Take the good with the bad, and the happy with the sad.
(Originally published: 4/20/12)
I’ve come a long way from where I started with my research, to where I am now. I discovered a lot more about the progression of cycling in the US and how it didn’t necessarily match up to my original assumptions.
I also gained supplemental insight on particular aspects of cycling progression through the expertise and knowledge of my interviewees that I might not have unveiled on my own.
One thing that surprised me is that there is not just one overarching, predominant, negative stereotype of cyclists and even the activity of cycling itself. Bill Nesper, VP for the League of American Bicyclists, informed me that the range of stereotypes is vast and each one is significantly counterproductive for cycling progression:
“People think that their traveling distances are much farther. This is just not going to work. There’s a pervasive perception that their trips are too far, too hard, and too dangerous.”
Besides trip distance, danger, and physical exertion, many people are exposed to ads and articles in the media that cause cognitive dissonance with regards to cycling.
For example, this article posted on Cracked.com breaks down why riding a bike is “the most humiliating exercise.” If I was just getting into cycling and happened to stumble upon this article, I would feel ashamed that I even considered touching a bike with a 10-foot pole.
Or, better yet, this article found on the New York Post‘s website starts off with the sensationalist title:
WHOA. That’s a bit scary. With a title like that, the article must go into detail about how social deviants ride around with scythed wheels, oil slick defense mechanisms, and obnoxious, barbed wire capes all while plowing through a herd of innocent civilians and laughing maniacally. Right?
Half-way through the article the columnist reveals that the Department of Transportation believes that injuries from cars are a lot more frequent and severe, stating that the injuries from bikes are “actually a pretty low number”.
Last but not least, the ad campaign that reinforces the idea that cycling is dangerous if not on a closed-course, riding a bike with training wheels.
I don’t honestly believe that the intention of the campaign was to portray cycling as dangerous; however, it displays a worst-case scenario that is anything but appealing.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Kevin Fowler, the co-founder of Portage Cyclery, who not only elaborated on various, logical approaches to promote cycling, but also inspired me to continue my research:
“It starts with the educational process — handing out brochures to help people understand traffic obedience. As we develop infrastructure, problems will become fewer and fewer.”
Mr. Fowler was also kind enough to share with me how cycling has personally affected his life. He explained that his previous career was extremely fast-paced, and how cycling helped him learn to slow down and “really enjoy life.”
He has also noted a few changes in the acceptance of cyclist on the road, saying that they are: “more frequent,” a “reflection of what we see in the world today,” leading to a “kinder, gentler world,” and even discussed about when he never saw bicycles on the road at all.
With the fluctuation of opinions being from praise to repulsion, I want to seek out the opinions of real Londoners. I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly about the cycling situation in London.
I want to talk to experts who can give me an outside-looking-in perspective on the progression of cycling in the US, and how we’re doing thus far.
Oh, and, how could I forget: I want to cycle around the city myself and get a taste of what London can teach me through first-hand experience.
That being said, I hope to see you out there.