A city needs quality cycle lanes (along with other bike infrastructure) if it is to attract new people to cycling. A city also needs policies that encourage people to ride a bike because not every road or street is going to get a cycle lane. A policy that supports cycling could take the form of speed reduction, for example. This kind of policy would take into account the needs of the non-motorists and would bring the benefits of actual, subjective and social safety.
Unfortunately, policies supportive of cycling are not forthcoming because of the prevaling dominance of cars. We have designed and built our cities around them. This dominant motoring culture also explains why cycling infrastructure is so hard to come by. Change is hard to initiate because it would require road space to be â€˜redistributed’ and ‘reallocated’ from its current usage. A road may be required to go on a diet. On-street car parking may need to be reallocated.
These are policies that are pro-people as opposed to being anti-car because they will enhance the liveability of a city. It’s encouraging to see that the Council is speaking this language. But will words translate into actions?
But it’s not just about infrastructure and policy. There is another important facet that has largely been ignored in the push to get people onto bikes. It’s an essential third leg in the stool that’s needed to support an uptake in cycling. And it is perhaps the one that has been the easiest to ignore. In a city that has seen its rate of cycling plummet over past decades, it may be reasonable to suggest that this is the cornerstone of any attempts to get people back onto bikes (or at least welcoming their presence).
To grow a cyclized city, to attract new people to cycling, it’s necessary to normalize cycling. Perception is everything.
Peter Walker in The Guardian makes the observation,
…for all the talk of a cycling boom in the UK, cyclists largely remain a marginalised, fringe group who regularly face unchallenged slurs, falsehoods and generalisations.
Sounds familiar. Describes most cities in the World pretty accurately.
In the same article there is an interview with Psychologist, Dr Ian Walker (known for the blonde wig experiment). He says,
Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti-conventional and possibly even infantile.
Dr Walker uses the term culture. So how would you rate the culture in your city?
Here’s the answer you may be looking for…You’ll know #cycling’sbooming when wearing hi-viz clothing on a bike means you are working on a construction site.
Dr Walker again,
Incidentally, there are other reasons to be suspicious of high-visibility gear, not least that it transfers responsibility from the driver of the metal box that creates the danger to the victim of that danger.
It’s time to recognise how far we have to go to bring cycling into the mainstream. And why we need to be looking to experts*abroad…the source of the cycling renaissance. They are ready and willing to share their expertise. They are so good at it, they have turned it into an export business.
There is foundation work that needs to be done before the traffic engineers can get really productive and transform that paved public space called roads into cycle lanes. And bear in mind that there is no shortage of research to show how cycling ticks all the boxes. That part has already been done.
Now it’s time to take the critical steps towards normalizing cycling. It’s a tough assignment when we still live in an age where driving is seen as ‘normal and desirable’. Until the psychological barriers have been overcome, every gain for cycling will be won in a piecemeal fashion.
Cycling. It’s as easy as walking, but fasterâ€¦.