Why safe cycling is important to me

Cycling Advocacy, the push for better and safer conditions for cyclists in the UK is becoming a passion of mine.

I will definitely be writing more posts on the subject, so I wanted to take a few moments and write about why it’s important to me and hence why I’ll be writing more about it.

There are a bunch of reasons that this has become important to me, since I started a slow learning curve on the subject about a year ago.

In no particular order:

–           The fact that in 2011 in Britain 3,102 people were killed or seriously injured cycling. I genuinely believe this is a national disgrace. Cycling just isn’t safe enough here and this needs to change.

–           As a parent, I have been shocked that there is nowhere safe where I live where children are allowed to cycle. All of my local parks have signs up saying no cycling (which we ignore). My wife who is not a confident cyclist would like to ride her bike but is rightly too nervous to learn amongst aggressively driven cars, vans, buses and trucks.

–           Congestion is terrible where I live and getting worse – so is pollution and obesity. Many of my neighbours drive the 400 yards to our corner shop. One of my neighbours uses his car up to 10 times a day but never for more than a few miles (given how fast he’s back at home).

–           Quality of life is declining in Britain as is general health from reading statistics and newspapers.

–           Car use has peaked in the UK and is declining but no politician seems to have noticed or even less realise that this is an opportunity

–           The vast majority of people I speak to about cycling – saying they’d do more but it’s not safe to be on the road and that they certainly wouldn’t allow their children ride on the road (and neither would I).

–           If you build more roads you just get more congestion – look at the M25 widening as just one example. The only way to fix congestion is to take cars off the road. This is what the Dutch did and they are still removing roads now as they have so much less people using cars than 30 years ago. Other cities like Copenhagen, Paris and even New York are turning roads over to cyclists and pedestrian.

–           Cities and towns should be for people not cars. But until there is segregated and well designed infrastructure for people to make their journeys safely through the towns they live in, this change won’t happen. If you build it they will come and congestion will decline but only if the cycling infrastructure is world class.

–           Investment in cycling infrastructure has a positive impact on local shopping. It has a positive impact on local health costs, a positive impact on air quality and carbon emissions, it makes for happy and healthier people. Investments in roads have a net cost to the economy compared with the net benefit provided by cycling investment.

–           Investment in cycling needs to become a core part of transport planning not a box ticking add on. It needs to be central to planning.

–           The answers for how to do this won’t come from inside Britain. No disrespect to Sustrans or the CTC etc who have done some good work. The answer are there already from groups like Copenhagenize and the Dutch Cycling Embassy to name but two.

–           Cycling advocacy has been virtually ineffective in the last 30 years in Britain but I do believe the time is right to change this.

–           Good cycling infrastructure will cost about the same as the bad stuff we have already – and all cycling infrastructure costs a fraction of road infrastructure.

–           Cycling infrastructure should not be targeted at cyclists. Not at all. It needs to be targeted at mums, kids, families – normal people. Give people an easy and safe way to ride through their town and make it more complex to use their cars.

–           I love cars but they are a terrible solution to urban transport – terribly inefficient use of space, polluting, noisy, hard of infrastructure, deadly to pedestrians and cyclists.

–           Central government and local government need to be joined up and road laws and the criminal justice system need to change to actively support safer cycling.

–           There is a governmental review – get involved.

–           Remember no politician gets remembered for building roads – those who help make our cities and towns more liveable and give them back to the people rather than the car will be remembered and celebrated.

This is a big challenge but thanks to campaigns like The Times’ excellent #cyclesafe campaign it’s time, I believe, to start making the push for more liveable cities and towns. Write to your MP asking for how he or she is going to help make this step change for a better Britain, write to the leader of your council and ask them how cycling infrastructure is being prioritised and fast tracked in your town so that it’s safe for your children to ride their bikes and be healthier. There will be towns that take the lead and do this – why not yours?



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Thanks for reading