Saturday, July 14, 2012

The fining down solution

So the World Health Organisation has determined that New Zealand comes third highest in the international stakes for the most people who are obese. This will doubtlessly create a new round of jokes about our ability to come third in everything, but it is probably correct that other countries have estimated their obese population in ways which understates the problem. Nevertheless, in the debate we return to the issue of how to alter our environment to make it easier for people to exercise, and included in the suggestions is increasing safe cycle ways so children can cycle to school.
We spend so much helping people not to exercise. Yesterday at the public library, the recently build car park was half full while a driver looking for all the world like a bank robber outside the bank ready for a fast get away, patiently waited outside the door to the library. Presumably his goal was to enable his passenger to walk even less distance. As my son and I left, his place was taken by a parent dropping off her daughter. The car park was still only half full and the cycle rack had one bicycle. How do we make this approach look bizarre and the alternative of having these children cycle to the library look more normal?
The National Cycleway, now a series of discrete projects like the Otago Rail Trail, is aimed at tourists and people who cycle for recreation, Fortunately the British experience is that the majority of people who use these cycleways are locals who use them for day to day transport.

The end of the trail for cycleways

I was one of the people surprised to learn that the National Government of New Zealand had endorsed the New Zealand Cycle Trails proposal in the Prime Minister’s jobs summit in 2009.   We would expect The Green Party or, at a pinch, Labour to promote such policies but, as a party representing business interests, National should not have been interested.
For example, the Minister of Transport, Stephen Joyce, promotes Roads of National Significance and will not support maintaining the rail network or the Auckland Rail Network.  Roads and motorised transport occupy his attention and the goal is to have better, faster roads with less congestion.  The reason is not hard to see, the financial backers of the National Party do not ride bicycles nor do they use public transport.  With guaranteed car parking why should senior executives or board members worry about cycling to work?  The car is probably paid for by the company as well.
Rod Oram, in a column in the Sunday Star Times 22 April 2012, Riding rings around policy, looks at the cycle trails policy with a fresh eye.  The assumption with so many of the proposals for new cycle trails is based on the assumption that they can duplicate the success of the Otago Rail Trail.  This trail is very popular and the riders have generated a new source of revenue for the communities along its route.  Oram points out that routes such as the St James Trail and the Dun Mountain Trail are more costly to construct.  The Otago Rail Trail uses a disused railway line required few earthworks.  It runs through existing population centres where there are existing buildings which can be adapted to tourist accommodation and draws its work force from the same community.  Another trail requiring a road to be constructed and in addition new accommodation as well as bringing in a workforce into what are sparsely populated communities, will require a greater input of capital and so may prove to be uneconomic right from the start.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lycra looms large

In an earlier post we examined the issue of how female cyclists dress and the impact that has on whether women will take up cycling. It seems lycra may be a bigger issue than we first imagined. For every person who wants to show off their latest outfit and the value of fluorescent colours in dazzle patterns to improve visibility, there is at least one other citizen who shies away fro cycling gear and cycling as well. a 2010 study by Dr Chris Rissel of the University of Sydney wprking with Michelle Daley of the Sydney South West Area Health Service reveals that how we perceptive cyclists determines whether we take up the sport.

The actions of some people riding bicycles were sometimes seen as negative, and the lycra-clad image of cyclists put some people off because they didn't identify with it or thought it a turn-off.

The study also confirmed what we have noticed that recreational cycling is seen as acceptable by most people. Slightly less acceptable is cycling for sport or exercise, even though this group probably makes up the majority who ride Taupo each November.

At the other extreme , cycling for business, i.e. bicycle couriers, were seen as far less approachable and cycling as a way to commute to work is regarded as bizarre.

Dr Rissel says: "We can use this information to encourage more people to cycle. We need to improve the status of transport cycling,"

You can read a full report here:

As I see it, the problem is not that we did not know this before. The problem is how we move to confront these attitudes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wheelie, wheelie angry

