Do you remember to have heard “In whatever you do, do not ever appear anti-car!” I certainly was given that advice over and over again by well-meaning cycle campaigners. To me there was a conundrum, a dilemma. If you don’t talk about the problem, how will you solve it?
A very British thing perhaps. We think we can magically circumvent the problem, let it lie on the roadside, and move on. We haven’t seen it. So it does not exist. Head in the sand. If, however that problem is in the public imagination (as car use is) and hence part of the thing you are trying to move on, circumventing will be counterproductive.
The ineffectiveness of that campaigning tactics stems from the inability to link with the felt and lived realities. If you construct an alternative reality (as campaigns, activism, initiatives always will try to do) but this reality simply loosely floats in thin air – and is not seen by the public, bears no links to their reality – then it won’t hold. There is no hook, no grip to make it stick.
This kind of cycle campaigning is not honest with itself. The advice stems from wanting to circumvent confrontation. A very British thing. Yet campaigning is about dealing with changing the status quo, dealing with conflicts this arouses. If you do not spell out relatively head-on the problem – it also shows your honesty – it won’t be stirred. And cycle campaigners ideas and demands for a better transport future will again, be marginalised. As they have been for decades. The wishes were deliberately unpolitical. Cozy. How was that ever supposed to work? Why would they be seen?
Of course these wishes were easy to be ignored as they were nice and friendly. They did not attack the wrongs, and – here’s another necessity – they did not spell out the solutions. Once you talk about fair space, spatial efficiency and the safety for future generations you’ll get there. This is what new cycle campaigners have been doing and that is now stirring opposition. As it must. As it is predicted. As it has to be addressed. Cycling has now made political demands. Space is political.
Now we (simply) must communicate cycling’s case again. Now we are getting there.