A while back – whilst in York, , I saw an advert encouraging people to cycle to work. – ‘It only takes 15 minutes to cycle to work – give it a try.’
So inspired by York’s cycling campaign here are 10 good reasons to commute by bike.
1. Save Money
A good bike may cost £200-£400. But, it can last for years. You will save petrol, car parking / bus fares. It can easily add up. In Oxford it would cost £9 to park all day – if you can find somewhere to park. Bike maintenance is likely to be nothing more than a few inner tubes, and new chain and cassette every 3,000 miles. When you take your bike for a service, generally you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of pounds like for a car.
Cycling is an excellent way to get low impact exercise. If you do very little exercise, cycling will improve your aerobic fitness and help to avoid heart related health problems. If you don’t have time (or the money) to go to a gym, why not try cycling to work / shops. People may worry that cycling is perceived as a dangerous activity. But, the health benefits of lower obesity / lower heart disease e.t.c. far outweigh the risk of accidents. See: How How safe is cycling? – Cycling Statistics
3. Save Time
For many short distance commutes through town, cycling can be quicker than driving or getting the bus. Many of our car journeys are less than 3 miles. If you try cycling, the time is often much quicker, especially in city centres. In commuting periods, you often get traffic jams and cyclists can both help reduce congestion and get there quicker. For me, getting to centre of Oxford, cycling is 5 minutes quicker than driving and 15 minutes quicker than the bus.
Also, a bike is more reliable than public transport, less likely to turn up late. Fate is in your own hands.
One of the (relatively minor) problems of cycling in Oxford is the lack of parking for bicycles. Popular spots tend to be busy, and this can lead to un-organised chaos as you try to find yourself somewhere to park.
There is some good bike parking provision. For example on Broad Street.
I used to want to get right outside the shop I was visiting. But, now I’ve decided I shouldn’t be so lazy. So I park my bicycle here and make use of the good parking facilities, and walk the 50m into Waterstones.
Abandoned bicycles taking up space
The problem of bike parking is exacerbated by the number of bikes that get abandoned. Students buy a £100 Ammaco from Cycle King, then don’t worry about abandoning it for eternity.
The council do have a policy of removing abandoned bicycles, but it is painfully slow. You can see the same rusty bikes for 12 months in a bike rack you want to use. Then finally a ticket is placed on them saying the owner needs to collect it, but then the council don’t come back for another 2-3 months. Often the ‘bike is abandoned ticket falls’ off, in the meantime! So you have to wait another 12 months to hope it will get retagged and retaken. I appreciate the council not wanting to take genuine bikes, but in this case, they are being a bit too generous to bikes obviously abandoned.
Useless Bike Parking racks
This is quite near y home in Temple Cowley. There is a big shopping centre, and big car-park. Very recently some brand new bike parking racks have been built. But, I’ve never seen a single bike locked in them. The reason is that the shops (and car park is 200m in the distance). No one is going to cycle 200m away from the shops to park and then walk back. It feels like the owners of the shopping mall had to meet criteria to build bike parking racks so they put it in the least unobtrusive (and therefore most useless place). They meet their criteria to build parking racks, but it is useless to anybody. When I shop I lean the bike against the windows of Sainsburys and lock the bike to itself.
Many people ask, but it is illegal to cycle on the pavement, unless there is a sign indicating a shared use cycle path. Cycling on footways (a pavement by side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888.(Highway Code)
When you have been on the receiving end of bad driving, it can leave you shaken. A cyclist has nothing to protect himself with. It really does matter if a car cuts you up or pays no attention to other road users. When this happens, there is a natural inclination to want to educate the driver – e.g. passing with 10cm to spare is actually very dangerous and could lead to a bad accident.
The problem is that the worse people’s behaviour is – the more unreasonably they are likely to be. The worse their driving – the more they are likely to irrationally blame it on someone else.
If someone cuts you up or passes far too close, only in about 10% of cases would they actually feel at fault and be willing to apologise. It does happen, but I’ve had people drive very badly and a red mist descends. It is always someone else’s fault! This is the human mind.
Cycling on British roads can feel like a battle between David and Goliath; in an accident between an SUV and a bike, there is only going to be one loser. There is always going to bad driving on the roads, but the only thing we can control is how we cycle and react to situations. Defensive cycling is just a term to describe the different things we can do to give ourself the best chance of cycling safely. Yes, it would be great if we all had Netherlands style cycle infrastructure. But, until cycling nirvana arrives, we have to make the best of the current situation. Some of this advice is nothing more than common sense, but hopefully will give people more confidence to cycle.
