It is not hard to shine at a planners’ convention. I have just returned from the The Healthy Cities Conference in Brisbane, where I learned planners have an agreed lexicon of ideals, toward which they all strive in chorus: Transit Oriented Developments, legibility, walkability, community gardens, mens sheds, zzzzz… At this conference, speaker after speaker put up slides contrasting messy suburban reality with neat little diagrams, showing how all the world aught to be, zzzzz. It says something that the most exciting presentation was by someone from Australia’s peak body on waste! (I now know the difference between waste and litter, and all about harnessing landfill gas.)
I gave my talk about councils indulging our (we cyclists’) every whim, and was pleased to be approached afterward with invites to join working parties in both Melbourne and Sydney. "The Postmodern Cyclist", somebody called me. Another said he had not heard so much French philosophy since he was an undergrad.
Promote cycling to the elite… and leave driving to these. "Moar petrol. M-o-o-o-a-r petrol."
I am uneasy though, about getting involved, because what I would say to any local council runs counter to planners’ and politicians’ whole way of thinking. Everything from cars to free standing houses, or from coffee to sun dried tomatoes, caught on because at first they were elitist. Planning interventions aimed at getting common slobs cycling, will only spoil the appeal cycling has to the elite, who buy expensive bikes and who are smug with regards to their fitness. While cycling is elitist, people in the middle echelons will aspire to join in. Keep it fast. Keep it expensive.
Meanwhile, those who identify as common, will choose the immediate gratifications available to them in those sprawling areas that planners would do best to ignore. The suburbs will revert to farms in due course.
How far would I get, if I took this message to the planning community?