Take a look at this road, anytown U.K. My half term week is about teaching road cycling to children and adults, some thoughts today about where we are at with that topic. In a week where Audi are completing a new car showroom costing 14.5 Million, (Bournemouth Echo), granted land space by Poole Borough this post looks at life for a cycle instructor in the same area. Photo was taken in the middle of the day, presumably when most people are at work so these motors are spares. Its a street in Poole just near Rossmore from where I delivered an 8 hours course over two days, most drives have two cars as I’m sure do the drives in Sandbanks across town, main difference is the size of the houses. This is anytown U.K, urban environments of average wealth perhaps not different from where you live? Reality point Im making here is that the families that I work for who get their children on Bikeability courses live here, they want the kids to be able to be safe on bikes and at the same time they all aspire to owning these couple of cars. Why is that? Decades of making car ownership cheap has led to the daily misery of queuing at peak times which looks set to continue. Other than in places like Bristol where residents don’t bother with the car commute simply as its become impossible within the time available, bikes are poor quality toys used infrequently by kids, not a daily transport choice. Highlighting this as the inertia about changing travel for all the obvious benefits of health, environment seems to just continue on in U.K. Where do the regions follow? London. Politicians talk the talk about active travel although they aren’t leading and put simply don’t put anything like the amount of investment into it as European countries. There is big progress being made in London on cycling, may it continue as the whole country needs that example .Without leaders demonstrating the changes the rest of the country seems stuck in the rut of same habits year on year.
Paris have announced a monthly sunday complete road closure for vehicles following the Ciclovia example in Bogata Columbia. Latin and other nations seem to be open to these changes more readily than Brits, wonder why that is? Now we are the highest population density country in Europe comfort zones inside the car must be part of that. Music and warmth, comforts like being in a tent at a festival all weekend and not venturing out. Conservatism and positions of authority being held by elder citizens who fear change and still nostalgically believe we can be like 1950’s Britain. There have been some great blogs recently on this topic, pace of change governed by people that don’t want any change. You know I can’t stand queuing, Brits Love to queue and this just perpetuates on the roads in and out of every urban centre daily. Don’t mistake me there are some things about life in U.K I love like the sound of church bells being rung , hearing the last movements of trains every night knowing theres people still out working or travelling, but the inertia of change on the roads is debilitating. Everyone gets tired of living in Blighty at some point but might not be lucky enough to emigrate to Australia like I did in 1997, funnily enough there are times at the moment I feel like disappearing again for these reasons. Cycling again:- school groups come and learn to safely ride around their local roads, some of these we see post course after exploring or riding to activities, it isn’t the lack of separate infrastructure that stops them developing the active travel habit its just the slow pace of change in the U.K. Once we have all governments prioritising change on the roads and continuing it then there may be some change but until that point we are inert. I guess cycle trainers could be seen as a persistent minority in this whole mix, leading by example. We always need persistent minorities so until the mainstream becomes attuned to getting fit for free, saving money and enjoying all the benefits of active travel we will endure. M.Ps somehow cant see the bicycle as a serious mode of transport, and speak up for it, ask any of the thousands of daily London bike commuters how much benefit they gain though- serious transport. Reading the London Evening Standard last night and the talk was about the Waterloo bridge cycle route, now designated no parking with a mandatory lane marking. Campaigners are asking for segregation like a kerb as well, and given some of the building going on in London elsewhere it finally dosent seem impossible, amazing progress rebuilding for the future, for a healthy active population not suffering from afflictions of today. As I wrote earlier there are always the difficulties providing continuity on these routes especially around big junctions, but progress has been brilliant lets hope it continues and we in the Regions catch up. I’m back on the road tomorrow with a couple of distance commuters who want to learn some skills for filtering past queues and level 3 Bikeability. Happy to report these will be client numbers 100 and 101 since I started this work in September 2014, It looks like Ill have this work for the foreseeable future. Ride well and enjoy yourselves.