Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Get Britain Cycling?

Wednesday 24th April was a big day for cycling in Britain, as the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (snappy title) published their resulting report from their inquiry into how to "Get Britain Cycling".

The report is a lengthy document, which I confess, I haven't read in it's entirety. Or much of it at all, to be honest, just the summary.

I have however, read many news articles, blogs and tweets about the subject. This blog post is merely my own opinion thrust into a myriad of others out there on the www.

My overall feeling can be summed up as such:
Whilst I think that such a report is warmly welcomed by cyclists the length and breadth of the UK, there are many factors in place that could make the recommendations made in the report come to a slow, disappointing end, like getting a pinch flat after hitting a pothole in the road.

The biggest of these is convincing the Prime Minister that cycling is an extremely valid way of decreasing obesity, saving money everywhere and increasing "the quality of life in our towns and local communities". If it comes from the top down, getting Britain cycling could become a very real possibility. If, and it's a big if, David Cameron is on board. The best way this can happen is if this petition can get over 100,000 signatures - this will force a parliamentary debate on the subject. It currently has over 20,500 signatures.

How does this affect me?

To be honest, a lot of the reading I have done seems to be London-oriented. OK, it's where all the politicians live, where the publication was launched and was the focus of Great Britain's Olympic triumphs in the London Olympics last year. The capital is always going to be first. If (there's that word again) Britain does indeed get cycling it will undoubtedly start in cities, then the bigger towns and then eventually the small towns and suburbs. This is of course dependant on local councils getting involved - a council may have a cycling enthusiast at the head so measures may come into place sooner than others.

I found this handy page on the Guardian website, which shows the population density of travel modes in areas of England and Wales, as found in the 2011 Census.


This is how my area fares:
Less than 5% of people regularly cycle commute
Compare this to the percentage of people driving to work:
Lots of areas where 30-60% of people drive to work
In fact, we have to go to York, (30 minutes south on the train), to find a city with a population of regular cyclists that colour the map anything other than that awful beige:
In York, 5-15% of people are regular cyclists
From the same Guardian website, the data can be downloaded to a Google spreadsheet. Here's how the North East of England stacks up against the rest of England in all categories:


Whilst the inquiry is undoubtedly good news, I think it will be a very long time before I will see any benefits of the report - but city dwellers: you are in luck.

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