Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So much randomness

In relations to Treadly and Me's question (What's going on in NSW for Bike Week?), yes there has been plenty happening but I think its mostly been reported in the local papers. The previous Saturday, ASHBUG ran its second bike education training course working to improve basic bike skills. The course was well attended by 25 women (no blokes!). Last year when we ran this course, I remember having a rant about low quality department stall bikes and people who keep their seat too low. This year I was supprised to find the opposite problem. One rider had a beautiful $2K road bike but no bike training skills. The seat was correctly positioned for her height. The problem was she'd little experience just riding a bike, let alone a top quality racing bike. I tried to explain that it was like learning to ride a motorbike with a 1000cc engine. Anyway, we put the seat down and worked on some basic skills like pushing off and stopping. Again I have to wonder what the bike shop was thinking? (and I know the person who sold her the bike). It made me wonder if sometimes there is a pressure or desire to look the part of the roadie but without doing some time in the dag-land of the recreational cyclist.

One of the coolest bike week events I went to was at Willoughby Council. Not only did they do the regular courses and rides, but they ran their own version of the Bike Film Festival and it was really well attended.

On Sunday, Waverley Council did something creative by running a photo comp as part of its family bike day. There was no supprise in me not winning the photo comp, however I think I know the person who did and so I'm very happy for her. In other BikeWeek news, I saw that another local council had ran a competition for children where they had to colour in an image of a kid on a bike to win a helmet. I know the helmet debate is a nasty one and I've seen enough smashed helemts to want to wear one. However I'm increasingly drawn to believe that the use of helmets as well a bright fluro saftey vests offload the dangers of cars rather than making drivers more responsible roadusers. By making helmet use the message we use to celebrate Bike Week, we are perhaps consciously trying to promote bikes, but unconsciously supporting a view that cycling is dangerous and children and parents should be worried about letting there kids ride bikes. On a simlar point, Transport Impacts has recently highligted the real language politics of being identified as a 'vulnerable road user'. Dave Horton has also written about this issue in terms of childrens road education:

… rather than producing strategies to tame the sources of dangers on the road, road safety education tries instead to instil in ‘the vulnerable’, primary school children, a fear of motorised traffic, and then to teach them tactics to escape from road dangers as best they can. A minority alternative approach, road danger reduction, concentrates instead on making travelscapes less dangerous per se, by reducing numbers and speeds of cars, and improving enforcement of speed limits. In other words, current road safety education, perhaps reframed as citizenship studies in mobility, could be very different. We do not have to teach tomorrow’s adults to fear cars, or to adapt to the inevitability of motorised metal objects tearing through their lives by incarcerating themselves in such vehicles. ('Fear of Cycling', 2007, p138-9)

On the topic of road safety, I've just come across this cool website called Mental Speed Bumps. Its by the Australian "artist, social inventor and street philosopher" David Engwicht. Engwicht claims to have made the same discovery as Hans Monderman about the negative uses of signage and road design which encourages drivers to act more dangerously and denies the socal life of streets.

Another interesting Australian writer I've also just discovered is Dr Paul Tranter. Over has his website he has some great papers on the concept of "effective speed" which he has been pushing in his recent research.

Effective speed can be calculated using the formula:
“Speed = distance divided by time”, where
• distance is the total kilometres traveled, and
• time is the total time devoted to the mode of transport (including the time spent at work to earn the money to pay all the costs created by the particular mode of transport). In the calculation of car speed, the time required for car travel is rarely adequately considered. Most drivers consider only the time spent in the car while it is moving (and perhaps while it is idling) when estimating their average speed. They ignore the considerably larger amounts of time that must be devoted to their cars. As well as the time a driver must spend sitting in a car, he or she must spend time earning the money to make the car travel possible. During this time, the driver is effectively going nowhere; hence their speed for this time is zero. When this time is taken into account, along with other time devoted to the car, it is apparent that the car does not save us as much time as we think it saves us.
What I like about this concept is the way it bypasses ideology debates over cars vs bike vs public transport, but rather focuses on critically analysing the broader costs of car use in itself. This is an issue that doesn't seem to get much press.


Anonymous said...

That is unbelievable that the focus of a Council's Bike Week is wearing helmets. Thanks for pointing that out.

Adrian said...

The focus on child helmet use is all too common in councils that don't understand or value cycling. It has become the default cycling activity in such organisations. It communicates three things:
1) the council perceive cycling primarily as a children's activity
2) the council perceive cycling as a dangerous activity
3) responsibility for road dangers should be placed on the child/cyclist and not broadly amongst road users (or traffic engineers).
Note in the link I posted that the says: "With the school holidays fast approaching remember Always wear a helmet when you ride or skate". In other words, cycling is something you might do in the school break rather than being a way getting to school. Anti-bike hysteria is also common in many schools who have remove bike parking from the school grounds in a deliberate attempt to discourage cycling. We've got such a long way to go to get this right.