Concerned with my fitness, as ever.

Why this need to evangelise for bicycle transport? I don’t think it’s evangelism, really. It doesn’t concern me in the slightest that others don’t cycle. It concerns me that cities, as they are planned, have drivers’ paths crossing with mine. I’m not evangelising, but airing my frustration with streets and buildings designed in a way that threatens my life, and the lives of my family members, when we partake of the most joyful, elegant and rational mode of transport ever invented. That something so brutal, sociopathic, glutinous and for all those reasons plain ugly as the automobile, should have been allowed to bully bikes from the city, when bikes make us fit, are efficient, and can hardly hurt anyone, seems to me like piss in new snow.

I’ve been a passenger in two high speed rollovers, so am particularly sensitive to the danger of cars. At least if I collide with something hard on a bike, half a tonne of steel won’t follow through from behind. Cars weigh hundreds of kilos. Bikes weigh a dozen. I’m mortally afraid of what cars can do to my children, just walking down to the shops, and what a car could do to my family while driving if it suddenly turns into steel jaws chomping our bodies. Mine is not an unnatural fear. Yours is an unnatural acceptance of fate.

To me, waste is ugly. Heat gushing out of uninsulated houses, is ugly. But compared to engines that turn nonrenewable fuels into as much useless heat as propulsion, and that power machines weighing far more than their payloads, an uninsulated house is the most beautiful sunset. Uglier still than the car, is the hypocrisy of the architectural profession I am a part of, that bestows awards upon low energy houses, in locations that most users will drive to. I wish more buildings were located in places with no access, except via bike.

However, my primary attraction to cycling, betrays my age and nationality. I’m an Australian who really took to the bike as a piece of sporting equipment. Though I had owned bikes purely for transport at every stage of my life, it was the race-worthy Reynolds 531, Shimano 600 bike with Mavic wheels that I bought second hand in my early twenties, that saved me ever wanting a car for commuting. For twenty years I have commuted to work, to be fit to race, to be fit to commute, with everything else as a bonus. I like commanding the city, saving money, having daydreaming time, and squeezing more into each day, but the health and fitness motivation is still the core one for me.

At heart then, I am precisely the kind of bike advocate that some bike advocates once defined themselves by opposing. I note though, that the rhetoric of the slow cycling movement isn’t so loud now, as it was a few years back.

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore. My favourite bikes are a titanium racing bike I use for racing, a Velorbis retro commuter for riding to cafes and work, a single speed ultra light Brompton that I take with me when I travel on planes, a 29er hard tail mountain bike that I get lost on in remote places, an old track bike that scares me, a 1984 Colnago Super with all original campagnolo components that is plugged into a virtual realm that I train in, and a Dutch-made Bakfiets, that could easily replace half of the bikes I just mentioned.
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4 Responses to Concerned with my fitness, as ever.

  1. Edward says:

    That is the issue, isn’t it? The best form of cycling advocacy. Why cycling advocacy in the first place? I am generally very cautious before singing the praises of cycling to anyone, regardless of how well I know them. I think it can just come across as either weird or smug depending on what technique you use.

    I think in the end what Michael Colville-Anderson says in his recent TEDx talk is correct. If you make using a bicycle as transportation easy and inviting, people will use it. That is so whether it is Copenhagen bike lanes, ‘snelle fietsroutes’ or bicycle oriented architecture. Regardless, the people to advocate to are politicians and those who make decisions about how the transport budget is spent. Why? Because it is so much better than the alternative – the inefficiency and utter stupidity of excessive car use and what it does to where we live.

  2. Steven says:

    Weird and smug. I guess that’s just what I’ll have to be :)

    • Edward says:

      Present company excepted of course. I know I can sound weird. And potentially smug. It can be a drag.

    • Steven says:

      I’m thinking it might be tactic, to ham up the smugness. I’ve given a lot of talks lately, and not been asked any questions during questions time. I’m sure my audiences are deciding I’m a smug shit who will only fob off their questions—and maybe they’re right. Australian audiences are fine: same sense of humour. But I think overseas audiences might prefer if I wore a funny hat or something, as a pressure valve, and visual cue allowing them to laugh off my excesses. As you might guess by my wordiness, this is quite troubling me.

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