With the successes of last year’s Tour de France Grande Depart and this year’s Tour de Yorkshire, cycling has never had a higher profile. Gary Verity, who headed up the team who brought the Tour to Yorkshire, has just received a well deserved knighthood. The official Bike Week has just taken place, with the aim of getting more people cycling. But is the UK missing a trick by not encouraging cycling more and getting the health and wellbeing benefits on offer?
When the Tour came to Yorkshire
I remember the Tour de France stages in Yorkshire very well. I couldn’t have been more excited when it was announced but I was a bit unsure whether people would get behind it… But they did and it was great to see all the villages and towns get decked out with bunting and yellow bikes appearing everywhere.
To watch the crowds turn out on Sheffield’s “Côte de Wincobank” (known locally as Jenkin Road) was something to see. For those who don’t know it, this road in Sheffield is so fiercely steep it even has handrails on the pavement!
But while I’ve heard that cycling is the new golf and people are now spending big money, not on carbon fibre golf clubs, but on carbon fibre bikes, how much has the Tour’s legacy meant that people are using bikes as everyday transport?
On your bike
I’m a cycling commuter and it works out really well for me. If you want facts and figures, there’s a whole host of figures to dive into on cycling charity The CTC website.
- Forty four per cent of the UK population either own or have access to a bike
- Just a third of people cycle less than once a year or never
- Only 4% of Brits cycle daily
- This compares to nearly 30% of Danes, 28% of Finns and 43% of Dutch people.
As well as being kinder to our city streets and carbon footprints it is a brilliant way to build a bit of exercise into our daily routines, in a similar way to our recent walking campaign. The CTC says that:
- cycling make you 10 years younger on the fitness front
- cyclists typically live two years longer and even take fewer sick days
- Increased fitness can have a positive effect on long term conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart problems and stroke putting a strain on the NHS
Cycling a bit more is something we all could benefit from.
It’s safer than you think – and there’s plenty of people to help
People are put off cycling to work for a few different reasons. We are catered for pretty well here at Westfield Health with showers available and secure bike parking. In planning our move to our new home at Milton House we’ve included even better facilities. I’ve had very little problem with aggressive drivers and I don’t get worried in traffic. When I speak to family and friends they often find this hard to believe. They’re not alone unfortunately; 67% of non-cyclists feel that it is too dangerous to cycle on the road, but sports injury studies show that cycling is safer than tennis, gardening or even using a rowing machine. There’s no doubt that part of the reason cycling is more popular elsewhere is that other countries have invested in better cycling facilities taking cyclists away from other traffic.
And confidence is a further issue. It is understandable that adults who haven’t been on a bike since they were kids are nervous when they take to two wheels again, but cycling groups are providing help. Check the Bikeability website for information about adult cycling courses near you. Alternatively, look for local social cycling activities on the SkyRide website.
Cycling may not be as cheap and easy to get into as walking, but more cycling could benefit us all. Nicer, cleaner streets, a fitter happier workforce and less strain on the NHS? Something we could all sign up to.
*MAMiL = Middle Aged Men in Lycra