Pedalling a future

Cycling is so good but we need to make it safer

Walking around Amsterdam on a still and sultry late summer evening, there is no breeze but the air is fresh. No obvious traffic pollution assails our nostrils. We are struck by how it’s cyclists that generate air currents as they whizz past, all through the day and into the evening and night.

Cycling is embedded into the culture and delivers very positive benefits. Everybody seems to do it.

Safe cycling needs more than just talk by authorities

It seems to us that UK cities need more than just hastily thrown up flimsy temporary cycle lanes to encourage people to take up cycling. Safety is paramount and the risks of being involved in a collision with a massive artic puts many people off.

It’s not enough for the authorities to launch publicity drives and advertising campaigns. It needs proper hands-on engagement and sustained action. The results would be well worth it.

For example, Denmark’s idea of cycle lanes is a permanent lane between the pedestrian pavement and roadside parking, with moving traffic safely at a distance. That would certainly encourage people like us to at least give it a try.

Driver education and awareness is a big factor

One of the downsides of driving is that the locked doors of a car generate a sense of security, anonymity and detachment for the driver. Tinted windows add to it.

A driver’s basic instinct is to be wary of bigger vehicles (mastodons) but less aware of those that appear inconsequential (insects). We know that complacency and lack of awareness kills cyclists and motorcyclists every day.

Cyclists are just a nuisance to drivers, especially when unable to overtake them. It all adds up to an undesirable picture that needs determined and effective changes.

It may be that driver change is just too big a barrier to confidently overcome. Physical devices, like Denmark’s safe cycling lanes, may well be the only answer.

Physical / health benefits are fairly obvious

Cycling is aerobic with low impact on your body.

Running burns more calories than cycling, roughly 5-6 times more per mile travelled. A 30-min 5k run is equivalent to 3 hours cycling just to give an indicative scale. Everybody is different of course. It means you can travel further and faster by bike on the same amount of energy that you could by running.

Cycling extends your explorer range dramatically. You can get to know your own neighbourhood and pick a new district to explore when you are in the mood.

Cycling’s positive effect on emotions, wellbeing and mental health

Any exercise releases endorphins, which cause a “feel better” emotion and reduce stress levels. Cycling is a relaxed form of activity and does this in spades. It washes away feelings of anxiety and depression – at least for a time. There is something about cycling and its enforced focus on the road that raises present moment awareness and pushes normal mental clutter away.

It’s this refreshing of body and soul that, in our opinion, makes cycling so desirable. If only we could do it safely on our streets.

Greater confidence and contentment come to those who make cycling a regular part of their lives. Broaden its appeal, make it safer and benefit us, our children and our children’s children.