There has been a noticeable campaign in the media to document and highlight the road rage and inconsiderate behaviour of cyclists on our local roads. That reached a new high today when the Honourable Trevor Mallard, Member of Parliament for Pencarrow was reported to have kicked the bag of a driver who had just been in an incident with a group of cyclists, including Mr Mallard.
This is not surprising given Mr Mallard's interest in cycling and his reputation as a hot head, but the whole campaign to paint cyclists as the bad boys on our streets runs in the face of the reports of cyclists injured and even killed in collisions with cars. The opposite is almost inconceivable.
I picked up today a quote by Zoe Williams in The Guardian 4th February 2006:
“There is something about the miscreant cyclist that seems to get people more exercised than they are about the misbehaving motorist…When people get into cars, their metal encasement turns them into robots in our minds, and we’re grateful to them for any act of courtesy. We’re grateful that they don’t deliberately kill children, then laugh a rasping, metallic laugh…[Cyclists] are more civic-minded than anyone else travelling in any other manner, bar by foot. If they do run into someone, they at least (like the bee) do their victim the favour of hurting themselves in the process, which is why, if you had any sense, you’d save your hatred for the motorist, who (like the wasp) injures without care.”
As well as demonstrating that this campaign of blaming the cyclist has an international quality, Zoe Williams makes a very pertinent point.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Feel like a twit on a bike

29 July 2009-
One of the interesting things which makes following new media so interesting is how users find new uses for the medium which were never envisioned by the developers of the original application. Another example to appear in this northern summer is Twitter and bicycles. While it isn't safe to tweet while cycling, any more than it isn't safe to text while driving, if you happen to be unable to cycle. then perhaps tweeting is more than just OK.

Cyclists in Boston, Massachusssetts have a new weapon in their
arsenal against bike thieves - Twitter. The Stolen Bike Alert programme, run by Boston Bikes, a department of the City of Boston, sends an
alert to police, local bike shops, hospitals, schools and subscribers when a
bike is reported stolen . The alerts are sent via Twitter, Facebook or email,
instantly raising awareness of the stolen bike.

more here:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Driving with blinkers

When horse drawn carriages were the preferred method of getting around town, horses which were inclined to be skittish would be fitted with blinkers, short flaps of leather which restricted the horse's peripheral vision and so decreased the likelihood of the horse rearing or bolting. It often seems to me that policy makers in transportation feel more comfortable wearing their own metaphorical blinkers.
In the current recession, there has been much talk of stimulating the national economy by improving the infrastructure. When it comes to transport infrastructure so many people think only of roads. They do not consider there are other means of land transport like rail, walking and cycling. What makes this blinkered attitude so frustrating is that cycleways and footpaths don't cost as much to build as roads. We get more bangs for our buck if we put the money into these types of infrastructure.
When we read the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development's report on transport infrastructure needs, we see not just an obsession with roading, but also with roading which will reduce congestion. The cost to the economy from road congestion is much less than the cost from road crashes caused by poorly designed roads, yet making roads safer is not the major concern of the Council. If we wanted a quick way to reduce congestion then improving cycling and walking facilities will produce a better result because cycleways are quicker and easier to build and a bicycle takes up lass space than a car.
The detractors of the National Cycleway project seem to be long on derision and short on argument. The experience of the National Cycle Network in Great Britain is that a route developed primarily for tourism and recreation soon becomes the preferred route for people commuting to work or using their bicyles for other transportation purposes like shopping.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fashion on wheels

While traffic engineers experiment with cycle lanes and traffic calming, social researchers are suggesting that perhaps a better approach might be to ask that old question: What do women want? .

In an article in The Guardian, Helen Pidd quotes some significant statistics from Sustrans that 79% of British women do not cycle at all even though 43% have access to a bike. In the article she suggests that perhaps one reason for this situation is the fact that cycling clothes make women look as if they have "been attacked by a highlighter pen". She goes on to talk about clothing designers such as Cyclodelic who have recently secured an agreement for the British retail chain, Topshop to stock their products. The implication is that looking good while cycling may encourage more women to cycle.
Certainly cycle clothing for women riders has been a significant issue in the past. Patricia Grimshaw, in her landmark book, Women's Suffrage in New Zealand, on the struggle for universal suffrage in New Zealand traces the beginning of the movement to a group of cyclists in Christchurch. lead by Kate Shepherd. The problem was that women's clothing in the late Nineteenth Century did not lend itself to cycling. Mrs Amelia Bloomer's radical proposal made in the 1850s, now the object of popular derision, did not gain the approval of the leaders of the community and so encouraged resistance by women to attitudes which restricted them and limited what they could do.
Cycling then lead to a major social reform but can it now lead to a major environmental and health reform by making cycling attractive to women? I had not heard before now that looking unfashionable was the reason most women do not cycle. Yet we have groups like Frocks on bikes who promote women riding bicycles without having to "lycra up" and a growing number of bicycle chic websites and blogs. Have we had it wrong all this time?

Meanwhile, the Beauty and the Bike project is getting girls back on bikes in the UK: . And Taiwan's "godmother of the bicycle", Bonnie Tu (executive vice-presidentand chief financial officer of Giant Bicycles), is on a mission to end maledominance in bike design: