Keeping in mind the history of how urban utility cycling has evolved in European and Japanese
cities..... utility cycling was already established before the advent
of auto-mobiles and has continued as a tolerated but not catered for
subclass mode of transport during the years that motorised vehicles
have encroached to take over our cities' streets.
The compact layout of cities in Europe in Japan are ideal for especially rail-based public transport (as opposed to our spread out cities) which to a large extent obviates the need to own or use cars and is one of the main reasons why such a broad range of ( i.e. young and old) cycle commuters have maintained a strong presence that in recent times has had enough political power to lobby for and affect the changes that cycling advocates are now trying to achieve in New Zealand ,- before actually having the support of the numbers that it will actually take to influence the democratic process to the extent that real changes can be made .
We need to open cycling up to the greatest number of people and my questionnaire is designed to start some discussion among our political leaders about making the changes that will remove every impediment and provide the necessary facilities and technologies that will enable cycling to become established in a much more universal way than it currently is,-to ensure that we DO have the numbers.
I've actually been told by cycle retailers that anyone who practices or promotes utility cycling in New Zealand must have a death wish ( or words to that effect) and there is little evidence to show that any of BIANZ's members are remotely interested in pushing 'push-bikes' / 'granny'-bikes/ shopping bikes/folding bikes/or any other bicycles appropriate to urban utility cycling.
Cycle Advocates Network have stated that they do not see the lack of availability of 'utility bicycles' as an impediment to the more universal uptake of cycling in New Zealand.
From my own experience, I believe it is THE major impediment.
If we can get local governments committed to purchasing and running fleets of utility bicycles to minimize the costs of running around town at this time three weeks before Local Government elections, when the price of oil is sailing through the all time records and with our Central ( Labour ) Government directing them to establish ' sustainability', they will, while having to justify the cost/benefit logic of making the investment , be providing a model that will help convince their constituents that utility cycling is a practical and practicable and indeed preferable mode of transport,- thus creating interest and awareness leading to a demand which will in turn be taken up by bicycle importers and bicycle retailers.
Judging from the very narrow range of bicycles being sold here in dead-flat Christchurch ( New Zealand's mythically 'cycle friendly' city ) (mountain bikes and road racers exclusively), we aren't going to get anywhere trying to convince the bicycle importers and retailers to market urban utility appropriate bicycles and technologies because as business people, they are naturally conservative and are at the moment enjoying a huge romance with recreational cyclists while also selling products which are largely inappropriate for the urban utility purposes for which many of them are probably being bought.
i.e.You can't (easily) do your shopping or carry large loads on a mountain bike or a road racer.
I have yet to see any evidence to show that there is any interest in creating a market for utility style bicycles ( such as those that were prevalent here until the 1970s) and the associated perfected technologies which are now prevalent in Western European cycletopias such as the Netherlands , Denmark and Germany.
The structure of our roads and the heavy volume of traffic on them is such that cycling is only done by a very narrow (2%) assertive and sporty section of the total commuting population, the remainder of whom would otherwise, by being enabled by having access to appropriate technologies and actual separation from traffic, be able to see the wisdom in taking up cycling in preference to driving to many of the destinations that our traffic engineers tell us are within distances easily reached by bicycle.
In Japan ( Nagoya, Yokkaichi, Kyoto) where for 10 years I reveled in the glorious freedom of having the choice of riding ( unhelmeted ) on the roads OR the pavements, with hundreds of other cyclists AMONG thousands of pedestrians , and never having had nor seen nor heard of a collision I find the assertion that 'cycling on pavements is dangerous' to be well....
( see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9g7K1VfCGso&mode=related&search=
From Central Government down we are being told that we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and establish sustainable transport systems to reduce our vulnerability caused by our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
We need to make cycling preferable, practical and practicable to EVERYONE in our communities, not just those who are like ourselves, who for the main part make up the cycle advocacy movement.
N.B. A large proportion of the large proportion who cycle in Japan are women, and a large proportion of those women are elderly.
The current legislative environment and the unavailability of appropriate technologies dissuade and impede elderly women from taking up cycling in New Zealand.
I doubt that they'd feel comfortable riding mountain bikes and I doubt that any of them would feel safe riding on the roads with the traffic here, even where we do have cycle lanes.
-Meanwhile the pavements go all but unused ( at great expense to the car-driving ratepayers ).
we can get the kinds of bicycles into the
country that EVERYONE can ride , and we can establish the environment in which EVERYONE feels
safe to ride, then we will start to get the REAL political support for
the anti-car(bon burner) legislation and funding that it will take
to start making the changes such as prioritizing bicycle lanes over the
right to parallel curb-side parking which at the moment would spell
political suicide for any Councilor in local government.
We simply don't have the numbers cycling or support from the broad (car-driving) community to achieve our goals.
The current approach is too exclusive as is reflected in the statistics on the numbers cycling ( and their characteristic demographic profile ) .
To increase the numbers of people cycling we need to take a universally inclusive approach to make it practical, practicable and preferable to the broadest range of people possible.
The Kyoto model is a stepping stone.
The Copenhagen model is the eventual outcome.
Please feel free to pursue this conversation and to send it on to anyone who's interested.
Ka kite ano.
Alan Preston ( Christchurch, New Zealand )