People cycle for different reasons and many people cycle. The number of cyclists, at least in Australia seems to be slowly, but visibly growing. It follows then that there must be lots of reasons to cycle. So, what are the pivotal reasons? What are the things that could transform a potential cyclist, into an avid one?
The main barrier to cycling, I believe, is the perceived risk to life and limb. Whether it be a real risk from poorly designed bicycle lanes, unaware or belligerent car drivers, or simply the unqualified perception that it is dangerous. There are so many real and imagined barriers to getting on the path to cycling that there must be some strong reasons and a high value outcome to balance out the potential risks. Good experiences of cycling for many seasoned cyclists probably creates a strong “it won’t happen to me” factor with years of experience under their belt. But if you were new to the concept and needed a little nudge in the right direction – What would it be? Why cycle?
As an adult, I started because I thought it was appropriate (not alternative) transport. It felt like a political decision and, at the time, I set about recycling bicycles and selling them cheaply to work toward a ‘critical mass’ of cyclists in my area – the project was called 101 bikes for Newcastle. Back then I felt that riding a bicycle was a statement about being independent, environmentally friendly and smart about transport. In most respects I still do.
Just to be clear about how hypocritical I have been in the past 20 years I will list the cars I have owned.
1965 Mercedes 230 (6cyl)
1970 Jensen Interceptor mk2
Triumph Spitfire (mk1)
1974 Citroen D Special
Daimler 250 V8
I am bragging of course. I like cars, but know they are problematic when it comes to everyday use. Anyway – I am digressing. What got me out of these stylish cars and back on my bike? Cycling is fun and the little bit of practical fitness it provides keeps my body from seizing up and keeps me from the mental doldrums. Cycling seems to be the cure for what ails me. I’m sure I am not alone with these thoughts and motivations.
If there was a single activity that galvanised me as a Cyclist, once i’d started, it would be cycle touring. There a few things better than cycle touring – and all are too obscene to mention here – anyway, don’t just take it from me – get out and try it – It is absolutely awesome!
So how to get started? Is it an event like “Bike Hour” or is it a “commuter buddy scheme” where you mentor a cyclist along the safe routes in and around your neighbourhood? Is it worth getting involved with your local cycling lobby group and pushing for better infrastructure? This could take forever and won’t gain much traction unless there are already many bottoms on bike sets. I think I’ve done all these at various times and now I am coming back to the potency of the simple evangelical act of cycling. To be fair, it’s probably all these things – but the one thing that you can do everyday – the one thing that might make a difference – is getting out there and proving it can be done!
In short, as I am writing this down, I have come to the conclusion that you and I should ride for two, or even three. Ride to work in a suit, then ride home to change into something more casual and ride in again – It may just be the best way forward (and back again).