Comments on: Cycling around Lisbon Re-making the world, one revolution at a time Sun, 30 Mar 2014 09:29:11 +0000 hourly 1 By: chrisrust Tue, 18 Mar 2014 22:09:56 +0000 Thanks for this Dave, I found it because we are planning taking our tandem to Portugal next year, rural areas seem great for cycling but as there’s a campsite in the middle of Lisbon I’m very tempted to see what it’s like. Can’t be much worse than Sheffield where somebody will try to kill you most days :o) At least there seems to be a proper 5 mile cycleway from near the campismo into the city centre (Ciclovia Lisboa Cidade)

Also thanks for your comments about the activist identity and how it may get in the way of promoting cycling as mainstream transport. Boris Johnson has been saying something like recently that but in a horribly cack-handed and unobservant way (he seems to imagine that Dutch urban cyclists pootle along like Miss Marple when actually they take no prisoners). I’m trying to switch away from what cyclists want to why we need to tackle the traffic monster for everybody’s sake.

By: disgruntled Thu, 21 Mar 2013 11:48:55 +0000 Wow – much to take in there. I think this is useful, and very timely as we’ve been discussing much the same sort of issues within the Embassy… not sure I can muster a coherent response just at the moment but there’s a lot of food for thought there

By: Dave Horton Tue, 19 Mar 2013 16:43:49 +0000 So it’s been a typically busy past few days and I’ve not got my thoughts in response to this question beyond where they were on Friday, but for what they’re worth (and in the belief that writing often leads to, rather than simply follows, thinking) here goes …

My immediate response is that we need to get better at universalising the new ambitions for cycling – the kind of ambitions you’re working to normalise via the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, and which I’m trying to normalise – in my own way – here. Lots of other people and organisations are of course also involved in this effort to normalise ‘thinking big for cycling’, and we’ve just seen the first effects in London. But politicians, policy-makers, practitioners and everybody else will only start thinking bigger about cycling if there are big ideas about cycling out there for them to draw on. Cycling needs to be big everywhere, not just in London, so we’ve got to keep banging on about how important it is, how big it should be, and how much resource re-allocation it requires.

I think we (cycling advocates in general) have got too deferential in the UK; we’ve learnt to be thankful for tit-bits. We should stop doing this, seize the initiative, and become much more comfortable with being much more intemperate.

I’m not saying we should become more zealous, or more antagonistic, not at all; only to have more courage in our convictions (that bicycles are a big part of the answer) and to be very serious about demanding and expecting the resources (especially money) which it requires to make it an ordinary practice.

I’m very deliberately responding to the question at the level of discourse here, because I think the discursive ‘battle’ still needs ‘fighting’ and ‘winning’. Everything will (or won’t) follow from that, and other people (especially local people) are much better placed than I am to know what specific strategies will best mainstream cycling in specific places.

One of the problems, I think, is that ‘the cycling promotion industry’ (for want of a better term) has become part of a ‘transport system’ which remains predicated around the car (and more high-profile, high-status projects). So we don’t have a ‘big discursive voice’ conjuring up grand visions and making grand claims on cycling’s behalf. That’s why the Cycling Embassy is so important, and why individual bloggers have become so important – these ‘new voices’ are filling a gaping void. But we’ve only just started, we’re still talking mainly to ourselves, and the conversation is in its early stages. Some of the ‘traditional cycling organisations’ are currently doing a brilliant job of re-orienting themselves, recognising/understanding/responding to the new stakes, and in the process they’re becoming a key part of the way forward, rather than (always the risk) a brake on progress. Within cycling advocacy we must build bridges, not walls. But whenever and wherever possible we must talk outside of cycling advocacy, and not in a slightly apologetic, slightly embarrassed way. There is nothing embarrassing about cycling; there is no need to apologise for being fierce advocates of one of the most obvious practices with the capacity to ease our planetary transition to sustainability and sanity.

Following on from this, one specific strategy might be workshops by and for cycling advocates in which we can raise our collective consciousness and re-educate ourselves, to shift visions, ambitions, discourses away from the ‘old paradigm’ (“anything and everything which seems to look kindly on cycling, however little, is to be welcome”) and towards the ‘new’ one (“cycling is going to be big, cycling is a key route to re-structuring our everyday lives and spaces, and cycling advocates can have a new role – no longer simply pioneering the (marginal) practice of cycling, but now pioneering the new (currently ridiculous, insane) demand that cycling is for everyone and must/will become the main mode of vehicular urban mobility”).

All movements for social and political change are animated by a revised view of what’s real and what’s desirable; all actors in social and political change must at some level adopt a consciousness which is at odds with convention; and all movements ‘demand the impossible’. We’re already seeing some aspects of ‘the impossible’ getting converted into ‘probable’; but we’ve got to continue building convictions – both our own and those of others – that cycling’s not simply an insertion into the world-as-it-is but actually a fatal disruption to that world, one that’s necessary in order to build a new one.

That’s my first, immediate response. Probably not very satisfying? But one which is ‘true’ to where I’m coming from, I think.

Thanks for asking the question. Obviously, I’d be interested to know your answer/s (mainly) and what if any thoughts you have on mine (secondarily).

By: Dave Horton Fri, 15 Mar 2013 17:59:05 +0000 Blimey! I was just about to switch off my computer for the weekend! I think I probably need the weekend to think about that (and to hope that a few people say some intelligent things in the meantime ;-)) I have a few thoughts off the top of my head, but I’m meant to be cooking dinner, so hopefully they’ll turn into something more ‘profound’ and ‘substantial’ by Monday. Great question, really great question … Blimey.

By: disgruntled Fri, 15 Mar 2013 17:47:16 +0000 Assuming we are emerging into the light in the UK, what do you think are the new strategies for encouraging cycling that we should be looking to adopt as activists? (apart from campaigning for the sort of infrastructure that encourages mass cycling in the first place of course)

By: Dave Horton Fri, 15 Mar 2013 15:50:08 +0000 Thanks Ana. You are always welcome here in Lancaster (and if you don’t manage to bring your own bikes, I’ll find ones here for you to use). It would be lovely to show you and anyone else who is interested around. Lancaster is a bit more cycle-friendly than Lisbon, possibly, but not much! But the countryside in this part of the UK is superb. I saw you’ll be at Velo-city in Vienna in June, so see you there! Cheers, Dave

By: Bernardo Campos Pereira Fri, 15 Mar 2013 15:47:22 +0000 Great description of the current scene around Lisbon. Unfortunately I didn’t arrive in Lisbon on time for your talk but I’m hoping you return here soon with the bicycle revolution expected/hoping for an all out take over of the city from this Spring on.

By: Ana Pereira Fri, 15 Mar 2013 15:21:38 +0000 Hey, thanks for sharing! Maybe someday we drop by with our bikes to visit you. :-) I’m extremely curious to see what’s it like to cycle in the UK!… Watching videos and reading stuff online paints a not so appealing picture, but maybe reality is more balanced. :-) It was a pleasure to meet you and to think about the ideas you presented. Thanks again for coming!