Changing the Cultural Norm
I’m reading Tom Vanderbilt’s “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)” (probably the longest subtitle I’ve ever see on a book…). Anybody who spends any amount of time in traffic (um, that’s pretty much everybody) would find the book fascinating. He spends some time talking about driving cultures in different nations and cities; particularly driving “norms.” The matter of cultural norms is very important to our discussion of cycling in general and safety in particular.
Cycling in Seattle in September was for me a very different experience from cycling here because there are so many more vehicular cyclists there. Facilities were mostly beside the point; motorists were polite bike lane or not. Seattle motorists are used to seeing vehicular cycling on a daily (probably hourly) basis, so they don’t get worked up about being behind a cyclist. While it’s true that vehicular cycling works better than P.O.W. cycling (Pedestrian On Wheels) even if the motorists are nasty, it sure ain’t as much fun. And the cyclist who’s considering using the street is more likely to do so if he or she sees lots of other cyclists out there.
To me the Orlando strategy must be to identify the people most likely to embrace vehicular cycling once they understand it and who will be out there as individual cyclists in the urban and suburban environment using bikes for transport. In Orlando that means the Critical Mass folks. The club cyclists don’t ride for transportation nearly as much as the CM folks do.
So, those of you who are Critical Mass riders: What will it take to get you in a vehicular cycling course? What media outlets? What key words and images resonate with you? What will get you to sit down for a couple hours with an instructor to learn some skills and principles? Please pass this along to other blogs and lists as you see fit.
NOTE: this is NOT an attack on CM. I’m addressing how one rides when alone or in small groups, not in the Last Friday Mass. I plan to be there this Friday myself.
The more cyclists out there legally claiming their rights and exhibiting riding excellence, the better for all of us.