It's Not Anti-Car to be Pro-Bike

I believe there is a massive misunderstanding by many that when a cyclist asks for something to be done about road safety or recounts a story about a close encounter that many assume this is anti-car. The fact is the majority of adult cyclists have driving licences and cars. Many use their cars frequently for errands, shopping, long distance journeys.

It's an appreciable thing in how the motorcar has changed our lives. The first thing many people do when they've passed their test is celebrate. It is seen as one of life's challenges, a right of passage even if you cannot afford the insurance for the time being. There is after all, always the Parent's policy and car, and a legal way around the costs.

What is actually happening amongst the many who call for change is a recognition that car use can be an abuse. There is little point using a private car for a short journey of less than 5 miles if you are going to be the only occupant and are not carrying heavy loads. Van drivers and Truckers are an exception. Their cargo is their passenger. Disabled drivers, too, are an exception.

I've had it said to me a few times: what about the family shopping once a week? Don't feel guilty for driving and loading up the car, honestly. This is an acceptable thing to do. However if the only thing you need is a pint of milk and the shop is not too far away (there is usually a supermarket within 1.5 miles of the average house) then why drive. If its a nice afternoon there's nothing wrong with walking, time permitting. Or just wait until you need more shopping.

Commuting traffic has to be one of the biggest problems for towns and cities. Traffic engineers must be on the verge of pulling their hair out at times, and there is a noticeable decrease in traffic during school holidays in many urban areas. This is something I notice frequently in Southampton, during the 6 weeks holidays the traffic is less packed and less frenetic.

We have to ask ourselves why, when many kids still live within a small distance from schools, Parents chose to drive them to school. Childhood obesity has risen in the past 10 years. We have to change the way we live out lives, it is no good putting a death sentence on a child's head because of poor daily planning.

A couple of years ago I rode my bicycle around to the local supermarket. I recognised a car pulling into the carpark with the owner being the local crazy lady. She, still resplendent in her pyjamas and dressing gown, was becoming quite irate at the traffic entering the parking areas. In her mind they were holding her up. I had managed to park up the bike, lock it, and entered the shop to pick up my few things only to arrive at the cashier to see said woman buying cigarettes and walking back out.

You have to ask yourself why she would drive that journey of less than a mile for a packet of cigs. Though I suppose her demeanour leads us to several possible conclusions.

Another time I was riding home from work about to scale one of Southampton's hills. I passed a house where a woman was getting into a nice, smart little yellow car. A few yards up the hill the car passed me and sat at the lights. I caught up as it turned green and we both set off in the same direction. Traffic wasn't packed out as this was the middle of the afternoon, yet she turned off into the parking area for a local shopping district (Bitterne Precinct for those that know it).

Compare this with an old dear I knew who would walk 2 miles with her trolley to do her shopping.

There is a possibility, if we take the examples from The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, that proper, working segregation of bicycles from motor traffic could actually smooth the flow of motorists. Cyclists could benefit from safe routes, remembering that many potential cyclists wont cycle due to a fear of traffic.

There is a recognition that motoring is becoming more expensive. Here too, cycling could play a massive part. A bicycle is cheap to run, easy to store. Cycling just 50 miles a month could save you up to £40. That's for an average short distance trip of 1 mile each time.

Can you still be a petrolhead and ride a bike? Absolutely. There is nothing wrong in loving how cars look, sound or work. I quite like the look of a few Ferraris. Don't ask me about spec, though, because for me its an aesthetic thing. Jaguars too, are great cars. My late Grandfather had 3, you might say he was the Prescott of our family.

The Golf GTi is a classic, as is the old British Mini.

A quick scan of many car forums online will show that they have cycling sections or are filled with users who are dedicated riders. Nothing is mutually exclusive when it comes to transport.

Further reading: http://www.gtkp.com/assets/uploads/20091125-103021-7975-cyclingfuture.pdf