I generally love my commute to work on my bike, it’s the perfect way for a gym-aphobe like me to get some exercise, avoid traffic and enjoy some (mostly) fresh air. I’m lucky that my route is predominately on quiet roads and shared paths, but there are some sections of busier roads which I just can’t avoid.
Despite having cycled all my life, trained as a ‘cycle instructor’ and now commuting by bike every day, I never feel 100% comfortable on busy roads and I’ll often go out of my way to avoid them where possible. I’m not alone. Fear of traffic is the primary reason more women like me don’t feel safe to cycle on UK roads. However, there are just so many benefits to cycling for transport purposes.
By riding my bike to work I’m not contributing to road congestion or air pollution and I’m getting a regular bit of exercise with no expensive gym membership. My commute is around 4 miles, it generally takes me around 20-25 minutes and I can cycle in my work clothes since I don’t work up a sweat.
According to National Travel Survey data approximately ¾ of our day-to-day trips between 1 and 5 miles are made by car. Whilst some of these trips are being made by those with mobility impairments or carrying bulky items, there is the potential for a big shift in the proportion of journeys by bike. But we need to create safe and attractive environments for this, because whilst we have some ‘shared paths’ they are far from ideal (and serve little benefit to the pedestrians we share the paths with).
We can just look to our neighbours in Holland and Denmark to see what a combination of safe cycle lanes and cycle-friendly policies can do to encourage cycling. Whilst Swindon is luckier than many other UK towns, wouldn’t it be nice for all school children to be able to cycle on safe routes to schools, and for all adults to see cycling as a convenient and practical way to get to work? After all, aren’t all us adults just big children anyway?
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