Interview with CBC’s Matt Galloway: Lessons from Dutch Biking

In July 2017, I was hosted for an interview with Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning, to talk about my most recent blog post, and more broadly, what I took away from three weeks of studying cycling in Amsterdam.

The two of us talked about helmets, cycling culture, messaging, and what we need to do to normalize cycling in Toronto.

“To the Dutch, a bicycle is like a vacuum cleaner – everyone has one, but no one talks about it.”

I started off by talking about just how normal cycling is in the Netherlands. In this fully-developed cycling culture, cycling really is for everyone – children, seniors, groups, etc. When cycling is for everyone, it is no longer part of someone’s identity to be a “cyclist”, and the bicycle becomes normalized and mundane.

“By encouraging helmets all the time … we are actually perpetuating the idea that cycling is unsafe.”

Matt drilled into the idea of helmet use, suggesting that it may be dangerous to promote the idea that cyclists don’t need to wear helmets. I replied by saying that helmets are absolutely warranted in many situations, but in many others it’s totally appropriate to not wear a helmet, and that when we strongly promote helmet use we actually strengthen associations in people’s minds that cycling is dangerous.

“In order to change the way people think about cycling, we need to change the way we talk about cycling.”

In the context of Toronto, where infrastructure is commonly at the forefront of cycling discussions, I promoted the idea that in addition to infrastructure, we need to work to improve associations people have with cycling. For example, removing the association that cycling is a sweaty sport, and helping people realize it can be relaxing and fun.

UPDATE May 2020: Unfortunately the archive of this interview no longer exists on the CBC website.

Image credit: CBC Television

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