I used to cycle to work two of three days each week. It was a lengthy and hilly journey of 20 miles which took me variously on busy roads, quiet streets and cycle paths. I am not the fastest cyclist in the world and so the journeys ate up much of my spare time but I found that it was liberating to escape the traffic jams even if my travels took longer overall. Cycling was also great for my fitness levels and my wallet as I saved a fortune on fuel. Ultimately I returned to my car, however, as I was struggling for time and had come close to a having a bad accident on several occasions.
I have often wondered if I should return to cycling for at least some of my journeys but those near misses made me feel that the roads were becoming too dangerous. There are some unfortunate headlines around at the moment too as no fewer than six cyclists have been killed in London in the last two weeks alone making me feel that any cycling adventures for me should be confined to the off road variety. Nasty headlines are always off-putting but is cycling really more dangerous these days or are the headlines misleading?
I decided to take a closer look at the statistics and the truth is that deaths and serious injuries amongst cyclists in Britain have remained fairly constant in recent years. More importantly the number of miles cycled has been increasing, probably as a result of the cost of fuel and public transport. Let’s face it the expense of driving or travelling by train is no so scary that it is enough send anyone straight to their local cycle shop. The crucial statistic here is the deaths per miles cycled and that figure is lower than it has been in the past meaning that cycling is actually getting safer. I have to say that it doesn’t feel like that but the facts are the facts.
Awareness campaigns, cycle lanes and a raft of other safety measures appear to have improved the safety of our roads for those on two wheels and so perhaps my bike should not stay in the garage after all. There is still a long way to go as many drivers remain rather oblivious to cyclists or even aggressive towards them but the situation is improving as it is for pedestrians and motorists too. If cycle awareness could be a significant feature of driving lessons and the driving test I believe things would improve dramatically which could help millions of people save a fortune on fuel and get fit at the same time.
There certainly doesn’t seem to be a good reason to put young people off cycling and so there is no excuse for not investing in bicycles for the kids. Cycling is great exercise and gets young people into the great outdoors and so could help solve the problem of poor fitness levels and obesity. Bad headlines do nothing to encourage people out onto the roads.
Article by Sally Stacey