Thursday 5 June 2014

In defence of cycling

I'm not a cyclist. I mean, I can ride a bike, but the number of times I've done so in the past year could be counted on the fingers of one hand. I just thought I'd put that out there to start with as I know the common misconception is that people don't care about making cycling safer unless they are themselves regularly travelling by bike. Having spoken to a number of people on the topic I think it's fair to say there'd be a lot more of us out there on bikes if we felt safer doing so. And let's be honest, this would be a good thing, not just for our personal health and fitness, but also for the environment as well as for those using the roads as there'd be less congestion. 

The news of yet another cyclist's death in London on Monday made me sad, but then it made me angry, really angry. Why is it that so many people lose their lives just because they've chosen to travel by bike? It isn't right, and it isn't necessary. It's not like it's a disease that we can't find a cure for. It's no secret as to how to make it safer for cyclists (Holland being an excellent example), it's just a case of apathy and reluctance to commit to carrying out the necessary changes. It's getting that the deaths of cyclists are such a regular occurrence in the news that there's a danger that the lives lost will disappear in a haze of statistics. These aren't just numbers, they are real people innocently going about their day whose lives are being stolen from them. It takes mere seconds for their futures to disappear, and for their loved ones to be left with a gaping hole in their lives that cannot be re-filled, a wound that won't ever fully heal. People are not replaceable, and it disgusts me that this is allowed to keep happening with no real efforts to make a change by those with the power to do so. More despicable, however, if the oft heard suggestion that it is somehow the cyclist's fault, that they shouldn't be on the road, and, by implication, deserve what they get (seriously?!).

London Cycling Campaign ran an excellent campaign in the run-up to the recent local elections called Space for Cycling (for some brilliant images from the ride through the capital they organised see here). This really highlighted the fact that there isn't really any space for cycling. Those on bikes are forced to share the road with cars, buses, and lorries where they have to deal with aggression and danger most every time they go out for a ride. I'm always horrified when talking to regular cyclists by how they all seem to have multiple tales of being knocked off their bikes, of sustaining injuries of varying degrees of severity. I'm not sure why this is generally deemed acceptable; that if you choose to go by bike you just have to accept the risk. I don't feel afraid to use other forms of transport, why should cycling be any different? If people of all ages are to consider cycling to be a viable option, serious changes need to be made.

Useful websites:
- For information on campaigns worldwide
- Brake - a road safety charity, campaigning for safer roads as well as providing support for those injured or bereaved

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