It's obvious that cycling is one of the key factors that can help to make the transition to a oil-independent and less polluting future. Cycling has many advantages over using the private car:

  • Cycling does not consume any fossile fuel
  • Cycling does not emit any CO2, that is, not more than any person who exercises regularly
  • Cycling gets you your regular exercise without having to go to the gym
  • Bicycles take up much less space on the roads than cars, solving the (common) congestion problem and the (personal) parking problem
  • Bicycles are lighter and move slower than cars, thus making the roads safer (if you question this, remember that almost all injuries to cyclists are caused by collisions with cars, therefore the cars are the ones that cause the danger)
  • Even though bicycles move more slowly, cycling gets you around the city faster than a car, because of the congestion
  • Cycling is much cheaper than using a car
  • Cycling brings personal contact back to traffic, rather than the constantly continuing 'battle' between cars

In addition, cycling has even advantages over public transport:

  • Cycling is cheaper than public transport
  • Cycling gets you your regular exercise
  • Cycling gets you around the city faster than public transport
  • Cycling makes you independent of bus schedules and routes

Still, it seems to be hard to get many people on their bicycle. The main factors that hold back this development are:

  1. Cycling is often considered dangerous, because of the fact that cyclists are more likely to get injured. So, people rather get in their cars to protect themselves in case of a crash with another car (not realising they increase the total risk of accidents).
  2. Cycling makes you sweaty, and untidies your hair and clothes, thus makes it harder to arrive at your destination looking decent.
  3. Cycling is often considered the thing that 'other' people do: especially 'greens' and 'leftists'. People don't want to be associated with these.

It seems logical that removing any of these barrages would help to get people cycling. So what should we do, in relation to these three points?

  1. This could be helped by improving the infrastructure for cyclists in the city. In particular, Bath has very few cycle paths. It has been shown in other cities, that as soon as cycle paths were built, cycling increased (probably because of the congestion point mentioned above). Separate cycle paths greatly improve the safety of cycling by reducing the encounters between cars and bicycles, and by removing the confusion in case of thes encounters, which is often the main cause of an accident.
  2. This can be helped, in the case of commuter traffic, by showers and changing facilities at work places. Also, it requires a change of opinion, that it is not a bad thing to look a bit ruffled when you arrive somewhere. Such a change of public view will not happen overnight.
  3. This is the most difficult one: it is entirely down to a change of opinion (just as the one above), which will take time. It will help if people take an example to, for instance, the Netherlands, where it is completely normal for people from all walks of life to cycle; it is just considered practical, and does not make you a 'leftie' or 'greenie'.

The following 12-minute video is a record of a study trip of MPs and Lords from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, visiting the Netherlands in April 2009 with officials from British cycling organisations. They learnt how Dutch officials are encouraging people to cycle. The focus was especially on the combination train-bicycle, which helps to make the bicycle suitable not only as city transport, but a suitable first and last link on longer (inter-city) journeys. An interesting video, which shows the potential of cycling as a form of transport. It could even catch on in the UK!



Even in the Netherlands, cities are congested with cars, and people are wondering what to do to get more people onto their bicycles. Fietsberaad is a knowledge centre on bicycle policy. Their website is full of useful information which can help any city in the world to increase cycling. Check it out!

The Bath Cycling Campaign

The Bath Cycling Campaign works to promote and encourage responsible cycling in the Bath area.


Sustrans is the UK's leading cycling organisation.

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