08 December 2014

The World's Worst Place To Ride...And He Would Know

I started reading Bicycling! magazine as a teenager in the mid-1970s.  I came in, so to speak, for John Rakowski's around-the-world bike tour.  Every month's issue included another installment of his epic ride, whether in India or Afghanistan or South America. 

As I recall, after three years and something like 50,000 kilometers of riding, he made a list of "favorite" and "least favorite", "best" and "worst", among other categories.

The former included countries (As I recall, Spain and Thailand were among his favorites.) while the latter included food, beer and cycling conditions.

As far as I know, Thomas Andersen has not yet made such a list.  But he has declared a "worst", as in "worst place for cyclists".  That distinction, he says, belongs to Australia. He singles out Sydney for particular criticism, saying he was shocked by the regular abuse from drivers.  "Australia has wonderful people, but some just don't like cyclists," he says.

Thomas Andersen in Sydney

Andersen is following in Rakowski's tire tracks and circumventing the globe on two wheels.  He's pedaled over 30,000 miles in 25 countries and is now pedaling through Ecuador. 

"In most countries, people drive fast but are usually happy enough to give some space to a cyclist on the road," Thomas says.  "I think the worst attitude I met toward cyclists was the day I cycled into Sydney in Australia."

He believes that one reason for such hostility is the lack of infrastructure.  For example, he cites the lack of lanes. "You have them for a bit, and then a gap."  Such a lack of continuity makes it difficult for cycling to develop as a viable means of transportation, he says.

But another reason he gives is, in my opinion, far more relevant.  In Denmark, his home country, many people cycle to work and for recreation.  On the other hand, he says, he saw few cyclists in Sydney or the rest of Australia, where he cycled some 5000 kilometers.

In previous posts, I have said that having such a critical mass, if you will, of cyclists, is far more important than bike lanes or signs or anything else for improving cyclists' safety and causing the bicycle to be seen as a viable means of transportation.  More cyclists brings more awareness of cycling, as greater numbers of motorists are likely to be, or more recently have been, cyclists.

I don't recall that John Rakowski had a "worst place for cyclists" on his lists.  If he had, I wonder whether he would have agreed with Thomas Andersen.

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