velorution caught a sensible bit from a London cyclist about how to make cycling more mainstream. It’s a great read. I’m generally a complete free marketer kind of guy, but this bit and the Morning Edition bit on London’s serious traffic tolls to enter downtown have me wondering if there isn’t more local governments could do…
I’m doubtful that much of this could work in the US – we’ve just accepted huge distances as a fact of life. Much as I’d love to bike to work, it’s not happening at my current job. But there is more I can do to include cycling in non-commuting activities.
Anyway… Here’s my take on a couple salient items:
I am asking you to Embrace the Midstream. We must convince responsible citizens –those with good manners, good grooming, and regular attendance at the polls– that cycling is a civilised mode of transport.
The importance of this can’t be overemphasized. We’ve gone to treating cycling as something that’s exceptionally hazardous, done only by athletes, and requiring huge investments in money to do “right”. It’s not. And it shouldn’t be.
Ban Lycra and DayGlo colours. Convincing people that cycling is civilised is a job that calls for natural fibres and earth tones. Lycra is comfortable, and day glo jackets minimise your chances of being mistaken for a parking space. But Lycra is, with few exceptions–and none of them in my age bracket–unflattering. And day glo colours are equally repellent. You can’t expect to be taken seriously when you’re riding around in the sartorial equivalent of a sausage casing and wailing car alarm.
There’s a couple of corollaries to this, though: First, build roads with adequate shoulders. One of the great things about Connecticut and Rhode Island roads is that most of them have literally feet outside of traffic lanes for cyclists. So it’s not quite as important to be day-glo to avoid being run over. The second is to put the visibility on the bike – cheap lights go a long way to making the cyclist visible.
Case in point – my lovely wife has resisted my pleas to get her on a bike more regularly mostly out of fear of pulling on lycra. Until she saw this skort in the LL Bean catalog. Yep, it’s got supportive lycra. But she also could see herself walking around downtown wearing it.
But as we thrive on our status as victim and underdog we unwittingly intimidate a large number of well-adjusted people who would like to enjoy the advantages of riding. Fake it if you must, but the sooner we start looking and behaving like ordinary commuters, the more we will be accepted as and then joined by ordinary commuters.
This, I think, is just a smart course of action in all areas of life.
The more people we can persuade to identify with cyclists, the more people will become cyclists. Of course there is a need for better, safer facilities, and more government-funded incentives. But we can’t underestimate the cultural obstacles and our singular ability to help others overcome them.
Amen, brothers and sisters.