Tips for defensive cycling
Look and signal before moving. Cyclists are not always great at looking over their shoulder and giving an indication where they are going. Develop the confidence to look over your shoulder; this is important for manoeuvres such as moving into an outside lane to turn right.
Take a good position in the road. Don’t always hug the curb. You are more visible if you ride a 1 metre from edge of road. In the diagram below, it shows how a car can better see the bike cycling further out in the road. When I stop at traffic lights, if possible I move to the centre of the lane so the car has to be behind me, rather than allowing the car to squeeze past.
Be very wary of riding on the inside of large vehicles. This is a potentially very dangerous move. Many fatalities occur because cyclists get caught in a driver’s blind spot when the lorry turns left. I know those stickers ‘Cyclists stay back’ are annoying, but you have to be wary of this danger.
Last week, I was complaining about motorists who would pass too close. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other reasons to complain when you get on to British roads. This is a shame because cycling should be an enjoyable activity – get on two wheels and pedal happily off into the sunset. But, it seems the world of a cyclist is squashed between the impatience of taxi drivers and complaints about the dangers of the road. If you’re not careful, you can get sucked into a ‘political world of cycling’ that is negative and endless arguments of who is right and wrong.
The internet has not particularly helped. There is something about the nature of the internet which encourages outrage, strong opinions, a tribal mentality of ‘us and ‘them. These issues of sharing the road were always around, but the internet gives it greater currency and force – feeding antagonism in a way that I’m not sure existed when you had to send a letter by pigeon post or go down to the local post office to send a telegram.
CAR PASSED TOO CLOSE! – STOP – HAD TO COME TO EMERGENCY STOP! – STOP
By the time you had Morse Coded your feelings, most of your anger had long since dissipated anyway. A more modern telegram service like Twitter lacks this natural delay of several weeks as you wait for the boat from India to come into dock.
What did minor-celebrities do before having twitter spats and outraging some or another constituents of the easily outraged? I’m sure if you read the Cycling Weekly letters from the 1950s, you would find letters of complaint. But, at least in the 1950s you could read a newspaper, without, on every article, getting sucked into reading comments from 335 outraged internet trolls, who don’t have anything better to do, but get disgusted with cyclists / motorists / pigeons / and the latest reality TV show on Channel 5.
Of course, it may just be we are just looking through tinted rays of ‘The golden age of cycling’ – this mythical utopia of cycling in the 1950s, where you could cycle 100 miles on quiet roads through British lanes to enjoy warm beer and sandwiches on the village green, with nothing more than a Bobby on his bike giving you a friendly wave.
60 years later and this mythical golden age of cycling utopia has been replaced by pitched battles between Uber fuelled tax drivers who equate cyclists to ISIS and the relentless finger pointing about who is the absolutely the worst person on the roads. The only thing we agree on is that it is always someone else’s fault!
Yet, all is not lost. If you go cycling on British roads, it is not as traumatic as you might believe from the comment sections of the Daily Mail. It is still possible to really enjoy cycling – whether it’s cycling up Hardknott Pass or even, dare I say it commuting into the centre of London.
November was a bad month for cycle casualties, with several tragic accidents reported in the press.
These are some statistics produced by the Department of Transport for road traffic accidents, which helps give a perspective on the dangers of cycling on British roads. (Source: Sept 2013 D o T)
Fatal accidents have been falling in the past few decades. In 2012, 118 cyclists were killed. This was higher than in 2011 when fatalities fell to 107. However, it is significantly lower than early 1980s, when it reached a peak of 350. This compares to:
420 pedestrian fatalities
328 motorcycle fatalities
801 car occupant fatalities.
Fatalities and serious accidents
If we include all serious accidents in addition to fatalities, there has been a stronger upward trend since 2003.
Cycle accidents per miles cycled
If we look at cycle casualties per billion miles cycled, the situation looks less promising. There was a significant improvement in cycle rates in the 1980s. But, the increase in cycle rates since late 1990s appears not to have caused the hoped for ‘safety in numbers’ we might expect. This shows that cycle casualties per bn miles cycled is increasing in the past decade.
Relative risk of different forms of transport – Cycling vs Car vs Pedestrian vs Motorbike
These statistics show casualties per billion km travelled. They produce a slightly skewed figure in that car drivers will clock up many miles on motorways, which tend to have much lower accident rates per miles travelled, compared to rural and urban areas. Nevertheless, it still shows how much safer car journeys are compared to cycling or walking. Which is to be expected. In a car you are protected by crumple zones and a block of steel. Walking and cycling, you are not.
