Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Roads were built for bicycles

What a book!

'Roads were not built for cars' is a 'mine' of information and one that all politicians (especially in Australia) should have access to, and even more especially if their portfolio involves roads and the moving of folk around on them.

I went to the House of Commons last week to hear Carlton Reid (@carltonreid) give a presentation on his book to a select (oui, c'est moi!) group of individuals, politicians, and bureaucrats.

Listening to Carlton's preso, it turns out that people using bicycles back-in-the-day did a considerable amount of leg-work getting roads improved for bicycle and other vehicle use. This then had a flow on effect for the nascent motoring industry which ultimately benefited hugely from the earlier cyclists' lobbying.

It also turns out that many of the early car models can be distinctly traced back to the bicycle - yes the car came from the bicycle, from actual bicycle components ... like bicycle pneumatic tyres for starters ... not from motor bikes but from good old-fashioned bicycles!

(... and I'm so taking my brompton to my Parliament House the next time I have a meeting with an aussie pollie ... and no I won't be leaving it outside, constable! ... look bicycles in a House of Commons committee room ... it's conceivable!)

It was so good to meet Carlton, and to hear him chatting on the fascinating history of bicycles and 'bicycling' politicians and 'bicycling' car developers, and how closely aligned the technologies for cycling and motoring are.

I loved the idea that amidst nation-running and car-developing at the end of the 19th century, politicians and car-developers were riding their bicycles everywhere to get this stuff done.

And I was most heartened to hear that according to Professor Goodwin we're at Peak Car, and that the notion the 'car is king' is basically history.

(Ahem, apart from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Australian politicians haven't had that memo yet!!!)

... and that Helsinki has a 25 year plan for making their city car-free!

As always it was brilliant going to London, and equally brilliant meeting and listening to Carlton, and meeting the many other cycling peeps in the audience whom I've got to know in my tweeting and blogging capacity ...

As always it was brilliant hiring a Boris bike and finding (?!) my way from Kings Cross to Westminster ...

... and it was magically brilliant to hire another one and be guided from Westminster by David Dansky (@fixedfun) on the loveliest off-the-beaten-track-middle-of-the-city ride past Covent Garden and Lincoln's Inn Fields, along Leather Lane and all the way up Amwell Street (bloody hell!!!) and then all the way down to float past Percy Circus back to Kings Cross station for my train back to Newark ... making sure, of course, we left plenty of time for a couple of vinos at a great pub in Wicklow Street whilst we sat outside on a balmy November night watching cyclists galore flying past ... of course!

Roads definitely weren't built for cars ... that's patently obvious ... so do yourself a favour, and grab a copy of Carlton's book, and read up on the history of bicycling, roads and motoring!!!

(and I'm looking mostly at you, NSW politicians, time to get with it, and Carlton can help you!)



  1. I caught this today (Friday) just as I was making my monthly visit to my Chancery Lane office, just round the corner from your photo of the tube station sign!

    1. Brilliant! Thanks for letting me know, congokid!

      How I love 'London Town'!!!!