Included with the registration renewal papers for a car was this cute little advertisement encouraging people to consider cycling and directing them to startriding.com.au as promoted by the Bicycle Network (www.bicyclenetwork.com.au)
Tempted by free stuff and an interest in what might convince people to cycle I took a look and was confronted by this page requiring my personal details inclusive of date of birth and mobile telephone number.
The dynamic page includes animated bicycles which enter the screen for aesthetic purposes (note for the graphic designers, contemporary bicycles have the gear train on the right hand side) but provides almost zero information unless you freely hand over your information to the commercial operator. But do not fear as they promise to give you something by postal mail if you fill in all the details, what this something might be is not mentioned anywhere and it is simply referred to as a “pack”.
Completely filling the form (with or without real information) sets a cookie that then allows access to the overly moderated information expected of a collaboration with government entities. Again with obvious excess expense spent on the presentation. Simply providing this hidden information up front seems the easy solution but instead users will be discouraged from getting to the resource by the required probing. There is a login button to the upper right which requires only an email address to proceed but it was not functional with the email address signed up with so there may be a larger community or resource hidden further deep that we are missing.
Returning to the information presented after filling out the form a few quirky examples pop out:
- Topping the list of tips is wearing a helmet, not surprising for a government backed resource but the much more important tip of checking your brakes slips down to number 3.
- Route planning completely dodges the commuting utility of shared paths and suggests they are only appropriate for recreational riders, while Austroads guidelines (which are supported by Vicroads, a partner of the startriding.com.au site) are very clear that shared paths should be used to support all users including commuting and utility cyclists. Similarly no mention of off road bicycle paths is made as discussion jumps straight from shared paths to onroad facilities, which are grouped with cycling on road.
- Recommendation is made to leave 1m (3 feet) of clearance when passing parked cars, despite that on road cycle lanes are not required to and routinely fail to leave sufficient space to do so.
- Including 650B wheel sizing in the brief discussion of what bike might be suitable for an undecided buyer, while not mentioning anything like getting the right size or having a bike fitted.
- Brake pads are described as a self service item for cyclists while adjusting slack (its not tension) in the brake cables is a job for a bicycle mechanic.
Overall it comes across as an attempt by a naive group who think they are actually doing something for cycling, by parroting a few road rules for cyclists. Along with the select road rules a few poorly researched ideas that weren’t run past people in the industry or a variety of regular cyclists before going live are wedged in to bulk out the content. Staying safe and legal is important but introducing people to cycling should be balanced with positive messages and tangible opportunities.
Despite giving your address and state, a tabbed navigational box includes further resources sorted by state which isn’t already open on your states tab. Further raising the question of where the entered data will actually get used if not to provide appropriate information. These further links point out to much more reputable sources of local information for users, leading with just this would have been much less discouraging than a forceful signup questionnaire.