I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of things are being framed as a dichotomy. For example, a post appeared on Cycling in Auckland a while ago that drew heated debate. Its premise was that, if you’re trying to get more people on bikes, the current focus on infrastructure is pretty well pointless and we should be trying to develop a bike culture instead.
So is it really a question of one or the other?
Here’s what I think. If I look back on my own experience of starting to ride again, it was bike culture that caught my attention and it was infrastructure that convinced me to do it.
In – I think – May 2010 the Dominion Post ran a two-page spread in their lifestyle pull-out featuring Mamachari bikes, Laurie Foon and a whole lot of other cycle chic stuff. Until then I hadn’t really considered that I might be able to cycle with my clothes on. I’d assumed skirts and dresses couldn’t be done, and for someone who’s rarely in anything else that was a big deal.
I already had an exceptionally stylish friend who rode everywhere, so I met up with him and we talked about bikes and clothes and what might be possible. He pointed out that my home was at one end of the waterfront and my work was at the other, so if I wanted to bike my commute I’d be as safe as houses.
About a month later I saw a bike on Trade Me, and, loving its look but knowing nothing whatsoever about it’s quality, took the plunge and bought it. My friend came around, checked everything was working and took me for a ride along the waterfront.
I loved it! I felt so safe, but I also felt like I was floating. I refused to go home after our first venture up Oriental Bay and back, so we went exploring along the waterfront right up to the concourse at Westpac Stadium.
Having those twin pillars of culture and infrastructure made all the difference for me, so I don’t think I can buy in to any debate that holds one above the other. We need them both if we’re going to make cycling ordinary.