One of the reasons the Apple iPhone is so popular is its ease of use. When I got mine, I never once looked at the instruction booklet because it is so intuitive. The same seems to go for all of their products. Many people I speak to have the same experience.
So it should be with getting on a bike instead of taking a car. It should not require specialist training and nor should it require extra equipment.
A group of Australians recently went across to the Netherlands to see how the Dutch masters have managed to get a modal share for cycling up above 50% in some places. A brief look at the set of photos taken from a park bench within 15 minutes shows how. Everybody can get around easily by bike - young and old, male and female.
The modal share for cycling that we have in Australia generally hovers between 1 and 2%. Certainly in Adelaide, the majority of cyclists have a number of similarities. If they are the cyclists who come out for long rides at the weekend, the are on expensive racing bikes and wear proper cycling gear, including shoes that clip on to the pedals, streamlined helmets and lycra clothes. The other type of cyclist you see is the "commuter cyclist". They are generally more varied in appearance but will often be wearing tight pants (long and short), often clip-on shoes and a bright yellow fluorescent jacket or top.
Almost nobody in Australia takes up cycling on a regular basis as an alternative to driving. And by that, I mean as a direct alternative. Most people who take a quick journey by car just jump in and go without getting into fireproof overalls and a crash helmet. Taking the bike is not really a viable alternative. Invariably, if you wish to get anywhere, you must share the road with motorised traffic. The alternative of driving feels safer, faster and much more comfortable to most people. That is why they prefer it.
Cycling needs to be like an iPhone. Take it out of the box and start; no special equipment needed, easy, safe and so intuitive that anybody can do it regardless of age.
What we have here seems to be a vicious circle. In the main, the only people who cycle regularly are the die-hards. They are of course passionate and mean well but they become the voice of cycling instead of the rest of the population - cycling is a hobby and so it is assumed it is the same for everyone else. You see the effects of this everywhere. A video posted on Sydney Cycle Chic recently illustrates it perfectly. It was a video about commuter cycling. On top of all the equipment that was recommended, the film recommended taking energy bars! As if you're trekking across the Nullarbor. I really don't think you need that sort of advice if all you're planning to do is start riding the short distance to work or elsewhere.
The reason to increase cycling's modal share is not to get other people to share in your hobby. It is because cities are more pleasant and safer with fewer cars speeding through them. Also, at busy places, like around schools, there is simply not the space for all of those cars and it is actually quite silly to encourage so much car use. The great thing is that we are all now aware of this. Take a look at some of the suggestions on the Adelaide City Council iPhone and Android app. Nearly all are about making the city friendlier for people on foot or wanting to sit and enjoy their surrounding. Great stuff!