ALLEZ Wiggo! That’s what I would be shouting at Bradley Wiggins when he passes by a mile along the road from my house, if only I didn’t have to be somewhere else.
It’s just my luck to live in the middle of nowhere and then, when something exciting happens – the Tour of Britain – I miss it.
Will you be tuning in or will you be too busy cycling around your cul-de-sac and dreaming of representing Team GB (or Team Scotia, depending on the results of the referendum) at Rio 2016?
Cycling activists must be enjoying an extended state of euphoria. For years they’ve tried to get people out of their cars and on to bikes and now the Tour de France and Olympics have created a bike boom extraordinaire. Bike sales are up and people of all ages are emulating Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins or the old guy who wore the funny hat and drove the motorised pace bike round the velodrome at the start of the keirin.
This new interest should improve the nation’s health but will it have any environmental impact? Are people cycling for fun, to develop thighs that could crush walnuts or as a replacement for car journeys? It may well be all three. First let us assess the data. Research by market analyst Mintel found that bike sales are expected to reach an all-time high of £700 million in 2012. That’s a lot of bikes. The same research found that over a third (34 per cent) of Britons cycle, and half of these do it once a week or more.
Sixty per cent agreed that cycling is a good way to help reduce road congestion, but almost half said it was too dangerous to ride a bike on the road. Something of a conundrum there, but 41 per cent said dedicated bike lanes and routes would encourage them to cycle more often.
As a hesitant cyclist myself, I feel I can clearly state the barriers. One: safety. Where I live there are no dedicated cycle routes on my work commute, so I’d be sharing the A roads with logging lorries, vans, cars and deer. A hi-vis vest, helmet and bike lights can’t guarantee against dangerous drivers. Still, I’m prepared to take the risk.
So what’s the next barrier? Arriving at work dripping with sweat. That’s not nice for me or my colleagues.
The third issue is having somewhere safe to lock up your bike while you’re at work without worrying about theft or damage. Is there an official manifesto for cyclists? This is mine: cycle lanes, showers in workplaces and bike crèches.
Cycling in Britain peaked in 1949, when over a third of all journeys were done by bike (with an average journey of 15 miles). With the rise of the car, the figure has declined ever since, but the enthusiasm for cycling shows it is a viable transport option – if cyclists are given equal, or even preferential status on the roads.
A recent report to the Scottish Government by Sustrans (www.sustrans.org.uk) found that in 2010, 35 per cent of those interviewed on the National Cycle Network were commuting. If all estimated cyclist and pedestrian trips on the NCN replaced car journeys, the potential CO2 saving would be 46,400 tonnes. Meanwhile, cycling’s proportion of the UK transport budget is less than one per cent. There seems to be universal agreement that financial investment in competitive cycling has been key to getting results, so maybe we need the same for our commuting cyclists. Allez everyone.