I was fortunate to grow up in a place where I could spend hours and hours playing outside without having to compete with traffic. I spent hours on my bike, skateboard, rollerskates, and generally roaming the hills and beach most days. I cycled or walked to school most of the time from age 8-12. Once I got to high school I couldn’t do either so got the big yellow school bus as the high school was 25 or so miles away from home. When I spent a year abroad I once again got to cycle or walk every single day. It was bliss.
Cut to university, and again back to walking and/or taking a bus 99% of the time. I didn’t start to properly drive until I was in my early 20s. This is (or was?) an anomaly for an American teen where you can legally start driving at age 16. I’ve never been a fan of driving or going for a long drive as many of my friends and family are. Using a car was usually because there really was no other option.
When I moved to the UK in 2004 I first took the bus everywhere. It was slow and expensive. Eventually I got a bike and took cycling back up. For the most part I’ve cycled ever since. I’m now a [management] member of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign who are working with local authorities to improve our streets and communities. Non-motorised (ie walking or cycling) travel is good for everyone for a lot of reasons – health, pollution (both of the noxious chemical type and the noise type), and economically.
An All Parliamentary Party Cycling Group just published a report [PDF] for a national strategy to improve cycling as a result of the The Times Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. Yesterday there was an amazing demonstration in Edinburgh – Pedal on Parliament – in which thousands of cyclists participated.
So it’s sad and frightening to see that there is so much hatred towards a group of people and that it’s not only common, but seems to be acceptable. Often this hatred is accompanied by the phrase ‘they don’t pay road tax’. And no, cyclists don’t, but nobody does as it doesn’t exist. I won’t go into this, but please see the excellent I Pay Road Tax website for clarity.
This tweet that was made at the same time as PoPScotland was happening says it all…
The Norwich police are on the case and the user has removed her account though obviously a bit too late.
Here are a couple more recent cyclist-hatred tweets. If you’ve got a strong stomach, have a look at the Twitter account for CycleHatred – a cyclist that re-tweets anti-cycling tweets.
Combined with the relatively terrible infrastructure where cyclists compete for space with (at times) fast moving traffic made up of buses, HGVs and all manner of motorists in a hurry, and the anti-cyclist attitudes expressed so openly, it’s not surprising that people are less than willing to get on a bike.
So this is the long way of saying regardless of whether you walk, cycle, take public transport or drive as your usual mode of transport, please sign the petition that is asking for safer roads for everyone. Yes, everyone. It may be cyclists leading the petition, but we’re just after infrastructure that makes us, pedestrians, and motorists safer and less likely to be involved in conflicts on the roads and pavements.
And if you live in Tyneside and cycle, even leisurely, please consider joining the campaign. It’s free and helps us have a stronger voice when we go to local authorities.