Why urban-appropriate styles of bicycles and their associated technologies are a prerequisite to enabling the uptake of utility style cycling by a broader demographic than that to which it is currently limited in New Zealand.
Reproduced from https://sites.google.com/site/urbanbicycles/technologies/utility-style-bicycles/urbanappropriate with kind permission.
Imagine how few people would feel inclined to drive cars in New Zealand if we were limited to driving Formula 1 racing cars, go-carts, rally cars and stock cars.
Maybe as few as currently ride bicycles here… with bicycles designed for recreational use being presented as virtually the only option for use on flat city roads while would-be cyclists are deprived of the more appropriate ‘alternatives’ that have made cycling practical , comfortable, convenient and reliable for the vast masses of cyclists in the countries where cycling is prevalent.
There is a disappointingly restrictive lack of variety in the choice of appropriate cycling technologies being offered by all but a small handful of cycle retailers in New Zealand. Consequently mountain bikes prevail in our cities which are for the most part dead flat.
Imagine not being able to carry anything with you in your car – like mountain bikes and road racers which are rarely set up to carry anything. Having your bicycle fitted with baskets and other carrying devices will enable you to use it for things you now use your car for. You can even get a trailer for your bike.
The utility style bicycles which are the choice of the vast majority of cyclists in Europe and Japan are frequently fitted with baskets and other carrying devices (to carry kids, tools, shopping etc). Check out this little video on shopping by bicycle from Assen in the Netherlands.
Seeing and being seen
Imagine having to attach battery powered lights to your car whenever you wanted to drive at night, -and then having the batteries run out out in the middle of your journey! The bikes currently being sold in New Zealand are [mostly – Ed.] not fitted with internal hub dynamos to power bright halogen or LED lights and cyclists here have to endure battery powered lights which are often designed more to be seen than to actually see with.
Having permanently fixed internal hub-dynamo-powered halogen or LED lights with a capacitor to keep them going at intersections helps to make cycling much more convenient ( no worries about forgetting or fitting lights), reliable ( no flat batteries) practicable (see in the dark) , and safe (be seen).
By de:User:Ralf Roletschek Fahrradmonteur.de (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons
Internal hub-dynamo technologies have been perfected over the years to provide reliable, silent battery-free electricity without causing drag and they are a key feature in making cycling at night much more convenient , reliable , safe and practicable.
Reelights from Denmark generate their own electricity from magnets placed in the spokes. [Check Trade Me, they do sometimes come up]. The old tyre-burner style dynamos that cyclists used to use in New Zealand have been long been superceded by more efficient technologies.
Internal hub gearing systems
Internal 3, 4, 7 or 8 speed gearing systems manufactured by companies such as Sturmey-Archer and Shimano are the prevalent choice of cyclists in Europe and Japan as opposed to the dérailleur systems which are the only choice being offered by 99.9% of cycle retailers in New Zealand.
[Note: Internal hub gears have a greater range than the numbers suggest. A 7-speed is equivalent to a 12-speed derailleur, and an 8-speed is equivalent to a 21-speed. There is also a 14-gear hub available, the Rohloff Speedhub, which is equivalent to a 27-speed derailleur – Ed.]
Low maintenance internal hub gearing systems are more appropriate for riding in urban environments especially because gears can be changed very quickly to respond to the stop/go situations that cyclists often find themselves in on city streets.
Gears can also be changed while stationary whereas the dérailleur system used on mountain bikes necessitates that riders change gear while moving before entering a situation,-which can be a bit tricky when riding in the midst of motor vehicles. Losing your chain when trying to get out of the way of a car could be fatal.
Staying clean and dry
Imagine being sprayed with water and mud because your car didn’t have mudguards… Well, mountain bikes and road racers don’t come fitted with mudguards either.
By Frank C. Müller (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Having mudguards, chain-guards and skirt/coat-guards make cycling much more practicable as you won’t have to worry about getting wet, dirty or having the leg of your trousers or your frock [or your rain coat/trench coat/whatever] caught up and ripped by the chain or the back wheel.
By Spitebrown (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The bikes used by the vast majority of cyclists wherever cycling is prevalent are fitted with mudguards, chain-guards and in many places with skirt/coat-guards.
By http://www.flickr.com/photos/ubrayj02/ [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Imagine not having a horn in your car! But we hardly ever see bicycle bells on bicycles in New Zealand, and it seems that pedestrians are so unfamiliar with the sound of a bicycle bell that they don’t know how they should react when they hear one. I’ve even heard that bicycle importers remove the bells from bicycles when they arrive in New Zealand… go figure!
Having a bell ( or other warning device) fitted to your bicycle is an absolute essential for sharing space with pedestrians. Bicycles in countries where cycling are prevalent are usually fitted with at least a bell – and they are used frequently.
Bring back the bicycle bell!
Imagine having to get a chain out to lock your car up every time you got out of it. Cyclists in New Zealand have to endure many inconveniences with relation to securing their bikes,-even when stopping for a short time to pop into a shop etc…
In Europe and Japan bicycle wheels can be locked with either a snap lock that closes around the wheel or one that is attached to the frame and pokes in through the spokes to stop the wheel from turning. Of course these don’t prevent the bike from getting carried away by your more determined bicycle theif but they’re a lot less inconvenient for short stops than having to use wire locks.
Another recent innovation: cell-phone-activated frame locks.
The bicycle stands that are attached to bicycles in New Zealand are often of the type that leave the bike teetering precariously. In Europe and Japan many bikes are fitted with centrally balanced kick-back stands that ensure that the bike stays standing.
If you’d prefer to be using any of these , be sure to let your local cycle retailer know.
For a list of suppliers of European style urban appropriate bicycles in New Zealand, click here.
Other obstacles impeding the uptake of cycling in New Zealand
Imagine having to wear a helmet whenever you get into a car. (Actually there are studies which show that there is more of a case for the compulsory wearing of helmets for occupants of cars than there is for cyclists). Cyclists in New Zealand are forced to wear a helmet at all times.
While 100 million cyclists in the Europe Union, 86 million in Japan and all other countries in the world where cycling is prevalent are not subject to laws forcing them to wear helmets because their governments know that the imposition of such laws results in fewer people cycling. [Israel and Mexico City have recently revoked their compulsory helmet laws on the grounds that helmet compulsion was incompatible with stated goals of increasing transport cycling].
Imagine being compelled by the law to drive your car on a truck racing circuit while being prohibited from driving in the quiet back streets. A terrifying prospect perhaps – but on a different scale, this is the kind of environment that the law compels cyclists to ride in on many of New Zealands busy urban roads,- while denying us the choice of using the existing network of segregated facilities ( i.e. those currently designated as ‘footpaths’).
Having access to segregated cycling facilities is a prerequisite to many people getting on their bikes. In Europe it is understood that segregated cycle lanes are a prerequisite for getting the general population cycling. (See Making Cycling Irresistable )
In Japan cyclists are free to share footpaths with pedestrians- even in areas of high density pedestrian traffic.
If you can see the sense in getting segregated cycling facilities installed in your area, be sure to make a submission to your Local, Territorial and Regional Council’s Annual, LTCCP and Sustainable Transport Plans.
It will never happen if you don’t.