Dragon Lake Bridge Park, Bengbu, China. Copyright AECOM photo by Dixi Carrillo.
Last weekend I met Australian Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer Liesel Jones.
I didn’t know who she was.
We chatted about day spas, massages and fake tans! Liesel has a dream: to open the best urban day spa in Australia, and I for one know she’ll make her dream come true.
A recent article in The Urban Developer took a look at the rise in cycling and the growing demand for end-of-trip facilities – things like showers, lockers and cycle parking racks. The opinion piece noted that whilst the car is still the dominant mode of travel in Australia – and many cities around the world – the rise in travel by bicycle and scooter – and up-surge in joggers and runners – is creating both demand for new or retrofitted office premises that provide facilities, and instances where some city landlords are charging a monthly fee in excess of $50 for bike storage and locker use.
At around the same time, my yoga buddy, Julie, a primary school teacher who knows nothing about urban planning, asked the bleeding obvious question: “why don’t gyms and hotel spas let city cyclists use their showers?”
As you can imagine, all of this got me thinking: will day spas increase cycling in our cities?
Yes, I think they will.
Take my Facebook friend Mitch Bright. He runs the Brisbane Airport Bicycle User Group. They’re campaigning for showers and lockers at the domestic terminal. He says it’s fine for overall-wearing ground staff to be sans shower but we apparently expect pilots to be highly poised and very polished! I don’t know much about airports but I do know – from long stop-overs and a few accidentally missed flights – that most airports have lots of showers. They’re in the business lounges, in the new pay-as-you-go shower facilities, the in-terminal hotels, the food courts, the dangerous goods areas (not that I loiter there!) and next to the swimming pool, if you’re in Singapore.
Today on my 11-minute walk to work I loosely counted the number of possible showers. Two day spas; two hairdressers; a bike shop; one medical centre; two yoga studios; a backpackers hostel; and a servo (fuel station) with a shower in the disabled facilities. In total, I counted at least ten showers that have the potential – with a little imaginative entrepreneurial thinking – to be utilised by cyclists once or twice a week.
I know we can’t just let anyone use any shower anywhere, but we can identify opportunities to adjust how we use our existing assets. Showers and lockers cost money, and their merits are often called into question. If we really want cycling to be a central part of our cities we need to work together so that we all “sweat our assets.” The story of this success lies in our ability to identify the obvious opportunities, to understand which assets are underused, and to create partnerships which provide advantages for all.
I reckon that outliers like Liesel, with big ambitions and heaps of determination, have the sense to realise that if we work together we can make everyone’s dreams come true.
Rachel Smith (email@example.com) is an internationally-recognized urban planner and commentator, and principal transport planner with AECOM’s Brisbane office. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter, or follow her blog here.