One of the common themes that emerged from all candidates at the Cardiff Cycle City hustings the other day was the need to “normalise” cycling.
As phrases go, it’s certainly bite-size and does roll off the tongue, but what exactly does it mean?
It’s like Kung Fu
Ok, not exactly, but stick with us here. Right now, cycling in Cardiff is considered a niche activity. Yes, there are a great many of us doing it but statistically we are small fry. This means that we have to shout about getting places to lock our bikes up; we’re not expected to turn up at meetings on bikes; we often feel as though with have to tool up with lycra and cameras to fight with the traffic and catch inconsiderate or dangerous drivers in the act; we’re rarely considered when new roads are built and we’re largely ignored by the justice system. We’re also lumped together as one homogenous group, often portrayed as something to be feared or reviled.
So, we probably have a long way to go before what we do is considered normal, or just part of what the people of Cardiff do. Kung Fu, far from being a martial art (that’s actually Wushu you are thinking of), is actually a Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. Not unlike cycling, or indeed planning a city for cycling.
So, what do we need to do to start the normalisation process?
Yes, yes we know we keep banging on about parking, but sufficient places to park, close to the amenities we need to access is of paramount importance. For many of us we will decide whether or not to bring the bike depending on the likelihood of finding somewhere to safely and securely store our precious steeds.
Availability of Sheffield stands needs to be considered whether we are talking about residential, commercial or industrial locations. They need to be plentiful, well maintained and advertised on the websites of the businesses or organisations they are attached to. We shouldn’t need to ask if bike parking is available, it should just be a given that there’s bike parking and plenty of it.
The fact that this is still a “want” means that we are definitely not nearing normal.
Rightly or wrongly, it currently feels as though we face an uphill battle should we experience any trouble with traffic, including losing our lives in collisions. The death of Mick Mason, whose killer was acquitted in a private prosecution earlier this week, is a testament to the indifference of the criminal justice system to the needs of people on bikes.
The fact that the case needed to be pursued through a private prosecution, funded by crowdsourcing rather than through the usual channels, tells you all you need to know. You then need to ask yourself if a jury full of motorists (lets face it, many people are…) is going to convict another motorist in a case against a cyclist.
To make matters worse, we will remain an area where close or dangerous overtaking of cyclists is not reprimanded until we can change the minds of South Wales Police. We have a very long way to go here.
Many of the behaviours those “regular” people like to accuse us of are often a result of poorly implemented or non-existent infrastructure. People ride on pavements because they fear motorists and often because there’s little to tell between a pavement and a shared path, save for a small blue sign at either end. However, the cycle paths we have are generally of poor quality, but we have a post talking all about that already.
The infrastructure needs to be seamless, consistent and well maintained, or the police need to get their act together policing dangerous driving. That’s a political problem and ultimately, politicians need to decide how much they really want to normalise cycling in Cardiff.