Being a Cyclist in Iceland: Interview with Morten Lange, head of the Icelandic Cyclists' Federation

bicycle iceland photo

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World Streets has a great interview with Morten Lange, the head of the Icelandic Cyclists' Federation. Part of the interview is about Iceland-specific things, but most of it applies to cyclists everywhere. It's a good read, check out some highlights below or read the whole thing here.The best part of the interview, in my opinion, is the myth-busting. Many things should be improved to make cycling better: Some of it has to do with infrastructure (more and better bike paths, bike racks, bike hooks on buses and trains, etc), but a lot of it has to do with perception. Many people think that biking is a lot more dangerous than it actually is.

Number 3: Cycling is dangerous.

People often think that the traffic is intimidating and loud, and they have heard about accidents. But statistics that claim cycling is more dangerous than driving a car are looking at a per kilometer basis, which is not a fair comparison.

People will not go as far by bike as by car, so what you should compare is the danger on a per hour basis or per trip. And then there is virtually no difference between the danger in cycling and going by car. And of course cyclists pose much less danger to others. If cycling replaces car driving for short and medium distances, we get calmer traffic and we will all be safer.

I also like the point about bikes being faster than most other means of transportation during rush hour (which is when most people commute by definition...):

Number 4: It takes too much time.

You are quicker on a bicycle than you think. In many cities around the world, there have been mock competitions during the rush hour between different modes of transport and it is very uncommon that the cyclist doesn't win.

We did a contest here in Reykjavik in the morning rush hour, and the cyclist was substantially faster than the car driver and the person that went by bus.

And finally, I'll quote one last thing that I think is important:

What else would have to change so that cycling becomes more attractive?

I think we need a change in perspective and how politicians and public servants talk about traffic safety, health and cycling. The most visible message on cycling from many governments, insurance companies and NGO's has been to stress that pedestrians and cyclists should lookout for cars and behave "responsibly".

This often means fencing cyclists off from other traffic; make them wear bright clothes, high-visibility gadgets and helmets. This is all logical in a way, but it's not the cyclist but speeding cars that are dangerous.

These negative messages also overshadow the positive message that cycling and walking is healthy, cost-effective, and fast. This should be changed; cars are the elephant in the china shop not the other way around.

Read the whole thing here: World Streets
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