Fatalities by mode of transport
Using fatalities, pedestrians have a slightly worse risk than cyclists.
I remember vaguely a few months ago, something about a local politician from Birmingham (1) who said that cycling was the preserve of young adult men and therefore we shouldn’t spend money on cycling infrastructure because it only benefits a small percentage of the population. At the time I was too busy racing, but I made a mental note to write something about this later.
It can be hard work cycling on British roads
I’m probably three months late to state the obvious, but if the roads of a city are sparsely populated with cyclists – and predominantly middle age men – then it’s a very good sign that the opposite case needs to be made – It is a very good sign that a complete rethink is needed to encourage the broad section of society back into cycling.
You only get a skewed demographic of cycling – if the roads are perceived as too dangerous – making cycling appeal only to those who have different tolerations or risk, danger and dealing with intimidating situations.
The thing with cycling is that it is universal and democratic form of transport. It is cheap, accessible and at some point in time, most people have experienced some joy from learning to ride a bike. It is a shame, when this ceases to be the case.
In the US, this report states that the typical cyclists is a 39-year-old male professional with a household income in excess of $45,000 per year who rides 10.6 months per year.
In Europe, statistics for rates of female cycling as a % of cycling population are 45% Denmark, 55% in Netherlands, and 49% Germany, in the US it is 25%.
Another big difference is the age profile of people cycling:
Source: Cycling for Everyone at Rutger.edu
In the US for people over 40, only 0.4% of trips are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands this rises to 23-24%
The only question is why do people stop cycling?
Statistically, you can make a good case cycling is still relatively safe. But if you have to fight traffic and heavy goods lorries, no amount of statistics can change the real perception that it’s a tough job cycling on many cities. Too many near misses, too much stress. Perhaps some people don’t want to cycle because of the way they drive.
A very simple comparison is to look at countries which have built suitable cycling infrastructure – Germany, Holland, Denmark. In these countries, the demographic of cycling is spread across all ages and gender. Cycling is seen as safe; when there are good cycle paths, cycling is an extension of a pedestrian mode of transport. Pedestrians simply going a little bit faster.
Some notes on the rules and laws of cycling. Though, whatever rules are – there’s a lot to be said for using common sense to stay safe and respectful of other users.
Difference between legal requirements and advisory notes
The Highway code reflects some legal requirements.
At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights [Law RVLR regs 13, 18 & 24)] This is a law.
The Highway code also offers ‘advisory notices’ on how you should behave.
You should keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear.
The difference is that there is no legal requirement to keep both hands on handlebars – so it is OK to drink a bidon and eat a banana without risk of prosecution… It could be considered ‘best practise’ to keep hands on handlebars.
Generally, rules and laws are there to promote a more harmonious and safer experience on the road. When people ignore road traffic laws it can be both frustrating and dangerous. But, whilst it’s important to be aware of all the legal issues around cycling – you can’t beat plain common sense. If you cycle blindly through a red traffic light whilst under the influence of drink, you shouldn’t need a law to tell you it’s a dangerous thing.
Also, the next time someone beeps at you for cycling two abreast or 1 metre from edge of road, it is quite a comfort to know that what you are doing is perfectly legal and within your rights, even advised by the department of transport.
Common Questions on Cycling and the Law
Is it legal to cycle on pavement?
No, it is illegal to cycle on pavement (footpath by side of road) unless, it is marked as shared use cycle path [Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129]. Cycling on pavements can lead to a fixed penalty notice of £30.
Can children cycle on pavements?
No. However, children under 16 are unlikely to be issued with fixed penalty notice. In theory, police and community support officers are supposed to use considerable discretion in dealing with people who cycle on the pavement. This is to reflect the difference between a young children seeking a safe passage on the pavement and others who might be cycling at high speed putting pedestrians at discomfort. See more at: Cycling on pavements
Can you cycle on Bridleways and Footpaths away from the road?
The law specifically relates to footways by the side of a highway. In theory, if you are on a footpath away from a road, it is legal to cycle – unless there is sign saying otherwise.
Can you cycle across a Pelican Crossings?
No. The highway code states ‘Do not ride across a pelican, puffin or zebra crossing. Dismount and wheel your cycle across.’ However, you can cycle across a ‘toucan crossing’ A toucan crossing is a wider version of pelican crossings. It will have an extra light to indicate a green cyclist.
