Carefree, carfree, aspirationally attractive people on civilized city bikes. Who is pedalling thisâ€¦Â this pedalling porn?
The Automobile Association, no less.
The AA’s latest cycling focused Directions magazine is noteworthy on a number of levels. But before we go any further I suggest you make a point of adding your voice Directions’ survey on cycle infrastructure, (as I write, running 10:1 in favour of the efficacy of cycleways). Now, my esteemed fellow blogger the Wheeled Pedestrian has already highlighted the the irony of a car magazine providing a lesson how to pitch cycling to the non-riding.
I’d agree that the AA mostly strikes a good balance between the aspirational and current reality in its representation of kiwi cycling. If there is a dodgey note, it’s probably cyclisteÂ Jon Bridges’ mixed messages that smack of the boosterist cycling’s-booming-ism that has undermined cycle advocacy here for too long. Yeah; wear your helmet at the supermarket – like that’ll normalize this odious symbol of our collective oppression? I don’t want to take away from the joy of cycling that he expresses, and which I certainly share, but he misses some fundamental realities about the messages we send about cycling, by how we cycle.Â
As a point of detail – actually Directions does go so far to as to show cycling, sans-happyhat, in a situation that no one in their right mind could suggest should be lidding-up, let alone legally mandating the same. So yes, on top of the general right-on-edness displayed, I’m almost tempted to celebrate a the dawning of new age of bicycling enlightenment.
But to the broader implications: When our institutions ideas of cycling promotion are tragicomic â€˜bike to work’ breakfasts, oscillating between roadwork-wear shilling and fake-cyclefashionisting, or advertising that repeats the canard that it’s the cycling riding who must change their behaviour;
Across a range of editorial, DirectionsÂ states so much of what we know, but is heard so infrequently:
- That cycling has massive potential [tangential] economic benefits for this country- $1Bn per year from a 3% modeshare is suggested.
- That statistically cycling is safer than driving.
- That our cycling-friendliness is shamed by the achievements of other cities including many in the USA.
- That cities should forget about the fearless and determined, “lycra-clad” and focus on families.
- That connected infrastructure, is needed to provide those, quite reasonably intimidated by riding in traffic, the confidence they need to get on a bike.
- That kiwis deserve freedom of choice in transport modes.
- That Auckland requires additional investment in walking and cycling (along with other modes).
In fairness, even if there’s no examination of the systemic issues underlying the current marginalisation of cycling, the above-mentioned poll on infrastructure does at least acknowledge one of the biggest barriers / opportunities still in front if us. This is a motoring magazine, after all.
And, as has been explored here (and here) , cycling itself has a substantial credibility gap to overcome, if it’s to be taken seriously by government â€“ local and national, particularly institutions that have yet to develop any appreciation of the rapid cycling growth achieved elsewhere, orders of magnitude above our own, and particularly of the pivotal value of cycle-share (unimpeded by adult helmet laws). And that have yet even go so far as to publicly declare any goals for cycling modeshare.
Predictably, the AA balks at increased costs for drivers to fund multi-modal transport improvements, without, it would seem, considering how they are already shielded from many of the indirect costs of a car-centric society, or that most multi-modalÂ travelersÂ are drivers of cars.
And the AA’s policy of supporting the so-called Roads of National Significance, contradicts their newer calls for a broader multimodal approach. The RONS have pretty much hoovered up the â€˜discretionary’ portion of transport improvements funding at a national level. Arguably the costs of cycling infrastructure, particularly given the rapidly enjoyable gains across society, are so low that even the RONS shouldn’t be a roadblock (pun entirely intended), but they do rather put the kibosh on enabling cycling to contribute as part of a smart transport network.
The association’s latest statements on parking costsÂ also indicate a reflex action response to threats to â€˜motoring convenience’ that fails to acknowledge that making our cities more livable is, I’m afraid, a zero-sum game when it comes to car-centricity vs people centricity. Civic space is simply finite, and Auckland has, as star -â€˜lesscarchitect’ Jan Ghel has commented, one of the most over provisioned parking supplies in the world, costing city dwellers â€“ (most of all who are â€“ let’s acknowledge â€“ also drivers), a lot in terms of livability.
We’ve long known that the auto industry does a better job of selling itself.
When it does a better job ofÂ selling cyclingÂ than those who have been handed (and paid for) the gig, we should be concerned.
We should be righteously angry. We should be beating down the doors of local and national government and demanding to know why we in ’100% pure NZ’ don’t see cycling provided for and promoted like it is in any decent place anywhere else in the globe.
All in all, AA: eight out of ten. It’s appreciated.Seriously.
Kiwi cycling promoters â€“ whoever you areâ€“ are you even awake?