It was not surprising to read the level of negative response to the ‘Cycling Defined‘ post. It’s not helpful to pigeon hole cyclists by their riding style. The post was intended as a reflection of Auckland’s fledgling cycling culture and its inablility to make any significant gains into the hearts and minds of everyday people.
Of course cycling in Auckland is becoming more visible but it would be safe to say it’s still hovering around a 1% modal share. Perhaps…does Auckland Transport have this data? If not, why not? And while the speed of uptake seems to be increasing, in reality, it’s happening at glacial speed.
So what is the best way to speed up the increase in the number of people in Auckland choosing to cycle?
Start by gathering evidence from the rest of the world. From cities that have successful cycling cultures. This would allow us to see large numbers of ordinary people on upright bicycles, wearing ordinary clothes, going about their everyday tasks, like it’s normal and easy. That’s what Auckland should be striving to copy. If cycling looks easy and casual it will lead to even more people on their bikes.
Secondly, look at cycling through the eyes of a 10 year old school child, of a teenage girl, of a middle-aged woman. Widen the target demographic. These people won’t ride like a ‘motor vehicle’ in ‘hi viz’.
And to make cycling more attractive means there is a need to make the use of the private motor vehicle less attractive. A cycling environment/culture suitable for this target demographic will only be created when we are prepared to confront the ‘Death Star‘ head on.
Certainly, there are barriers to increasing cycling in Auckland. There is a low urban density that we have inherited and a lack of a European sensibility that treats bicycle travel as perfectly ordinary. That reinforces the need to be systematic and intentional.
There is a cargo bike full of local and international evidence that shows us why cycling is the first transport choice in an increasing number of cities around the world. The bicycle is typically the fastest and most convenient way to travel.
We need to create an environment and culture that makes it possible for a larger catchment of people to choose the bicycle. And we need to find out what it would take to get ordinary people to take up cycling. Those people do exist. They are waiting to be converted. Selling cycling should be as easy as taking candy from a baby.
While the image of cycling in Auckland is predominantly one of sweat, sports, speed and hi viz jackets, a barrier to the wider adoption of cycling will remain.
It’s time for a new approach. It’s time to sell a brand of cycling that is easy, comfortable and convenient.
Cycling. It’s as easy as walking, but fasterâ€¦.