The Spokesmen #11 – January 22, 2007

The eleventh episode of The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast included David from The FredCast Cycling Podcast, Carlton Reid from Bike Biz Magazine and Cycling News and Views Podcast, Tim Grahl from The Crooked Cog Network and Donna Tocci of Kryptonite and Tidbits and More. Among the topics we discussed:

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9 comments to The Spokesmen #11 – January 22, 2007

  • Trevor Parsons

    I was interested in your discussion in episode 11 on improving things for cyclists, but was a little surprised at the limited range of solutions that kept coming up — largely “bike paths” and “bike lanes”. To the many of us who advocate vehicular cycling, cycle lanes (paint stripe at the edge of the road) and cycle tracks (separated from the road — except for the unresolvable problem of junctions) are ‘facilities’ to be opposed or at least used as the absolute last resort. As John Forester puts it, “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles”. Cycle lanes and tracks tend to work against this principle.

    You did touch on some of the problems with the Dutch system, especially lower cycling speeds and conflict with pedestrians, and the dangers of hugging the kerb were also mentioned, but it would be great if you could flag up the wider debate about these ‘facilities’ for the benefit of listeners who may not be aware of it.

    There are so many other improvements that can be advocated less controversially — for example motor traffic restraint, humanising street design, provision of cycle parking, financial incentives, sharia law for bike thieves (well, you can dream) — that it seems a pity to focus almost exclusively on “bike lanes” and “bike paths” in almost the same way as the less sophisticated sections of the media do.

    Thanks for a great show, and happy cycling to all,

    Trevor Parsons
    Shoreditch
    London E2
    England

  • I agree that bike commuting in the US has an image problem. As the bike industry places more emphasis on developing well-designed, commuter oriented products, I think the image associated with bike commuting will continue to improve. I know that sounds somewhat trivial, but perception is sometimes reality in the marketplace. Marketing decisions certainly affect how consumers perceive the “hipness” of products and entire product categories. In the past, bike companies have been too focused on high-end recreational products to break new ground with simple transportation oriented design. Personally, I commute on a fairly standard road bike, but I realize that most people don’t want to ride a bike like that. We need more bike designs that are simple and user friendly to get people out of their cars. I am happy to see that many companies have shifted to embrace new market segments, but there is still a long way to go to reach those potential new customers who do not eat, sleep, and breath bicycles (like many of the enthusiast who gravitate toward careers in the industry)

    I believe that another part of the image problem with commuting is perpetuated by some recreational cyclists. Unfortunately, some people who label themselves as cyclists look down on those who ride bikes that do not fit the racing bike mold (road or mountain). That is a real shame and is something we as cyclist should all be conscious of. I like to talk to people about cycling and tell them about bikes that I think might fit their individual needs. In most cases, it seems like people don’t know that those products exist. They know about the bikes that they see in the Tour de France and about the bikes that their kids ride, but are aware of very little in between. In my experience, people generally seem interested in the idea of bike commuting, but they are somewhat intimidated by it. Usually when someone talks to me about commuting, they have an impression that cycling is far more difficult and dangerous than it actually is. Rather than play into that intimidation by bragging about my latest century or my last run in with a car, I use the opportunity to talk about the benefits of commuting and the joy of riding a bike in general. As gas prices rise, more and more people will at least think about commuting. The seed is already there with a lot of people. Sometimes the slightest bit of encouragement from those of us who already bike commute can be enough to get them started.

  • Trevor and James thank you so much for your comments! Great, great feedback and I agree with you both on many points.

    Trevor, bike parking is an issue that I should have mentioned when I made my comment about employers being more open to employees commuting by bike. If they provided a room or even, simply, a bike rack where people could properly secure their bicycle that may add a little incentive. I also agree with financial incentives – who couldn’t use the extra coin in their wallet? Here, some employers help with the cost of public transportation, however, maybe they could add a financial benefit for cycling commuters of some sort, too.

    James, I think you hit on something equally as detrimental to cycling commuters, too – the intimidation factor. That is why, I think, it is important to support beginners programs and regional bicycle coalitions that head up these initiatives. For example, Women on Bikes is a program in Portland, Oregon that teaches women how to ride their bikes both in the suburbs and in the city. They give them the skills and know-how to successfully navigate through traffic etc. The Portland Office of Transportation did some research and found that women, in particular, were apprehensive of not only riding in traffic, but also nervous about asking the questions they had with a group of men or at a shop filled with experts. They wanted credible information and skills, but in a ‘safe’ environment to them. It’s been a great success in Portland. This is the kind of thing I’d like to see in more cities – for women, for kids, for anyone. Educating people how to ride on the roads well is a win-win situation.

