Friday, October 9, 2009

The Fear of Cycling

The folks over at Copenhagenize recently posted a series of articles about the Fear of Cycling.

We've enlisted the help of sociologist Dave Horton, from Lancaster University, as a guest writer. Dave has written a brilliant assessment of Fear of Cycling in an essay and we're well pleased that he fancies the idea of a collaboration. We'll be presenting Dave's essay in five parts.

It's a very good read and does a good job of explaining why some of the things we do to make cycling safer, may not always have the desired affect.

Fear of Cycling - Part 01 - Introduction
Fear of Cycling - Part 02 - Constructing Fear of Cycling / Road Safety 'Education'
Fear of Cycling - Part 03 - Helmet Promotion Campaigns
Fear of Cycling - Part 04 - New Cycling Spaces
Fear of Cycling - Part 05 - Making Cycling Strange

Keep in mind, that although the author of these articles backs up many of his statements with research, it is still largely an opinion article.  Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.


Don Kuhns said...

Cultural attitudes toward cycling seem to be a bit different in the UK(and big cities like New York) than here. Here in the heartland, the stigma attached to cyclists is less that of the menacing lawbreaker. Here the dominant stereotype is the bicycle dork. Hollywood is a major contributor to this attitude. Think "Napoleon Dynamite", "21", "The 40-Year Old Virgin", "Peewee's Big Adventure", and of course Jan Brady. I try to fight this stereotype by dressing as cool as possible whenever I ride. I'm basically a King of Leon on wheels.

All the talk of scapegoating in this article did nothing to allay my fear of road riding. Now I'm worried that I'll become a target of right wing anti-environmentalist rage.

dale said...

Well that took a couple coffees to read through. 8-) I often found the comments more illucidating than the sometimes cryptic writing of Mr. Horton, especially in the latter parts.

The idea of moving responsibility for safety from the car driver who has power of life and death in his hands to the cyclists told to watch out and fear the car was enlightening. Responsibility for safety should be primary with the person who has the power to kill, not the pedestrian or cyclist. The idea that the road is for the people, not the car. The car is a tool that must be used safely.

From this series and Pedaling Revolution, I have been sensitized to the dominant position of autos in society and law compared to cyclists and pedestrians. Seeing things from a minority and weak (power, danger wise) position has changed how I drive a car. In Breckenridge,CO, cars are held responsible and their respect or fear of prosecution causes much better treatment people on or crossing the road.

In the end, cyclists and autos need to respect one another. Yes, autos shouldn't be in such a hurry, but neither should we ride 15 mph in a 45 and expect not to irritate someone when they can't pass for a while.

Seems the "vehicular cyclists" are concerned about loosing the right or acceptability of riding on many roads because autos think they should ride bicycle infrastructure only. This make sense since I occassionally hear it from an irrate driver.

Vehicular cyclists argue it is better to integrate with cars rather than agree to segregation.

There are safety issues on multiuse paths like the Keystone. Bikes become the dangerous vehicle and we have to slow done to pass pedestrians safely. A 15mph cyclist passing a 5mph walker. The shoe is on the other foot and I see a lot of cyclists who drive as poorly as a few autos. Though no pedestrian has been killed by a bike in Omaha that I know of, interestingly, Pedaling Revolution mentioned a few in Portland.

I have become more comfortable riding on roads but can remember not wanting a road bike because of the fear of cars. I find it interesting how many riders gather for a recreational or training road ride but will not use the bicycle for transportation.

The keystone is great for recreational riders but to commute or bike for transportation, one has to be willing to ride on roads. Even if east-west bike paths could be built, one eventually has to ride on the street, with or without a bike lane.

In that sense, I think it is wise to use 25mph neighborhood streets where possible for through routes, or less used or slower paced routes like the new one to Benson - Burt, 40th, Hamilton, Military.

I also think longer routes that minimize climbing are more friendly than shorter, steeper routes. From 132nd and Fort, one can go west through Benson, or west through Dundee, or west over Leavenworth to downtown and they all take about the same amount of time even though Leavenworth is a mile or two longer. Its because it has the lest amount of climbing and the grades are not as steep.

How to get more transportaion cyclists active without a "path" centric infrastructure? Economics is the biggest motivating force. Gas will have to go up. Parking spaces need to go up.

We who ride roads need to encourage other cyclists. We need to show them the ropes.

The more reasons, destinations one ride a bike to, the more life style change is needed. The less car centric one becomes, the less mainstream one becomes.

The status quo is not sustainable for a healthy environment or body. The bicycle is pro health.

Thanks Bob for bringing this series to our attention.