Saturday, 17 September 2011

Critical Mass

We saw a film recently where the protagonist gets knocked over and killed while riding a bike.  I won't say any more, as I hate spoilers to films & TV programmes, however, as the film finished, R turned to me and said "I don't ever want the girls to ride bikes on the road."  It wasn't a conversational opener, it was a statement of fact.  It wasn't going to happen.  Ever.

In other words, not matter how environmentally responsible I may think it is, riding bikes on the road is not going to become one of those "things we do".  Riding in the cemetary, OK, riding on roads, not OK.

Regular cyclists will no doubt disagree, but there is a perception that riding bikes on main roads is a dangerous thing to do.  While writing the School Run piece on Thursday, I saw a great cartoon where the mum puts the kids in the car, saying "it's too dangerous to walk to school, too many cars".  This is the nub of the issue - people think it's too dangerous to walk or cycle, so make it so by driving their cars.

We need a critical mass of people to walk or cycle, especially during rush-hour, to encourage traditionally non-cyclists and non-walkers to dip their toe into the water.  Until that happens, the roads will stay clogged during the school run and rush-hour times.

On a positive note, the Tour of Britain is in Norfolk today; according to the EDP's website, "participation cycling" has grown by 100,000 people in two years.  Maybe if those 100,000 and more would cycle to work, it might become more appealing for everyone else!


  1. You are absolutely right, Jon - but I can't see it happening until we make much better provision for cyclists. Some roads are OK to cycle on but most journeys around Norwich include a section where cyclists are very exposed - not helped by the aggressive behavior of a minority of car drivers.

    Cars and bikes don't mix on fast roads and even less at junctions -

  2. Another TV show mentioned on cycling blogs is the cop show Van der Valk - I am just about old enough to remember this, my memories are it had a wonderful theme tune, but absolutely zero *action* in comparison with the Sweeney and the Professionals (other popular shows of those days) - though of course being pre-watershed in times of stronger censorship this is not surprising. (apparently there was *one* car chase, and a gun was fired once (off screen)).

    However its often used to point out that the Netherlands excellent cycling facilities are very recent - (the film of Amsterdam used for the opening of Van Der Valk predates these) they started in our living memory of the 1970s rather than in the 1940s or 1950s, and its used to illustrate how quickly attitudes changed in NL (a country only just opposite us on the north Sea..)