CHAT Club – Sara Templeton on Bikelash

Last night we had our second CHAT Club event where Councillor Sara Templeton spoke on the phenonemon known as “Bikelash”. This is basically negative public reactions to attempts to install safe cycling infrastructure. We’ve seen a lot of it here during the Christchurch Major Cycleways construction, and other cities have seen it too (even friendly Dunedin as this hilarious article describes). Fortunately, by spending some time trying to better understand, we can come up with strategies for dealing with it.


A few key takeaways for me were:

  • There are two broad types of bikelash:
    • General moaning – people who will grumble about anything to do with cycling
    • Specific complaints – people who are against some specific impact that a particular cycleway has
  • Sara said forget about the first group and focus on the second group. The second group do sometimes have legitimate gripes which can be addressed through minor design changes. And even if their wishes can’t be fulfilled, just engaging with them can go a long way.
  • Sometimes we have to lose a battle in order to win the war. An example of this was allowing the Christchurch major cycleways programme to be pushed out several years in order to secure the additional funding required to do them properly.
  • Mainstream media survive on controversy. They’ll tend to report the negative, never the positive – don’t be surprised when this happens.
  • Distinguish “noise” from “numbers”. Don’t let a vocal minority drown out a silent majority. In Christchurch people who support the cycleways are definitely a silent majority.
  • It’s easy for people to dismiss international data with comments like “but Christchurch is not Copenhagen”. That’s why local data (like CCC’s cycleways counters) is absolutely essential.
  • The piece of graffitti/art on the dairy wall was the artistic pinnacle of Christchurch bikelash – unfortunately all other bikelash was far more mundane than this.
  • E-scooters are a useful distraction. Bikelash has died down recently because those people have been too busy worrying about e-scooters.

There was some good dicussion afterwards on all sorts of wider things – e-scooters, elderly cycling, then some tangents into trains, rapid transit, speed limits…

Thanks to Sara for presenting. Announcement for the next event will be out soon.

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