I recently read an article about how people didn’t cycle because of the stigma attached to cycling. This has unsettled me because I have never felt or experienced any stigma attached to riding a bicycle and was surprised that this was an issue. Have I missed something?
I ride a bicycle with the same outlook that I would have if I were driving a Rolls Royce or a Porche (this is based on how I think I would feel as I don’t actually own either car, or indeed any car at all). I feel like a million dollars when I’m riding my bicycle. I can’t imagine that being encased in a hunk of metal would make me feel ‘better’ in any way – in fact quite the opposite and mostÂ definitelyÂ ’smaller’ as cars always seem to be designed for someone a lot larger than me. It had never occurred to me that someone might look down on me because I am riding a bicycle. And if this ever did occur, then obviously the person would be deluded, out of touch and plain silly. Is it perhaps due, once again, to the common perception of ‘cyclist’ and lack of ‘normal person on a bike’Â imagery? …Â Perhaps the stigma is attached to the thought of becoming a fluoro encased stereotypical ‘cyclist’ or the mental image of someone who rides a secondhand K-Mart mountain bike because they can’t afford a car. I really can’t imagine what the stigma might be that is associated with a ‘normal person’ on a bike. Any ideas?
Sometimes I come across people who find it ODD that I cycle. That’s to be expected in Auckland as it is not a common occurrence for my demographic. And of course there are many many people who comment on how ‘dangerous’ it is to cycle (with the implied ‘I should really know better than to recklessly put myself in harms way like that’). I find this kind of amusing because, as the one that is actually cycling, you would think that I would have a better understanding of how dangerous it is to cycle in Auckland than the person who doesn’t. But no. People who never cycle, and undoubtedly have never done any research in this area, are the authority on the danger level.
Interestingly, I also come across this danger perception quite often when I ask work colleagues or acquaintances to ‘drop me somewhere in the city’ if they give me a lift back after a night out. I live in the central city and this is perfectly normal for me. The CBD with all it faults and weirdos is my ‘hood’.
I think these responses are quite simply because these elements of my lifestyle have an image problem in New Zealand. Marketing has a lot to answer for … and also a lot ofÂ potential for increasing cycling. I find it quite bizarre that fast food, soft drinks and debt fueled shopping seemed to be desirable (according to the adverts on TV), whereas central city apartment living and riding a bicycle are perceived as dangerous.
What a strange little world we inhabit here in NZ.
Picture from here