Monday, July 18, 2011

So, you want to encourage cycling.

You hear a lot of ideas about why cycling isn't as popular as it should be and, specifically, why more people aren't encouraged to start cycling. Helmet laws are, in my experience, the #1 reason that people think is discouraging to new cyclist. I have a different theory, though. This is partly to do with my own personal experiences cycling on the road and also to do with the fact that my brain can't cope with the idea of people being so completely stupid that the 10 seconds it takes to put a helmet on would be enough to put them off.

I think the answer is, wherever possible, segregated bike lanes. Like the ones they have in China. I think these are a good idea for the same reason that slow lanes in swimming pools are a good idea. If you've ever been a slow swimmer who accidentally found yourself in the fast lane, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's intimidating.

See, cars are SCARY. Having a care overtake you, when you can't see them coming due to the lack of mirrors, is scary! It's frightening enough when it happens at under 50km/hr on a small suburban street, let alone at 60+km/hr on a main road. Add to that the complete lack of crumple zone and you've got a terrifying scenario.

Having cars cut you off, nearly hit you because they aren't giving way, beep loudly at you and drivers swear at you is alarming, particularly if you're only new, doing your best and obeying the road rules as best you can.

I'm fortunate enough to be as stubborn as I am, but anyone who is less timid than I would not like this cycling thing one little bit.

If new cyclists, the ones with no experience riding on the road, are to be encouraged, then they need to feel SAFE. The way to make them feel safe is to not make them feel like they are in the way of traffic and a danger to themselves and everyone else around them.

I think that infrastructure is the best possible answer to this, and I'm not the only one.


  1. If we had segregated bike lanes, we wouldn't really need helmets, would we? :)

    In a perfect world, bike facilities and roads WOULD be totally separate and there'd be a segregated bike lane wherever there's a road. But in actuality... not everyone lives in cities and there's not enough money to maintain the few bike facilities that do exist. So, yes, bike lanes, but even more than that we need to educate the DRIVERS that bikes exist and are allowed on roads. I forget what it is, but some crazy percentage of American drivers just straight up don't think it's legal to ride on the road. And unless that perfect one-lane-for-every-road dream world comes into existence, riding on the road is a fact of life and the burden of education should be on the person in the two-ton weapon. (Not, of course, that everyone shouldn't be educated but IMHO most bikers know the road rules better than most drivers.)

    Also, there ARE rearview mirrors for bikes! I don't have one myself, because I don't have much trouble hearing traffic behind me, but I think they'd be very useful for people just starting out in traffic.

  2. You think the only way to fall off your bike is if a car hits you?

    That's true of a lot of drivers in Australia too, I've been shouted at to "get back on the footpath you retard".

    I'm thinking of getting a mirror for mine. It'd make me feel a lot safer, the only problem would be if it makes my hitbox bigger.

  3. I was just going to mention that there are other ways to fall off a bike. I've had dogs run at me, I've had kids appear from nowhere, heck I've even fallen off my bike while standing still just through sheer incompetence :-p

    Being segregated from the cars will certainly make helmets *less* necessary, but there will still be other hazards that can cause you to hit your head on the concrete.