The way forward: prioritise cycling

We have a major problem in this country with obesity levels, so we’re told. The NHS is creaking at the seams and many of the health issues that currently overwhelm the NHS result from obesity. A big factor in the level of obesity is a lack of activity. And much of our national lack of activity is a result of our collective dependence upon the car for getting around.

There is a clear way forward and it can be summed up in two words: prioritise cycling!

Everyday transport is something we all do… well, everyday. We do it without even thinking about it. We go to the shops, we go to work, to school, to college, we go to visit friends. In many cases, these journeys could be made by bike. By doing so, we would all get the benefit of physical activity without even noticing!

I realise that one of the main impediments to doing this is that people think the roads aren’t safe for cyclists. I quite agree. Why should someone riding a bike have to take their lives in their hands, battling it out with cars and lorries on dangerous roads? The answer is of course they shouldn’t have to.

Look at almost any road. You’ll see a pavement – that’s where people walk. You’ll see a road – that’s where people drive cars, trucks, HGV’s. What you won’t see is a space for people riding bikes! Cyclists are usually expected to share the road with traffic or to share the pavement with pedestrians. They don’t usually have their own space. Even if there is a cycle lane, it’s usually painted on, it’s very thin, it disappears without warning, it often has cars parked across it and frequently has cars driving into it!

In terms of cycling infrastructure, Britain is a third-world nation! You only have to look at what the Dutch have done with a consistent policy of investing in the health of their nation by investing in first class cycling infrastructure over the last 30 years. And not only in the Netherlands. Look at places like Copenhagen, Berlin, Barcelona, Montreal – people everywhere are realising the future of local transport is not the car. It has its place of course, but it should not have the priority.

More people cycling means less traffic on the roads, less polluting exhausts filling our cities and towns with fumes. It means less traffic noise, less wear and tear on the road surfaces (leading to reduced maintenance required).

More people cycling means more people getting healthier, it means more people saving money on petrol or diesel and it means more people getting out more, enjoying the fresh air on their faces and taking life at a gentler, less stressful, pace.

The message to the government and our local authorities is clear: prioritize cycling to make it possible for people to cycle without fear of being knocked off their bike or of even being killed. Create space for separated cycleways. Make it clear that the Government and local authorities recognise the benefits that people using their bikes for everyday transport will give the country. Make it policy to put more money into creating a first-world cycling infrastructure, instead of a third world cycle infrastructure. Prioritize cycling, not only to reduce the levels of obesity but for the benefit of everyone.

Watch Chris Boardman put the case for prioritizing cycling in this BBC video.


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