Say what you like about cycling (and plenty of people do) – there’s a very good practical reason to spend time, effort and public money supporting it.
The fact is that without getting people out of their cars and controlling numbers on our stressed public transport network, there’s a point at which the UK’s over-crowded cities will simply cease to function.
One heavy rain shower – or several, as we’ve had this week in London – and it’s gridlock on the roads. This will only get worse as the population continues to grow. We’ll hit 70million by 2027, according to ONS stats – that’s a lot of new cars.
So rather than complaining endlessly about cyclists, shouldn’t motorists instead be campaigning for more bikes out there on the roads? One extra bike means one fewer car in that traffic jam you’re sitting in right now, and we will all get from A to B faster.
Cycling is good for the economy. Why? Because improved fitness for employees – achieved by commuting and leisure riding – means improved physical and mental health, less sickness, more productivity for businesses.
Part of the problem is the level of the debate. Whether it’s the cycling lobby or the Taxi Drivers’ Association, the attitude is increasingly black and white: ‘You are with us or against us.’
The debate is polarised, anger seems to be growing and, as a result, the general level of debate is low – especially on the occasional cycling report shoe-horned into a TV news bulletin.