It's just over a year since we created our Facebook page. In that short time the popularity of our page has been the fastest growing of any cycle advocacy group in New Zealand and we now have more likes than almost any other group.
We say almost because Bike Taupo has 923 likes, 117 more than us and very close to 1000 ! We'd like Nelson to get there first and we're hoping you can help.
We need you to like Our Page if you haven't already and ask all your friends to do the same.
OK this challenge is a bit of fun but numbers are important. Showing how much support there is for cycling gives us a stronger voice when pushing for changes that make cycling safer and more attractive.
Increasing cycling numbers and reducing our overall dependency on motor vehicles is good for everybody. This is BNB's primary focus and the work that we do is relevant to you whether you're a road cyclist, mountain biker, cycle commuter, new to cycling, keen to start cycling or never ever in a million years want to get on a bike.
Creating better cycling infrastructure is not only good for cyclists, it's good for motorists too; It reduces cycle-motor vehicle conflict, reduces pollution and reduces congestion at a fraction of the cost of building new roads (and yes, cyclists do already contribute to the cost, even those that don't own a car: Road Funding in New Zealand).
As well as reducing the need for more roads, a healthier, more active population reduces the burden on our health service too - yes, cyclists are helping reducing your tax ! Of course a city that isn't clogged up with cars is also more pleasant to live, work or shop in and it's more attractive to tourists too.
Please help us create a healthier, more vibrant and a more prosperous city. Thank you to everybody who has supported us.
Thanks to all those that came to the movie night at The Freehouse Yurt last night and a big thank you to Mic at the Freehouse for the venu and for letting us use the newly laid grass for the bike tuneups.
Amme organises films every fortnight on Tuesday evenings at the yurt so if you want to be added to the mailing list send us an email and we'll pass it on. We were very pleased to be invited to talk at this one; It was a really good opertunity for BNB to give an update on what we've been doing and the positive things that are happening in Nelson. We hope to be doing more of these types of events in the near future so watch this space. If you have a film that you'd like BNB to show let us know and we'll try and arrange it.
A final thank you for Nelson City Councils for providing a box full of giveaways for the event last night. Expect to hear a lot more bells on the shared paths.
The lack of good cycling infrastructure has meant that until recently the vast majority of the cyclists you saw on the road were the 'hardened' cyclist. Like plants, those cyclists who battle against hostile environments end up looking like a particular species - for plants it’s cactus and in cycling it's the road-warrior above on the left.
But things are changing, and the reality for cycle commuting is increasingly that of a different image and approach. The type of cycle commuter BNB and the council are providing for through improvements to infrastructure, such as the off road cycle lane on St. Vincent St. and the shared boulevard on Rocks Rd., is more like the rider on the right. This is what cycle commuting increasingly looks like in overseas cities as it becomes mainstream, and not the preserve of a few 'road catcti'.
So we understand a concern raised by The Waterfront Association about the Rocks Road boulevard; they see "any shared pathway that mixes commuting cyclists with walkers strolling around the waterfront …" as a bad move, and we understand that position when ‘commuter’ means high-speed road-warriors. The cyclist on the left is almost certainly going to be happier on the road than sharing a path with pedestrians. And fast moving cyclists like this aren’t welcome on our shared paths right now - it's not who they're designed for, they're designed for less confident and slower riders.
With the 'food and water' of better infrastructure we’re now starting to see the 'blossoming' of a cycle comunity consisting of ordinary people out there on bikes, and road cacti are becoming the minority. The future that we see is one where the car is used less for shorter journeys and where we don't need to use so much of our valuable city spaces to store them. It's a future where children can cycle safely to school or the beach with their friends. It's happening around the world in other cities and it’s almost within the grasp of us here in Nelson, but we're not going to get there without everyone doing their bit.
How you can help?
Every so often I see an article or a letter to the editor complaining about a cyclist doing this and that (cycling on the footpath, running a red light, cycling without a helmet, cycling the wrong way down a one way street, cycling while on the phone, cycling blindfolded etc.).
I realise this could be my ‘Rob Ford moment' but at some point or another I've done all those things (OK, except for the last one, at least not yet). Most of this is in the past now; I don't run red lights these days but I do admit to occasionally cycling on the footpath (when it's safe to do so). In fact, I did this earlier today which got me thinking about 'why'.
Firstly, let me explain this particular transgression; When leaving the entrance to the building where I have my office, I hopped on my bike and cycled on the footpath the short distance the wrong way down the one way street before crossing to the side road (the right way) and cycling home. No harm done, right ? And, shock horror, I've done this many times ! Now I can hear the flurry of pens scribbling and fingers jabbing at keyboards but before you press send or lick that stamp on your letter to the editor, please just hear me out for a bit.
I'm not condoning my behavior or that of any other cyclist that doesn't obey the rules but I'm hoping to try an explain it a little bit from my perceptive.
When I was a student in London, for me, cycling was the way to travel. You could get pretty much anywhere in central London faster than you could by any any other form of transport. For that reason, cycle courier companies were very common and it was with one such company that I got a part time job over the college holidays. You got paid per package, so the faster you could get from A-B the more money you made.
I could say that the job corrupted me. While it did encourage me to take some big risks, the truth is more along the lines of 'the job suited me'. My knowledge of London streets would rival that of any black cab driver but where the cycle courier excels is in the short cuts; Those one way streets (the wrong way), those steps that cut through from one road to the other, that courtyard linking this street with that, that alleyway etc. etc. When I took the job I knew the shortcuts because I was already taking them. I still remember some of the crazy routes I used to take.
To be a cyclist you had to be a bit of a rebel. The roads were built for cars, trucks and buses; If you cycled you were considered to have a 'death wish'. From the cyclist’s point of view though, cycling meant freedom, it meant very cheap, efficient transport, and it kept you fit. It was also the opportunity to 'stick it to the man' (as I cycled past his gridlocked Porsche on the way to college).
With infrastructure that was built for the car, and as a cyclist considered by all other users of the road as an outcast, is it any small wonder that the cyclist behaves like a rebel ?
Forward 20+ years and I am less of a rebel but I do have more of a cause. I and a great many other people would like to see cycling as a real transport option, not just something that has to be tolerated or made 'a bit safer'. When the cyclist is not viewed as an outcast, when our roads and infrastructure really support cycling, when we don't need to wear helmets to protect us, when we don't need to wear high-vis gear just to be noticed, when we feel that we belong, then perhaps some of us will feel, and behave, less like rebels.
(An opinion piece published in the Voices column on the Nelson Mail on 23/11/13)