As part of the team working towards an inclusive cycling policy for London I gave a short presentation to the LCC Policy Forum this week. You’ll find the draft doc along with the other excellent presentations here.
This is what I remembered/meant/forgot to say.
Is there a connection between narrow, filtered permeability and the kind of imagery regularly used to represent cycling?
The simplest form of filtered permeability to restrict four wheeled motor vehicles is the well placed bollard. From there it’s a descending continuum through the not so well placed bollard, the crappily placed bollard in a narrow gap between kerbstones, to the tortuous steel chicane that doubles to slow bikes and people down.
As a rule, a cyclist riding a standard two wheeled bike can negotiate these without getting off, or in the worst cases by just dabbing a foot down for security. Sometimes it appears over-engineered but as filtered permeability for two-wheeled bicycles goes it’s annoying but it works. No problem.
The chap copy-pasted onto that urban alpine switchback wouldn’t have any problem with the filtered permeability above. Of course he wouldn’t, because it’s been designed with him in mind. And there’s the rub, on the whole people designing bike infrastructure have the same mental image of a cyclist as British Cycling.
The big bike organisations know full well trikes and handbikes exist – British Cycling run a Paralympic team and CTC manage inclusive cycling centres – but when it comes to campaigning for bike use in the everyday world of transport they default to illustrating their message of everyday cycling with images like Johnny Helms’ Baz.
Saying or writing “for everyone, regardless of age or ability” isn’t enough. I think I’ve agreed with everything Chris Boardman has ever said in support of bikes as transport, he regularly hits the nail on the head, but are the people he’s trying to influence receiving the same message as me?
A whole industry has grown up around specifying projects and products in a way that avoids what are often costly but usually very simple misunderstandings. If you describe an object to three different people and ask them each to sketch it you’ll get three different interpretations shaped by their personality, knowledge and experience. That’s communication – easy to say, hard to do.
So guys, you need to illustrate what you’re saying in a way that covers the range of people you’re representing. It not only matters to disabled cyclists but to everyone using tandems, trailer bikes and cargo bikes. This says it pretty well I think…
We need a national awareness campaign for the bike orgs, the bike media and the bike industry to ‘Think! Cyclist’ until they’ve demonstrated they can represent the diversity of cyclists out there using bikes as mobility aids on a daily basis. For many reasons cycling has an image problem, perhaps regurgitating the same, stereotypical image isn’t the best way to change that.
At least things are ticking along nicely in London at the moment through Wheels for Wellbeing. The cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan has been assimilated into the world of handbikes and through TfL’s Brian Deegan a specification for an inclusive bike along with recommendations for its environment have been input into the London Cycling Design Standards.
We’re currently looking at how the Equality Act can benefit not just disabled people but anyone using a bike on the street that deviates in some way from the classic two-wheeled solo bicycle. And that doesn’t necessarily mean deploying it, but simply making people aware of it and helping them to interpret it and understand their obligations to it. Cooperation more than coercion. We want to say goodbye to monstrosities like this in a cycle network…