Wasting bicycle advocacy efforts on people who bike

Yet many cities “are investing in the 2 percent who already bike, not the 98 percent who don’t,” said Penalosa, citing trail maps, bike parking, racks on buses and lines on streets. These are all well and good, but the only thing that will attract new riders is making them feel safe on the road.

This quote from Enrique Penalosa suggests that bicycling advocacy is too important to leave to people who actually ride bicycles. Could be so, but I suggest that doing it this way leaves out the most natural constituency for riding bicycles, people who are doing it already.

I don’t think careful readers have failed to notice that many people who are already in the saddle are poor people who are bicycling either as a job or as a cheaper alternative to driving a motor vehicle. I don’t understand why improvements to bicycling conditions aren’t recommended for these particular people already on bicycles, and I don’t understand why improving the conditions of bicycling for those who are already bicycling should take second place to improving bicycling for those who aren’t.

When it came to the Curbee I was against it, as it didn’t actually improve my chances of not getting killed or maimed. But hidden in the last paragraph of that blog post is the notion that authorities should “be looking for interventions that increase bicycling all over the network, not just on specific routes near the interventions.” The Curbee is the Platonic ideal of a site-specific bicycling intervention.

Mr. Penalosa, I suggest that authorities invest in interventions that support bicycling everywhere. The kind of infrastructure that accords with your suggestions is expensive and installed on a “roll-out” model, where not every neighborhood gets it at once. If you feel that bicycling is actually suitable for the 100%, how is a model with such built-in inequality going to get the 98% not yet bicycling into the saddle?