Vive la cycling revolution! How road rage can turn you to a cycle-path
The car is undeniably king in our modern age, for now at least. But for the first time in decades we Brits are slowly starting to have our heads turned by our bicycles – a fine means of transport that is both trusty and humble.
This is good news, and the result of a great deal of hard work and investment in cycle-friendly schemes intended to encourage people to start leaving their cars behind on the driveway. In the view of the ex-mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the future of getting from A to B in Britain’s urban spaces is the bicycle. It was back in 2013 when, as mayor of London, he promised to kick-start his “cycling revolution” in the capital, where he predicted how the streets of London would one day be as cycle-friendly as those of Amsterdam and Copenhagen – a pattern which he then hoped would spread to other urban centres in the country.
There are many reasons as to why this can only be a positive. As any driver knows all too well, the cost of buying a car and the ongoing expense of keeping it on the road and using it regularly can be financially crippling – taking to the bike and cutting back car use by a third to a half can and will save an enormous amount of money each month. But costly as they might be, and in spite of their negative impact on the environment, their convenience, comfort and safety continues to draw us in.
While we certainly use our cars too much, there is no denying they are essential pieces of kit – how else are we going to get the shopping home or, with some busy roads remaining hazardous for cyclists, get the kids to school and ourselves to work. Bikes aren’t exactly equipped with great space, and are unsuitable for cross-country travel too – cars won’t be closing the doors behind them in our lives anytime soon. What we can do however is cut-back and join the cycling revolution – your mind, body and bank balance will thank you for it, not to mention good old Mother Earth.
The benefits of cycling: what are they?
Cycling is free, it’s clean, and it’s really very good for you. Certainly, there are few if any other low-impact activities which burn so many calories and tones muscle like cycling will. The flush of endorphins doesn’t do any harm for our well-being either – exercise is known for being happy fertiliser for the brain. Upon sauntering into work after cycling in, you will be awake, alert, and on-point – no need for that coffee nonsense!
What’s more, it’s becoming increasingly safer to get on your bike and take to the roads here in the UK. Billions has been invested in cycling infrastructure, and there are bike share schemes popping up across the length and breadth of the country. Cycle lanes and highways are appearing, growing and improving, and streets are being pedestrianised wherever possible. Police crackdowns, like Operation Safeway in London, have also played their part in reducing accidents. With further investment planned, there is no sign that this trend will reverse anytime soon. .
OK, I get it. So why is Britain still suspicious of cycling?
In spite of these benefits, we just haven’t taken to cycling here in Britain. The stats speak for themselves: in the UK, only around 2% of all journeys are thought to have been made by bike whereas, in Holland, around 27% of journeys are made using them. Holland’s stats pale in comparison to that of the Danish capital Copenhagen, however, where more than half of all journeys are made by bicycle. Why?
Well it’s all down to how confident and safe we Brits feel on the road. In countries like Holland and Denmark, where road networks and urban infrastructure has been designed with the needs of cyclists in mind, anybody and everybody feels safe to take to the roads on their bikes – even people who aren’t especially confident on a bike. In Britain, however, this isn’t the case. Here our busy roads were definitely not originally designed for cyclists and they appear hostile to the casual user.
That said, if areas of the country which are more bicycle friendly, like Cambridge, are anything to go by, there is hope. Around a third of the Cambridge population – the most cycling-friendly city in the UK – take to their bikes at least three times a week, followed by Oxford with over 20% of the population, and York with 16%. And with regards to the wider UK, statistics show that the number of cyclists taking to the road regularly has been steadily climbing since 2009.
Experts believe that our growing fondness for cycling has justified the billions of pounds in spending on cyclist infrastructure and safety programs, and it is hoped that an ever increasing number of us will start to reach for our bikes. The benefits are there for all to see – we are becoming a fitter, healthier, more environmentally-friendly Britain.
Vive la cycling revolution!
They are cheap, great exercise, fun, clean, and quick. What’s not to love? What are you waiting for? Next time you’re thinking of hopping in the car to nip into town or visit friends, put down your car keys and reach for your helmet!
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