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Bike riding and the End of Civilisation

Bike riding and the End of Civilisation

Usually this communication muses about something mountain bike related, and if possible there is some sort of connection to a product we would dearly love to sell.

This morning the subject is wider, bicycle riding in general, and the mystery of why the very sight of people on bicycles is so annoying to some people.

New Zealand is in the throes of trying to develop some safe infrastructure for self-propelled transport. Most are incomplete, some are downright dangerous, but they are attempts to make getting from A to B on a bike more palatable to more people.

People who believe that any transport option besides cars is the work of the devil get very agitated about this activity. Any discussion online is peppered with the same inane arguments from the car-centric side of the aisle: why do cyclists disobey the road rules? Why don’t they have to register their bikes? Shouldn’t they be forced to have licences?

Oh, and while we are at it: Lycra!

What exact buttons are pushed to enrage the peaceful car driver by the bike rider’s choice of fabric is probably worthy of its own episode or perhaps research project and thesis, but not today.

A quick response to the usual complaints:

Road rules: I have survived fifty years of riding bikes among herds of cars by employing ratlike cunning - if I decide to jump a red-light or pass a queue on the inside it is for self-preservation. Nobody encased in two or three tons of steel was ever at any risk of damage.

Register my bikes? Which ones? And what about when I take most of the DNA of that one and bolt it onto the remains of that other one? I already pay through the nose to command a vehicle, just like the person making that suggestion.

Licences? I am willing to bet anybody who has done a few years of bicycle riding in traffic is a better driver than anybody who hasn’t. Defensive driving is an abstract concept when you are ensconced in an auto listening to talkback - it is a way of life when you are on a pushbike.

It is like the talkback host in the sentence above has not got the wit to realise that every cyclist weaving through the morass of idling cars at rush hour could represent a car that is not there. Give one in five of those commuters a safe option to ride their bike and you gain more progress in the battle to decongest a city than adding a lane to the motorway. Sidebar: I have no idea what that quantitative balance is, nor do I care. If people can make blanket accusations about cyclists as if we are a homogenous club bent on destroying civilisation, I can make up statistical truisms.

Our opinion? Fuel prices, commuter-style e-bikes and cycleways will create a perfect storm. Those of us who mostly rides bikes for a giggle will be outnumbered by people using them for transport. More people doing that will force the development of better infrastructure. The people who hate bike riders on sight will become a noisy minority, bleating at each other in a vacuum.

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