    Great, great feedback. Keep it comin’ folks!
    Donna

  • Pauli Frey

    I have tried to get non-commuters to go on day rides with me. I also captain a teem to raise money for diabetes every year and get many people to try cycling that way,and have had a few people start riding to work after the day of the event.I inspire people to ride, because I ride every day rain or shine.If you live with in 15 miles of work and you drive every day. You are just a weekend warrior in my book.I sweat way more then most people and will not except that as an reason not to ride.I have not driven a car in 15 years.I think any one that wants a healthy planet should at least concider it.
    I think most of the reason people hate cyclist is: they don’t realy beleive that they belong on the road.Bicycle parking is a big problem

  • Pauli Frey

    I have tried to get non-commuters to go on day rides with me. I also captain a teem to raise money for diabetes every year and get many people to try cycling that way,and have had a few people start riding to work after the day of the event.I inspire people to ride, because I ride every day rain or shine.If you live with in 15 miles of work and you drive every day. You are just a weekend warrior in my book.I sweat way more then most people and will not except that as an reason not to ride.I have not driven a car in 15 years.I think any one that wants a healthy planet should at least conceder riding some of the time.
    I think most of the reason people hate cyclist is: they don’t really believe that they belong on the road in the first place.People are also afraid of hitting us. this makes people grumpy ,and one way that would make them feel better would be make us go a way.
    Bicycle parking is a big problem in my area.The people who decide on the types of devices to lock bikes to and where a good place to put these devices, have no idea what my needs as a cyclist are. Thank you for a very interesting podcast.

  • Pauli – education by example – GREAT, GREAT, GREAT! Keep up the fantastic job!
    Thanks for listening and sharing your thoughts.

  • I hope that Bicycle Retailer doesn’t mind, but here is a piece of a story they are running today at http://www.bicycleretailer.com about Dirt Rag’s incentive program for riding to work. BRAVO Maurice! And thanks to Bicycle Retailer for sharing it with us all – maybe this will spark some ideas from other employers.

    Dirt Rag Staff Commutes 467 Days, Over 10,000 Miles

    JANUARY 29, 2007 — PITTSBURGH, PA (BRAIN)–One year ago, Maurice Tierney, publisher of Dirt Rag magazine took to heart his employees’ dedication to commuting to work by bicycle. In addition to already providing a commuter-friendly environment–full bicycle repair, shower, storage and laundry facilities–he decided to provide further incentive for their commutes with a dollar-a-day compensation.

    “It’s really just for fun and encouragement, but it’s nice to give payback for being conscientious objectors to the status quo of car commuting,” Tierney said.

    One year later, the tallies are in, and the records show 467 total days and 10,348 miles commuted.

    Karen Brooks tallied the highest totals, with 113 days commuted, or 2,813 miles. Shannon Mominee, whose mid-season arrival gave him a stark disadvantage in the overall categories, still managed to commute over 2,000 miles and take second place with 84 days.

  • Joe

    I enjoy the show. In show #11 Carlton illuded that the current Congressional changes here in the states should spell a better atmosphere for cyclists. I think this is part of the perception people from outside have with the U.S. There seems to be the idea that, say Democrats favor certain areas more than Republicans. I think cyclists here in the states, however, understand that cycling advocacy is fairly party neutral. If Democrats or Republicans had the upper hand then cycling access and rights would be easily demographically tilted. They aren’t, however. Predominantly Democrat strongholds are no more cycling friendly than their Republican coutnerparts.

    I do think, however, that many “green” communities tend to be more cycling friendly. This doesn’t seem to migrate to the state and national level, however. People from both political parties work hard everyday to open up cycling. In fact, I am proud of the fact that so many in my home state with differing political views come together on this issue to promote cycling.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and check out MTBCast when you get a chance.

    JP -MTBCast!

  • Trevor, James , Pauli and Joe – - – Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments on this subject. This is something we all need to work to make a reality and I appreciate your input. Keep it coming!

    By the way, if any of you out there haven’t heard Joe’s MTBCast, you really should. He’ll give you all the MTB news that’s fit to print . . . er, podcast.

    Donna – - – Of course, thanks for your input too, and for answering the listeners’ comments in a very timely fashion. Shame on the rest of us! ;-)

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