Sport or Utility?
Consider this story:
I cycle to a meeting. When I get there I have trouble finding a place to park my bike. There is a car parking space with a bike painted on it, but nowhere to lock my bike to.
On previous occasions I have been allowed to put my bike in the reception area: “just this time” so I don’t really want to ask again. A staff member walks by and points to a locked shed. “You could park your bike in there, but I think it is full of BBQs and stuff…. it’s where staff park their bikes”.
So thumbs up, they have staff bike parking that is secure … and hopefully not too obstructed by other stuff…. but what about visitors? Where do they park their bikes?
Postscript: Later I was told that I should have just asked them to unlock the shed for me. But should I have to ask? If I had come by car I would not have had to ‘ask’ to park it. And why wouldn’t a facility devoted to sports and physical activity encourage their visitors to bike there? (rather than treat it as an exception or oddity).
Does it boil down to the pervasive view point that cycling is a sports and recreational activity, certainly not an everyday activity? At a stretch people might bike to work… but anywhere else? Surely not.
But hang on, don’t we want to change that? But what about those short trips…36% of trips…. the ones we could take via active transport. The ones where we can improve our health outcomes as well as reducing congestion and CO2 emissions. Those trips to the shops, appointments, social outings. Remember them?
Yes, that’s right those short trips are the ones we want to get people out of their cars and onto their bikes for. This is a real opportunity, IF we lead rather than follow. Currently it’s hard for some decision makers to see past the idea that cycling is a sport; so that is what they provide for ….. and that is what they get.
But what if we changed that?
The benefits are significant: environmental, health, economic. The folks in Auckland are good with numbers – their measurements and research tell a story of a real opportunity.
Quantifying the Opportunity – The Auckland Story
Auckland is achieving measurable results at improving bike use for key journeys. Recreation and fitness trips lead the way, followed by everyday biking destinations.
“Most Aucklanders who cycle do so for ‘recreation and fitness’, but I’m curious: doesn’t pretty much every bike ride fit into that category? If I do my errands by bike rather than by car, I might well describe that as a trip for purposes of recreation and fitness, with the nice side effect of getting things done…….you could in fact see recreational riding (by all kinds of people, in all kinds of clothes) as an incubator for everyday cycling. ” source: Bike Auckland
In the same AT Active Travel Modes Survey Report, they identify that for Auckland, 20% of all trips are for shopping, and 22% for work. And when they looked at whether Aucklanders would consider changing to active modes, they discovered that 38% of people felt it would be reasonable to cycle, but don’t.
So there’s a big fat opportunity to get more people on bikes, for short everyday trips. And if you need more convincing consider this:
Health: Physical inactivity cost New Zealand $1.3 billion in 2010. The cost of physical inactivity was $402 million for the Auckland region. Source: The Costs of Inactivity, towards a regional full cost accounting perspective
Economic: In Auckland alone, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates the city’s congestion costs $1.25 billion a year in lost productivity. Source: Radio NZ
Environment: It is estimated that light vehicles contribute 8.15 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions in New Zealand each year, about 15.8% of our country’s net emissions total. Source: Transport Blog. And short distance car trips are particularly polluting, as cold engines consume around 40% more fuel, produce more emissions and increase engine wear and tear. Source: NZTA
A different ending to the story
So back to my story, imagine a different ending. Instead of arriving and finding no bike parking (and surprise that I would even bike there)….I find an organisation that actively encourages both staff and visitors to bike by:
- Providing great visitor bike parking, close to the entrance
- Including on their website includes directions of how to get there by bike
- Strongly supporting a cycle lane adjacent to their premises, and connections with other cycling infrastructure.
And what can councils do?
- Proactive bike parking and end of trip facilities in their District Plans
- Cycling and Walking strategies that look beyond recreation
- Three dimensional ‘built environment’ strategies that focus on active transport (beyond paint and paving)
- Proactive encouragement of cycling by council staff
- Provision of great bike parking for staff and visitors at all council premises
- Budgets, plans and systems for implementing public bike parking.
Now that’s what I call a happy ending. Good for me, good for my community and my planet.
Do you like happy endings?
Do you want better bike parking?
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