23 January 2018

If He Doesn't Think It Should Require Bravery, Why Should You?

"Riding a bicycle or crossing a street shouldn't require bravery."

I'm told that your insurance premiums increase automatically if you try to do either on Queens Boulevard.  But the words that opened this post weren't uttered by a fellow resident of my NYC borough.

That person also said he wants to see a network of cycle and walking routes "a 12-year-old would want to use".  

He explained "people do the easiest thing", so whatever is created to encourage cycling and walking must be "easy, attractive and safe--all three, in that order".  Otherwise, it will be all but impossible to entice drivers in his city--where 30 percent of all car trips are less than one kilometer in length--to trade four wheels for two wheels or feet.

Our cycling/pedestrian advocate isn't trying to turn his city into Portland.  Rather, he wants to alleviate its traffic problems, and to reduce levels of air pollution and obesity--which, he wisely points out, will save far greater amounts of money than would be initially spent on a practical, safe network of bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

That last argument could gain more traction in his country, which has a single-payer (i.e., taxpayer-funded) system of health care, than in the US or other nations with profit-driven health care systems.  

You might have guessed by now that the fellow is on the other side of the Atlantic.  Right you are:  He is British, and the city he's talking about is his home town of Manchester.

That fellow is Greater Manchester's Cycling and Walking Commissioner and a British Cycling policy advisor.  But you probably know him better for his exploits while pedaling on a world stage.

I am talking about none other than an Olympic Gold Medalist,erstwhile Hour Record holder and winner of six Tour de France stages:  Chris Boardman.  

If he doesn't think riding a bicycle or crossing a street should require bravery, why should you--or anyone else?


  1. I agree with him, but I know he hasn't yet won the argument inside his own organisation, British Cycling, which still forces people to wear helmets on non-competitive rides, far in excess of what they're required to do for sporting events (where UCI set the rules), and many of its local groups contain some of the most vocal opponents of infrastructure because they still think it would be the first step in banning cycles from the roads - apparently without noticing that most people have already been bullied off most roads.

    The non-sports Cycling UK has a more balanced view and I hope one day Mr Boardman will bring British Cycling to the same.

  2. Mr. Jay--Too often, sport and utility (or simply pleasure) cyclists are seen, or see themselves, in opposition when we should be working for the same things. Our disunity is one of the reasons why well-intentioned folks who know nothing about cycling design such bad infrastructure and why those who simply hate cyclists make all sorts of irrational rules and policies.