Tuesday 24 July 2012

Toad Culture

I had an interesting chat last week about promoting bike culture and borrowing techniques from car culture advertising. It got me thinking.

Here is a short film from my childhood that explains car culture.

I think we should be honest and agree that most of us can identify with Toad to some extent.  A fast car driven at speed on the open road is fun.  You may crash and kill someone but that only happens to others (1.3 million others each year).  We also have to be honest and ask if our daily commute really matches this dream?  Cars are sold on a the basis of a dream that just does not exist in cities.  The reality for most city drivers is a slow, frustrating, boring, expensive, unreliable, stressful nightmare, but they still do it every day.

Bikes are cool, fast and fun. There are plenty positive reasons and data to support the promotion of bikes, however more people choose to sit in a car and add to the traffic congestion.  Do we need to sell and promote bikes more or just create an environment where cyclists can ride fast and are protected from the Toads in cars?

I think we need to do both.  I think we also need to recognize that a Toad on a bike can do a lot less damage than a Toad in a car, so we should not get too upset when a cyclist behaves like a Toad.  Until proper cycling infrastructure that makes it clear how Toads should behave is built and cycling becomes a mainstream normal activity you will see a lot of Toads on bikes in sub cultures.

Vienna is just moving out of the sub culture zone with nearly 6% modal split so how do you sell bikes to the main stream?  When it comes to marketing rational arguments do not work as well as fear and emotions.  So maybe pointing out how stupid Toad looks in his huge SUV stuck in a traffic jam looking for a parking space and late to work for a job he hates but has to keep so he can afford the repayments on the ridiculously expensive easily scratched over-sized military truck would work better.

We ended this chat agreeing that I should stick to trying to uderstand the technical cycling infrastructure problems.

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