Sunday, 12 May 2013

The greatest challenge...

The greatest challenge is going to be getting people out of cars and onto bicycles. That's no surprise to anyone. In the last couple of days though I have had several conversations which have reminded me just how much of a struggle it will be...

Discussing money saving options with a couple who are moving, and the subject of budgeting and saving money came up. They are moving from next to a Metro station to just over a mile away (that mile is mainly traffic free). By car the most direct route is just over 3 miles. Which will equate to about £6-10 a week in petrol.

"Drive and park at our house" was one suggestion.
"buy a cheap ugly bike, ride to Metro" Was mine.
"it'll get nicked!"
"Not with decent locks & it looks crap & fugly it won't"
"I will get all sweaty and dirty"
"Not in 1 mile you won't"
then the usual ahh, buts started. And this is from people who are used to me riding around on errands, shopping. Going to the allotment. Both with and without a trailer, so the concept of using bikes for transport is not completely alien to them. As I say, the route is traffic free, so safety is not a issue either.

This isn't a unique scenario. I have neighbours who are similar. He cycles to work every day, unless the weather is really icy or wet. His wife is a lollipop lady who drives 3/4 mile to her crossing, when it is about 1/10th of a mile by foot or bike. Again the direct route is car free and safe.

I think there are two key issues here, which are slightly interlinked and both need solving.

The first is convenience and comfort. Most adults have a car sat outside which is ready to roll. Just pick up the keys, unlock with a button & jump in and drive off. Inside it's not cold or windy, indeed it's a hermetically sealed climate controlled bubble. Yes, in my example above it may be three times the distance, but in the car that isn't noticeable anywhere other than the pocket, and although everyone moans about fuel costs for what you get it is very cheap.

As for the second, I am convinced that the mass UK population has become an very insular society which coverts and craves individual isolated bubble of protected personal space.

A kind of collective agoraphobia if you will, and that the short walk from the house, to the car, to the office/shop/school/gym is about as much as a lot of people can manage.

The thought of being seen walking or cycling seems to put them off, even though some of them will drive to the gym and sweat away on running machines and in spinning classes - Mention going for a walk or riding a proper bike to these people and they look at me like I am the one going mad!

If we can start solving the above two issues, then we will be getting there. Just chucking in 20mph zones and separated lanes will not necessarily get the masses cycling. From what I have read the collective thinking is that once the infrastructure is in, the masses will naturally migrate from the car to the bike.

If only it was that easy.

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