To confuse matters, some pelican crossings have an extra green light for cyclist. A green cyclist light gives the indication it would be OK to cross on the bike.
Can you cycle on Dual Carriageways?
Yes, unless there is a specific sign saying cyclists prohibited.
Motorways are prohibited to cyclists.
A no cycling sign, might appear on some three lane dual carriageways.
Can you cycle in Bus Lanes?
Yes. Most bus lanes are open to cyclists unless indicated otherwise by signs.
Can a Cyclist cycle in the middle of a lane?
There is no law stating where on the road a cyclist must be. There are different guidelines offered. One guideline is to cycle ‘well clear of kerb. 1 metre on in centre of the left lane (best position on road for cyclists) and (Direct Gov link) However, this would also mean ignoring small bicycle lanes.
Everyone seems to agree that the Tour de France in Yorkshire / England was an unprecedented success. But, will it be a one hit wonder or will the legacy of the tour help boost the long term profile of cycling in the UK?
As the tour swept through Britain, you could see potential seeds of a real cycling legacy which could offer many benefits to the nation. And these could be real benefits like improved health, reduced pollution, greater community spirit – benefits which definitely surpass just an understanding of what an echelon is, or what the yellow jumper means.
Some potential benefits of Tour de France legacy include:
Closed roads are liberating
Usually we’re in a rush to get somewhere and the car is king. Because we’re in a rush we end up sitting in nice long traffic jams getting frustrated. The Tour de France was an opportunity to reclaim the streets, bringing whole communities together. People were having a great time. I’ve never seen so many happy people, not bad to say the action lasted only 30 seconds. In an age of digital communities and instant messaging, it is a relief to remind ourselves that nothing can beat going out into the world and meeting real people. I even broke a habit of lifetime and started talking to strangers by the roadside. The millions by the roadside show that it wasn’t just the attraction of seeing some lycra fleeting by – we actually love an excuse to be part of something big.
The Tour was a good example of how there is life after the motorcar and busy streets. It was definitely helped by good weather and having the Tour de France come through, but it shows there’s a lot to be said for creating towns where people can walk, cycle and chat and not just wait for articulated lorries to fly past and the pelican lights to change. Sundays would make a great time to have more road closures. Life doesn’t end if you can’t drive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can read more at our privacy page (link in footer), where you can change preferences whenever you wish
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. These cookies ensure basic functionalities and security features of the website, anonymously.
This cookie is used for load balancing services provded by Amazon inorder to optimize the user experience. Amazon has updated the ALB and CLB so that customers can continue to use the CORS request with stickness.
The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Advertisement".
This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Analytics".
The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional".
This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookies is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Necessary".
This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Other.
This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Performance".
This cookie is native to PHP applications. The cookie is used to store and identify a users' unique session ID for the purpose of managing user session on the website. The cookie is a session cookies and is deleted when all the browser windows are closed.
Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.
1 year 24 days
This cookie is set by Google and stored under the name dounleclick.com. This cookie is used to track how many times users see a particular advert which helps in measuring the success of the campaign and calculate the revenue generated by the campaign. These cookies can only be read from the domain that it is set on so it will not track any data while browsing through another sites.
This cookie is installed by Google Analytics. The cookie is used to calculate visitor, session, campaign data and keep track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookies store information anonymously and assign a randomly generated number to identify unique visitors.
This cookie is installed by Google Analytics. The cookie is used to store information of how visitors use a website and helps in creating an analytics report of how the website is doing. The data collected including the number visitors, the source where they have come from, and the pages visted in an anonymous form.
This cookie is set by StatCounter Anaytics. The cookie is used to determine whether a user is a first-time or a returning visitor and to estimate the accumulated unique visits per site.
This cookie is used to store a random ID to avoid counting a visitor more than once.
Advertisement cookies are used to provide visitors with relevant ads and marketing campaigns. These cookies track visitors across websites and collect information to provide customized ads.
This cookie is setup by doubleclick.net. This cookie is used by Google to make advertising more engaging to users and are stored under doubleclick.net. It contains an encrypted unique ID.
1 year 24 days
Used by Google DoubleClick and stores information about how the user uses the website and any other advertisement before visiting the website. This is used to present users with ads that are relevant to them according to the user profile.
This cookie is set by doubleclick.net. The purpose of the cookie is to determine if the user's browser supports cookies.