Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Cycling in Seville is just so... pedestrian

Long time no blog. Sorry. You'd think that spending a lot of time in Southern Europe's poster child for safe cycling, Seville, that I'd have a lot to say. I'd be blogging furiously. But, I haven't. And I think I've figured out why.


Google gives us two definitions for 'pedestrian'. Firstly, 
(noun) a person walking rather than travelling in a vehicle.
but also,
(adjective) lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.
The Oxford Etymology Dictionary suggests these two meanings are related, with the dull or boring sense of the adjective being used to describe people walking as a contrast to those on horseback. Walking is pedestrian, going to your local supermarket to buy a bottle of Coke is pedestrian, and, in Seville, cycling is rather pedestrian. Since I've never found any great urge to blog about walking or buying Coke, cycling has fallen into that category.

Of course, that sharply contrasts to most other places, including the UK, where close-passes, dangerous junctions and high stress levels that tend to be associated with cycling are anything but pedestrian.

Out Group

It also strikes me that in the UK, even though I've never worn a helmet or donned Lycra, 'cyclist' is part of my identity. Scotland has a tiny modal share and by cycling for transport I'm at the very least a bit unusual and at most some kind of freak.

In Seville, I'm cycling more than I ever have in my life (all for transport), but it's not part of my identity. The vast majority of my colleagues (Spaniards and immigrants) cycle. My Spanish flatmates cycle. I pass countless fellow people on the street cycling every day. They cycle because it's the most convenient way to move around the city for many journeys. Sorry, but if cycling doesn't make me feel special then I'm less likely to think about spending my evening blogging about it!

How can you make cycling in your city more pedestrian?

To be clear, I don't mean pedestrian in the sense of making it slow and sharing space with people walking... quite the opposite. I mean how can you make it boring, unremarkable? How can we reach a point where 'I cycle' is as noteworthy and as much of a conversation starter as 'I eat ice-cream on warm days'? Despite having a less-than-perfect cycle network (I'll describe why over a few blogs over the next few weeks), Seville has achieved the status of making cycling quite boring. That's bad for my motivation to blog, but good for pretty much everything else.

Boring Cycling Infrastructure in Seville

This is the first in a series of (long overdue) posts about cycling in Seville. Stay tuned! Follow my on Twitter, @justacwab

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