Chris' (old) Cycling Page

A small polemic which I wrote a few years ago and is still relevant and will do until I get around to a rewrite .... (which I now have done)

Some Brief Questions

How did you get to work this morning? In that shiny fleet hire car your company gets huge tax-breaks for? Did you park it in the subsidised staff car park? Do you pay for all or only some of your petrol? Do you really need to commute in that car?

Did your children get a lift with you to school? How far is it from your home to their school, far enough to walk? Have you heard of the evidence comparing the fitness of today's children with that of children in the sixties and finding that things have deteriorated noticeably, with the blame being put on the poorer air quality due to cars and the fact that more children are driven to school rather than walking or cycling.

There are alternatives

Cycling isn't just about wearing Lycra and attempting to be Chris Boardman or Miguel Indurain. The daily commute into work needn't be like the Tour de France or an Olympic pursuit race. Nor is it necessarily about being green or trying to be an eco-warrior out to save the planet and kill big business. (Although it can be!)

I cycle for several reasons;

  • It's quicker: In London I can be door-to-door in half the time of the bus, a third of the tube and I overtake more cars than I care to count.
  • It's cheaper: No travel card, no petrol, no parking, just the occasional tweak to a bike - which needn't be that expensive.
  • It's healthy: Three, five or even ten miles might sound a lot, but it isn't really. You might be sore the first few days, but it's remarkable how quickly your body get's used to it - and it's better than a starvation diet to lose those pounds!
  • It's less stressful: Compare the normal face of a driver with that of a cyclist, even in London, cycling is fun!
  • It's not boring: Even with your radio, CD or mobile phone, can a driver, stuck in a traffic jam, actually be enjoying the experience?

I'm not trying to say that the car is inherently bad, there are many good things about cars, in the right time and place driving a car can be an exciting, exhilarating experience, but commuting the same journey twice a day, week in, week out, is not going to be the right time or place for most people. Yes, public transport is weaker than it should be, yes, the car is massively more convenient than many of the alternatives, but we have to start somewhere. If enough people gave up their car, even if it were only for a few days a week to begin with, things would be noticeably different. The air would improve, the roads would be less congested for the new cyclists and the fuller buses, the train companies would need to expand their services to accomodate the new demands. With a small amount of individual altruism the world could start to change for the better.

Critical Mass

Pedalling Cyclist
Graphic shamelessly nabbed from here

Critical Mass is a movement, which started in San Francisco a few years ago, whose aims are simple, to display through weight of numbers that cycling is fun, healthy and a realistic alternative to driving in many situations, especially commuting.

It works through a concept of organised coincidence, there are no leaders. For example, at 5-45pm on the last Friday of every month it just so happens that a number (normally 500-1000) cyclists happen to turn up by the cafe on London's South Bank, under Waterloo Bridge and then go off in a big group for a ride. It was not designed to be overtly confrontational, although that, unfortunately, happens, it was designed to show some sort of solidarity and demonstrate an alternative.

As Kevin Cole says on his (American) CM page

"We're not blocking traffic ...
We ARE traffic."

Central London CM.

Links

A small selection of links;

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