Cyclists must be harder to understand than I first thought. Even though the idea of accommodating a growing number of cyclists has come to the forefront in many countries, how to do that still remains a mystery.
City planners and assorted government officials realize that they must do something to address the needs of people on bikes. Most often, they install bike lanes or bicycle parking, both of which fall into the category of common sense.
Cyclists want to use the roads and they want to be able to park when they arrive at their destination — or do they? To some people the answer is “no.” Cyclists, they believe, don’t want to get off of their bikes and park, they want to engage in activities normally done in a chair while on their bikes.
I hadn’t thought of this because I usually get off of my bike for chair-oriented activities. Take grabbing a coffee or a bite to eat; this is something I do when off of my bike.
I do this for three reasons. First, because it is more comfortable to eat and drink while seated in a chair. Second, because it gives me a chance to rest my sit bones, which can become a bit sore when I’m on my bike for extended periods of time. And third, because it is easier to digest food and beverages when you don’t have to balance yourself on a narrow saddle.
Apparently, to some people none of these things matter. In Zurich, for instance, the city counsel has installed Velokafi, otherwise known as a drive-in for bicycles. They installed the drive-in on the outdoor terrace of a popular cafe.
Wooden stations with table tops allow cyclists to pull in and order food and drinks without dismounting and parking their bikes. The stations are designed to hold a bike steady while the cyclist eats.
This endeavor is “part of the city council’s Stadtverkehr 2025 program, which aims to accommodate the growing cycling community, improve the infrastructure, and reduce traffic flow.” Improving bicycle infrastructure and reducing traffic flow are excellent goals. However, it’s not readily apparent how bicycle drive-ins contribute to those goals. And, it’s even less apparent why the idea of a drive-in was something a cyclist would need to travel by bike.
Was someone on the city council afraid that cyclists would start eating and drinking while driving, the way motorists do? Was the drive-in concept devised as a way to prevent accidents? Or was it an idea for how to make it easier for people to travel by bike?
I don’t see what pulling into a drive-in while on your bike would do to make it easier to travel by bike. Putting a bike rack near the cafe could accomplish the same thing. This would also make it more convenient for a cyclist to stop and get a bite to eat.
While there’s nothing wrong with creating conveniences of this type for cyclists, it shouldn’t come at the expense of more important items such as bike lanes. As I thought about this event, something else crossed my mind. Is it a good idea to encourage cyclists to associate riding a bicycle with eating?
One of cycling’s positive attributes is its usefulness in helping a rider to maintain a healthy weight. Is encouraging eating while cycling a good thing to do?
Further, what will happen if this idea catches on? Will we see fast food chains like McDonald’s opening bicycle drive-ins to entice cyclists into eating fattening and unhealthy foods? This may not be the direction we want cycling to take.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to a little novelty and creating conveniences for a specific group of people. Such things add a touch of importance to the group being addressed and can serve to make them feel more welcome. So there is an upside.
But what I’d really like to know is whose idea this was. Was it conceived by a cyclist who thought it would be cool and fun to eat astride a bicycle? Or was it a car-oriented council member who thought that food was something cyclists needed as encouragement to ride more?
Something makes me think it was the latter. Part of my reasoning is based on the knowledge that when this venture launched, they offered free coffee to cyclists who tried out the stations. There’s nothing like “free” to get people to try something new.
For all we know, bicycle drive-ins are the wave of the future. Once you mount a bicycle, you’ll be able to eat, drink, shop and travel, all without dismounting. That may be too ambitious, but at least people are trying to use some imagination to build a bicycle-friendly environment. I can’t wait to see what they think of next.