If I had a weathervane, it probably wouldn’t be up anymore. The weather here has been pretty nasty lately.
One thing that dawned on me a couple of days ago was that I was almost alone on my commute. The cars where of course ever-present, but I was usually the only cyclist in sight. Of course, Adelaide doesn’t have a staggering number of people who commute by bike, but normally there is almost always another cyclists in sight somewhere.
For the last few days, in particular, it’s been a wee bit stormy. Uncomfortably cold, with strong, icy winds and rain, the only thing these generally uninspiring conditions are good for is curling up on a couch, under a blanket, with a movie and a hot drink.
The problem with this is that I have a job that I have to go to, which means that I have to leave the house on a daily basis. Oh, and the fact that I don’t have a personal motor-carriage to take me there. Yeah, I could bus, but it would take three times as long (and I’m cheap).
So I ride everyday. No matter what.
Now, I’m not bigging myself up here. That I ride no matter what is just a fact, but that I ride everywhere despite the conditions isn’t important. What is important is that people who currently don’t have this default mentality really don’t have any reason to.
My theory is this: the reason that there is such a marked decrease in cycling when the weather turns a bit foul is that the conditions for cycling, as far as infrastructure is concerned, are only just good enough to get a few people cycling when everything else lines up. And, that we have not yet established a culture where active transport is normal.
So cycling is something that really dedicated people do, or weirdos, or the poor. As soon as anything tips the balance away from the absolute ideal, people run for their cars, presumably. Or public transport or foot, which obviously isn’t bad.
Like the ratio of women who ride a bike compared to men, the number of people who ride a bike in less than sunny conditions is a weathervane for how well cycling is accommodated for in a given place.
In those aspirational places that enjoy a thriving cycling culture, we conveniently forget that come rain, snow, wind, or cold, people still ride. They put on jackets. Boots. Have mud-guards fitted. Because cycling is the way they get around rather than a way they get around only if all their stars are aligned, the question is not, “shall I take the car today?”, but, “will I need a jacket?”.
So the next time it’s raining and you don’t feel like riding, ask yourself what all the reasons are. Where would the weathervane point to? If you had this to ride down rather than this, and maybe had a good place to store the bike on arrival, would the rain still matter all that much?
Header image: source