to work, which is about 1/4 of a mile. A year’s membership cost me £160 but I am over 60 so it is cheaper. In the evening I leave my trousers, belt, shoes and wash bag in a locker and ride home in the cycling-specific clothing I wore in the morning. Each day I take clean underwear, socks and shirt in a pannier bag. My bike cost me £125 second-hand and has a rack and mudguards. I fitted a dynamo hub and lights. Is there a gym near your workplace?
The other day I took my bike to Evans Cycles at Abbey Road for a service. I was told that it is worn out and the cost of replacement parts would be the same as a new bike. So I paid a deposit of £50 to try out a new bike. I’m taking it for a test ride tomorrow and if I don’t like it I can get my money back. As you live in Newton Hall it’s not far from you. Here’s a link:
And here’s the bike I’m testing tomorrow;
I don’t think 3 gears are enough in Durham and Evans don’t sell cheap hub-gear bikes. I’m thinking about getting a hub-gear bike for my commute and using the derailleur bike at the weekends.
I hope you are not put off commuting by the inherent difficulties of cycling in Britain.
PS A leather Brooks saddle would give you a comfortable ride. Don’t bother with gel.
Get an E-bike (Pedelec). It can be so easy 🙂
We need to reframe cycling as enhanced walking, or (to use a phrase others have coined already) Wheeled Pedestrianism. In other words, it’s pretty much the same as walking, but just an extension of it, a version of walking that allows you to go further, to go faster, to overcome disabilities, to carry loads, and frankly, to have more fun.
As someone once put it, “I ride a bike because I’m too lazy to walk.”
Reblogged this on CycleBath and commented:
One of the problems councillors have is the message they get from their constituents. I’ve been told that almost on a weekly basis they get a complaint about the behaviour of “cyclists” riding on pavements. As somebody that lobbies hard for more cycle infrastructure, I am asked to justify having the council spend resources on delivering cycle infrastructure when “you cyclists” behave so badly and what am I doing about them as chair of CycleBath?
I’m very much sitting between a rock and a hard place. It is the design of the roads that driving this behaviour and preventing “normal people” from cycling. To solve it you need to re-allocate space and start treating cycling as a 3rd form of transport. This takes money which “we cyclists” do not deserve.
My concern now is that initiatives like Highways “Safe Routes To Schools” will just have councils delivering shared paths as a solution for cycling. This will just result in even more letters and complaints. Shared paths, through design, tell users it is ok to cycle on footpaths.
We cannot expect “normal people” to share road space on major routes with HGVs.
But I think this article is right, we need to change the way cycling is perceived. It is about having 8 year olds cycling to school without parents worrying. It is about cycling as a mobility aid. It is about being able to pop to the shops and carry more stuff home. It is about staying connected to your community.
Councillors need understand it is not about cycling clubs going on 100 mile rides or racing down a wooded hill. There is a huge chasm between cycling as sport and cycling as a form of transport.
If councillors cannot see the benefits to their constituents of investing in cycling. If all they see and hear about the bad behaviour of “lycra louts” and aggressive pavement cycling, then the onus is on people like myself, like yourself, to educate, to positively engage with councillors.
I also think many of the bike companies operating in this space have a responsibility to change the message they are putting out. That it is not just about the sport/leisure of cycling, but about the practicality of everyday cycling and the health benefits it brings to yourself and your community. More importantly the different style of bikes that are needed for everyday cycling. Their marketing message needs to change.
It’s not an easy ask, because no other group I know is collectively held responsible for the actions of others. I do not blame the president of the AA for speeding motorists. There are just inherently bad road users and cyclists being an outlier group are more harshly judged.
Yet I cannot blame somebody for pavement cycling. I feel very uncomfortable having a 40 ton HGV pass me. That person riding on pavements could ride significantly faster on roads, not having to deal with pedestrians, side roads and street furniture. It will take them far longer to get to their destination. They do it because they fear riding on roads. The behaviour constituents complain to their councillors about, is determined by the design of the road.
