It's usually not a good idea to read too much into the perceptions of
cycling in one country and then apply them to another but I couldn't
help but do that after reading a recent report in The Guardian on that subject and think of Australia.
The paper reported on a study done by Lancaster University called Understanding Walking and Cycling
whose conclusions made depressing reading for anyone who sees cycling
as a key ingredient in solving some of our climate and build space
"Many people barely recognise the bicycle as a legitimate
mode of transport; it is either a toy for children or a vehicle fit
only for the poor and/or strange," said Dave Horton, of Lancaster
University to The Guardian.
"For them, cycling is a bit
embarrassing, they fail to see its purpose, and have no interest in
integrating it into their lives, certainly on a regular basis."
to see its purpose? Geeze, it's hard to move forward from that but it
does pretty well describe the situation based on my experiences talking
to the uninitiated.
And of course these views exsit despite the
best intentions of Government and advocates and surging bicycle sales in
both the England and Australia.
"Many people barely recognise
the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transport; it is either a toy for
children or a vehicle fit only for the poor and/or strange," continued
"For them, cycling is a bit embarrassing, they fail
to see its purpose, and have no interest in integrating it into their
lives, certainly on a regular basis."
Two of the takeaways from
the study are the usual ones. Intimidation and perceptions - with Horton
confirming that those of us who ride do so despite the available
infrastructure and not because of it, and...
Lycra-clad cyclists confirm that cycling is a very skilled practice,
from which most people immediately distance themselves. So far, cycling
promotion still reaches mainly that smallish part of the population that
does not really need that much convincing."
the most important aspect of the report was its conclusion, one that
remains a controversial one not only in the broader community here in
Australia, but among regular cyclists themselves.
all, and probably most controversially, our research has made it very
clear to us that in order to create a mass cycling culture in English
cities we need to segregate cycling from motorised traffic along main
roads, said Horton. Combined with a range of other measures, very high
quality segregated cycle routes could push English city cycling from its
currently marginal status towards a mass phenomenon."
findings mirror some of what we already know and experience here in
Australia and we appear to be facing a similar lack of political will as
experienced in England so maybe what happens over there applies here
too - who knew?