After a month in Europe it was great to back on the bike to and from work. I don’t cycle every day, but I try for three times a week. It’s 9 kilometres give or take, half or which is on dedicated cycle lanes and half on a bus lane. Cycling on a bus lane is not for the faint-hearted, but I’ve only had good experiences with buses – it’s the cars that cross or enter the lane who create challenges.
I had an impression that cycling in Berlin and Copenhagen would be quite special. It was. But not just for the infrastructure – I’ll come back to that shortly – but for the attitude of the residents. A cycle lane means a traffic lane for cycles that you respect as you would another lane of traffic – more so in fact because cyclists are obviously vulnerable – not a nuisance or barrier for ‘real’ traffic (as can often be the local experience). Cyclists are sensible too – not aggressive to each other or other road users – but like most traffic in Europe they move with intent. One of my sisters said that she’d be too timid to cycle on a cycle lane in Copenhagen – too busy she said – and she’s right, it is busy.
I found it invigorating to be cycling with so many like-minded people. And it’s not just the hardy or lycra- wearing (of which there were very little). But parents picking up their children after day care, business people commuting and Seniors getting around doing their shopping. Many apartments appeared not to have car parks in Copenhagen, but there were lots of cycles parked everywhere. A different normal.
Now Auckland is not flat like either of those two cities so there are challenges for cyclists (which e-bikes solve quite easily). Copenhagen was anything but a cycling city in the mid 1960s but decisions made to retrofit cycling infrastructure and prioritise roads for cyclists made it what it is. And there’s lots of signs of on-going improvements and changes to this day.
We’re at a tipping point in Auckland with some fantastic projects completed and underway which have the potential to transform the use of cycling as a viable means of transport. Normalisation and attitude changes to embrace commuters on cycles will hopefully follow. That’s when the tipping point will have been realised.
So why bother? It’s clean, healthy, reduces the need for roads to be built and above all else (if you want to be selfish), it’s so much fun! And being joyful is as good a reason as any to get on that bike. If you haven’t tried it for a while, I bet you’ll be smiling in no time. Chances are it will be faster than the car.
And what’s this got to do with leadership: You’ll start and finish the day in a much better mindset and it feels an authentic and connected way to move around. A virtuious cycle you could almost say!