Saturday, 10 November 2012

Hear Horton's Who

Cycling in Newcastle, UK

Attending yet another meeting discussing cycling infrastructure, I struck me again: the majority in the room are doggedly designing for the current combat cyclist (always ready to cycle to the moon, tackling the traffic, cycling for the heck of it anyways, current crazy condition or no).

I stepped in and gave a little speech - possibly perceived as patronising (as a woman you are seen as patronising - or should that be matronising? - rather than intelligent or knowledgeable) - on:

"Really, folks, who are we designing these new strategic cycle routes for?"

It was gobsmackingly obvious to me, completely crystal clear! If we wanted to attract new people on bikes, we have to make it a viable option to them. So, why people don't cycle is the thing in question.

And we know why: "too much aggressive traffic" and "no safe space for cyclist". [Note this message is usually mixed up with some misperceptions (and potential excuses!) around the cultural argument and weather, topography, fitness, age and income group. Or the advanced answers of no shower at work, no bike parking, haven't got the right clothes etc.]

So what now?

Keep campaigning for continuous cycle space for the newcomer cyclist, the pavement cyclist, the child cyclist, granny, inclusive 8-80. Design it for the 'timid' newbie cyclist and they will come. Irresistible linear space away from drivers on fast roads, by all means mixed where speeds and traffic are sufficiently low. It's so simple. That's how the city clientele will cycle.

Yet the current cyclist doesn't get it. And, they are the ones who bother turning up at cycle meeting and not the non-cyclist (surprise surprise). 

So designer mustn't just listen to the current combat cyclist; they only have half the story to tell. Also listen to why people don't cycle, have given up cycling or don't let their kids cycle, and interpret their replies.

And it's fair to note, that some current combat cyclists have awoken...

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