Thursday 20 April 2017

Cycling is Good For You. Grass is Green. Ocean is Moist.

I mean, seriously. We know this, or we should do. Still, I suppose that turning it into a simple message like this is worthwhile, and I'm always in favour of good, solid data over just expressing the bleeding obvious.

So cycling regularly (like, to work) confers a massive health bonus, reducing the likelihood of cancer or heart disease to an astonishing degree. Of course getting some exercised is good - you'll be less fat, you'll be healthier, you'll he more resilient. And the best way to get exercise regularly is to design it into your day. Cycling creates less noise, no pollution, takes less space, tends to be much faster, uses up calories... Its got a lot going for it, and when we compare the pros to the cons facilitating mass cycling for transport is a no-brainer.

Shall we look at how this news story was received? Ok. Lets. Buckle up.

Going to just stick with the responses to this tweet here (and the almost identical BBC one):

 I'm going to pick tweets that cover each of the major criticism we're seeing. Lets start with...

I chose that one because its less graphic or even chilling as some of them. Lots of people are responding with the assumption that yes, it might save you from cancer but you're going to die under the wheels of a lorry. Well thats nice isn't it? What a positive bunch we are.

No, you're not. Well you might, but you probably won't. Very few people get killed riding bikes - some do, and its a tragedy, but its not fundamentally dangerous in any meaningful sense. Seriously. Its about 1 death per 29 million miles cycled. Get a sense of perspective. But yes, I do agree that we need to make cycling feel safer, we need to get the hostility and aggression off our roads. The solution is really simple - high quality cycle lanes feel and are safer, and reduce the kind of road conflict that is so awful that it discourages cycling.

Well... I guess. I mean I suppose for some that might be an argument. The average commuting trip in the UK is 15km. Thats, what, 9.3 miles? The average time that takes is 54 minutes. Or in other words the average commuter speed is 10.3mph, or thereabouts. Thats slower than a geriatric curate on an old ladies bike. You're seriously telling me its completely impractical and that it'll make peoples days much longer? No, for a whole load of people, it won't. Bluntly if you're 'average', get a bike.

Well, yes and no. Air pollution is a killer.  Being exposed to air pollution does you no good. But you're exposed to it whether you're walking, driving or on a bike - its worst of all inside a car. Study after study has shown this. But I sort of think this is missing the point - air pollution being a killer isn't a reason NOT to encourage people to cycle, it is precisely the opposite. Want to be exposed to less air pollution? Ride a bike. Want to contribute less to air pollution? Ride a bike. Want there to be much less air pollution? Campaign to facilitate safe cycling routes.

Look, its not rocket science - designing for active transpot makes for cleaner, greener, healthier cities, it saves money on health spending, on fuel, on vehicles, and on roads (bikes do way less road damage). But because people identify based on how they travel they come up with all sorts of crazy justifications not to be one of 'them'. The responses I've picked out are flimsy justifications from people who know they should be more active, who know that cycling is the right thing to do, the responsible way to travel, but they don't want to. So the bar for reasoning to justify that is set very low.

Do we want an active, healthy population living in cleaner cities? Then we need to make cycling the best way to travel. Isn't it just that simple?

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