I have recently moved to Oxford, for university, luckily for me Oxford is one of the major cycling cities in the UK. I like this because whatever street you walk down there are always hundreds of bikes locked up and cyclists always going past you, I find it a nice atmosphere. Everyone uses their bikes in Oxford, whether to get the shopping, take the kids to school, or commute to work. It is hard to live near this city and not own a bike.
This ‘craze’ of cycling is one that is quite different to what I am used to in Manchester. Although there has definitely been a rise in the amount of cyclists on the roads around Manchester it still is in the realms of minority for a transport system. Yes this is probably partly due to landscape, Manchester is significantly hillier than Oxford, and it is also probably slightly to do with weather, as it has been known to rain every now and again, in Manchester. The average commuting distance may also be longer. However do these reasons form the sole premises for why people around Manchester don’t get on their bikes? The answer is probably not. Everyone has his or her own reasons for not cycling; fitness, danger, distance. However I think almost everyone could change some of their weekly journeys so that they are by bicycle, even if it’s just popping out to the shops to get a paper.
Cycling is good, it reduces traffic, promotes healthy living, and the more people that cycle the safer the roads will be. In Britain we have an ever-increasing problem with obesity, one that is likely to strain the NHS increasingly in future years. Investing money in good cycling infrastructure, cycle-training, and cycle-awareness is likely to save money in the long run. Of course a lot is happening at the moment with the government dishing out larger amounts of money for cycling. However local councils should do more themselves and the government focus should not solely be on London, cycling needs to be improved across the UK. Various cycling organisations have raised similar concerns and I think this is encouraging; we just need the right people to take action. It is possible to get people cycling, Oxford is a great example as there are few roads without cycle paths and large bicycle racks all over the city. Oxford city council cares about cycling, as is evident by their Christmas lights, and this shows that Oxford’s obesity levels are lower than the national average. Although this figure is also clearly due to other factors as well it is most probably partly due to the vast majority of the population engaging in regular cycling as exercise.
Everything is not lost, as long as the right money is invested sensibly into making the roads safer and more appealing for people to take to their bikes we will be on to a winner. It is already snowballing; probably with the success British cyclists have had over the past few years. Hopefully this success will continue, inspiring a new generation of cyclists and inspiring the whole of the UK to get their bikes out of their sheds, grease up their chains and use them a lot more often. We, as cyclists, can do our bit too by encouraging our friends and families to take to their saddles and have some fun on the roads and trails. Then, you never know, one day we may equal The Netherlands with our cycling infrastructure and people will come to Great Britain for their cycling holidays. Well they will if we can do something about the weather.