Cycling is a life-saving form of transport we must invest in – Scotsman comment

It is a paradox that many people are afraid of cycling on Scotland’s roads even though it is more likely to save their life, than end it.

Cycling has both physical and mental health benefits (Picture: Dean Atkins)
Cycling has both physical and mental health benefits (Picture: Dean Atkins)

The profound health benefits of taking regular exercise far outweigh the risk of a serious accident with a number of major scientific studies finding that cycling significantly reduces the chance of death in any given year by making serious illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke less likely.

Not only that but, as the NHS website points out, it can also "boost your mood, improving the symptoms of some mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety”.

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A regular cyclist can look forward to a longer, healthier and happier life than the drivers with whom they share the roads. While the latter may feel safer and more comfortable in their vehicles than a new cyclist nervously navigating their way through the traffic, they have been drawn in by a dangerous illusion.

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However, the news that the number of deaths of cyclists on the roads rose from six to ten last year will only add to the concerns of people thinking about cycling, rather than driving or taking a bus or train, to work. The idea that “it could be you” is a powerful one, as National Lottery participants know well.

Countering this idea depends largely on investment in safe cycling schemes that give people the confidence to venture out of two wheels. This is one reason why Edinburgh City Council, in 2018, decided to allocate ten per cent of its transport budget to cycling.

About 34 per cent of all car journeys in Scotland are less than two miles, a distance that can be easily covered by a bicycle in about ten minutes. Removing even a fraction of these cars from our roads would make a real difference to congestion – improving life for other drivers – as well as cutting pollution and climate emissions.

When taking steps to improve facilities for cyclists, it is important that the needs of other road users are taken into account and to avoid unnecessary disruption. But there are plenty of cities around the world, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, which long ago took steps to dramatically increase cycle traffic, which can provide lessons about what works and what does not.

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