This image is on the cover of the latest ‘Directions‘ magazine, published by the New Zealand Automobile Association. It wasn’t that long ago when the AA didn’t take too kindly to ‘them cyclists clogging up our roads‘. Now the same organisation is sounding positively enlightened. It sees a place for the bicycle in the transport landscape. Why? How? It would be nice to know the catalyst for the hair-pin-like change in direction.
But the surprise doesn’t end there. We have also been given a lesson on how to sell cycling. Take a look at the photo and observe….
- The model is a â€˜she’. That’s good because, of the few people who do ride a bike in Auckland, very few of that small group are â€˜shes’. The demographic of young woman equate to the â€˜canary in the coalmine’. If you can get young women using bikes, it’s a sign that a cyclized city is just around the corner.
- The bike is â€˜sit-up’ and comfortable. It’s as far away as possible from the image of sports and recreation. It’s a type of bike that defines â€˜person on a bike’ as opposed to â€˜cyclist’.
- Like a typical car promotion it makes no mention of reality. This image sells the possibility of fun, health, beauty. It gives the opportunity to the viewer to reminisce, relive or aspire. It makes cycling look appealing and desirous. It invites motorists to see â€˜cycling’ in a softer light; as â€˜people on bikes’. (Your daughter/sister/mother). This is no easy task, considering we still live in an age where driving is seen as â€˜normal and desirable‘. It implores ‘Vote Bike’.
- The helmet is not on her head but draped over the handlebars. (Perhaps it’s a little too risky at this stage to eliminate the helmet completely from the photo shoot). Take a look at the picture again and try imagining the model wearing the helmet. In psychological terms, there is no place for a helmet or any other safety gear. That is, if we are to be successful in getting people into cycling in any #cycling’sbooming kind of way. Focusing on safety will imply danger.
The articles within the magazine itself seem to suggest that there is a desire amongst the wider public to understand the real issues that need addressing if cycling is to really boom in our cities. It may also suggest that cycling is no longer the sole domain of ‘cyclists’. There are people in cars who would like the choice of being able to use a bike for transport. A choice that is not being offered to them currently. And this is critical because, as we can see from overseas experience, a fully fledged cycling renaissance will come when the whole community is supportive. The impetus to move us away from being #carslaves will come from ordinary people on ordinary bikes.
In the editorial, Chief Executive Brian Gibbons says,
â€¦(the AA) would be supportive of whatever could be done to change our aggressive driving culture to one of friendly tolerance towards other road users. This has to be an objective promoted by this Association, embraced by those responsible for our roading infrastructure, and adopted as a common goal for all road users – irrespective of how they get from A to B.
Heck, that just sounds like a more eloquent way of saying this.
It’s encouraging to know that cycling has an ally in the motoring world. Let’s hope that the AA can have some positive influence on New Zealand transport policy makers in order to give cycling the boost that it needs. In the meanwhile, you may want to invite your non-cycling friends to respond to the question that is posed by the AA on their website.
If we could improve the safety of cycling on our urban roads, would you give cycling a go?
Cycling. It’s as easy as walking, but fasterâ€¦.
You can follow the #wheeledpedestrian on Twitter- @wheeledped or check out The Wheeled Pedestrian’s photostream (with accompanying ruminations) on Flickr.