Provide cyclists with their own segregated space and this behaviour will vanish. This takes money from an ever shrinking council budget and what the councillors are hearing from their constituents and seeing with their own eyes, we “cyclists” do not deserve a road space safe enough for children to ride to school.
So I’ve rambled on a bit much here, but there is one final thing you can do. As part of your Council’s Capital Highways programme you will see a significant amount of money being spent on road re-surfacing schemes. These are opportunities to place a road on a “road diet” and implement advisory/mandatory 2m cycle lanes, or even convert a quiet rural road to a cycle road. Engage with your parish and your councillors and educate them. This is how New York city transformed itself. When you resurface, place a road on a road diet.
Tell the councillors you do not find their cock-and-bull stories about footway cycling particularly plausible because they are more often than not obstructed by abandoned motor vehicles. If and when they can provide better evidence, you will be able to work out whether it is one of your members. You cannot represent non-members any more than a councillor can claim to represent anyone who voted against them or didn’t vote. If it is one of your members, point out that you exert no more control over them than they do over the permanent civil servants employed by the highways department.
p.s. I do hold all motorists to be guilty of speeding crime, because it is approximately all of them committing it at every opportunity.
p.p.s. I’ve yet to notice any lack of money in the motoring budget at our council. Sure, it might be less than the way-over-generous levels of the past—but it is still orders of magnitude higher than it ought to be. What I have noticed is that highway authorities are getting far more brazen about stealing money from non-motoring budgets to waste on yet more subsidies for motoring!
“We also don’t sell bicycles that enable this kind of cycling, the kind that looks like walking – robust, everyday, upright bicycles, maintenance-free ones with mudguards and chain guards that keep your clothes neat and tidy, with built-in carrying capacity, and practical features like integrated dynamo lighting and wheel locks that make it incredibly easy to transition from walking to cycling, and back again.”
I so agree with you here. Still, whenever I mention this in a comment to a bike review about yet another kind of fair weather, leisure bicycle fro commuting, boy what stick I get. Even regular cyclists point out to me how you can add mudguards and racks to a bike that doesn’t have them, or dump the inadequate things that are fitted and get better ones, when those things should be there from the get go to make the bike really useful.
There’s an article in today’s Guardian that seems quite relevant to this. It’s actually about teaching adult immigrants/refugees in Holland to ride but I think has some application to other places as well.
Along with the practical benefits of being able to ride a bike, they also get a feeling of being more integrated into Dutch society, which is good. More relevantly to Britain though are the reasons they haven’t learn to ride before: even after moving to Holland they retain a fear, a sense that cycling is dangerous.
“Often people from these communities don’t cycle because they feel it’s unsafe,” she said. “They come from a different kind of traffic structure. They bring the feeling about traffic from their home country to the Netherlands, and they feel it’s unsafe to cycle when it’s not. And then they will tell their children also that it’s unsafe, so it goes from one generation to the next.”
Such attitudes can be hard to break down. Naima – who like all the participants refused to give even a first name or be photographed except from behind – does now own her own folding bike, but was nonetheless driven to the class by her husband, the bike in the boot.
Status is also mentioned, and of course that’s relevant in this country as well, but this “fear” seems to be the main inhibitor. This would show that attitudes remain in the mind even when the reality demonstrates otherwise. (And if we’re dealing with realities, cycling in Britain is not dangerous either; it’s the perception but not backed up by statistics. Perhaps what we have to deal with is not sense of danger precisely but discomfort, of being in an unpleasant, tense situation, when large vehicles pass close.)
So the infrastructure alone is not enough to overcome ingrained reluctance; it takes a push from another angle as well. For the immigrants in Utrecht there is this scheme. For kids in Britain, there is Bikeability, at least in theory. For the rest of us, there needs to be something too, which is where media representations – including treatments in fiction, such as TV drama – and public service adverts are relevant, as well as marketing campaigns from those directly involved, eg manufacturers, retailers and organisations such as BC.