In praise of slow cycling
So many anti-cycling articles, like this one in the Guardian by Linda Grant, complain about speeding cyclists, about lycra louts dominating the roads. She complains about " the cyclist, the most morally pure of road users, the ethical standard-bearer for healthy living, a challenge to climate change, and the ones who are starting to completely terrify me for their unpredictability and aggression." But in fact, the way people ride their bikes is very much a product of the environment they are riding in; London can be a tough place to ride, and that tends to limit the kind of people who do.
Chris and Melissa Bruntlett of Modacity make a point that is so often missed by those who complain about cyclists: that where cycling is safer and more people do it, they tend to ride more slowly.
In short, the slower the people on bikes were moving, the more mature the bicycle culture, and the better the conditions for cycling. Inversely, in regions that had failed to prioritize two-wheeled travel as a mode of transportation, getting on a bike was still seen as a sport predominately done by males moving long distances at fast speeds. We don’t have anything against the latter, but mass uptake requires a distinct shift from subculture to a more mainstream and normalized approach.
They have been traveling a lot in their new consulting gig and have found pretty consistently:
Upon arrival in a new city, a cursory glance at the types of people choosing to cycle there will tell you a great deal about its bike-friendliness. The places with the widest variety of ages and abilities can be considered – without exception – the most successful, with a greater number of women, children, and seniors on bikes a surefire sign you’re doing something right. That diversity brings with it a slower-paced, more relaxed environment, that is far more welcoming to the “interested but concerned” crowd.
In a city with a real bike culture, they are also anything but "lycra louts":
Thriving cycling cities are also places where riding a bicycle is seen as walking with wheels, rather than running. We like to think of them as wheeled pedestrians. In those cities, bikes act as an extension of walking and/or public transit, primarily used for short jaunts to the shop, restaurant, or cinema. Without the sweat. As such, cycle-specific clothing and safety gear becomes entirely redundant, and dressing for the destination more commonplace. In turn, cycling becomes more appealing to a broader audience (the 99%, if you will).
Lloyd Alter/ Chris and Melissa/CC BY 2.0
In a city like London or even Toronto, without good bike infrastructure and where everyone is fighting for their share of the road, it is easy to see why everyone gets aggressive. That's why Chris and Melissa's new years' resolution is so attractive and endearing: "let’s resolve not just to encourage, but to celebrate slow cycling in our cities. It is, after all, the defining characteristic of a street that is both comfortable and delightful for all of its users, regardless of the mode of transportation they happen to choose that day."
Read it all in Van City Buzz.