Winning the arguments
Cyclenation has set up an e-group to support local action relating to the false portrayal of cycling with regard to health and safety. To join, just send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An example of a local group taking action against this false portrayal of cycling is the decision made recently by Spokes, the Edinburgh and Lothians cycling campaign, not to publicise charity rides and other events that require helmet use. It will also refrain from circulating or linking to material that only shows helmeted cyclists. Spokes reasons that there is no clear evidence yet that the benefits of helmets outweigh the risks and that the public is entitled to make up its own mind as to whether to wear a helmet based upon an impartial presentation of all sides of the argument. Spokes believes, as do others, that focusing so much upon helmets and what is actually a very low risk of serious head injury is scaring a lot of people from cycling.
The Transport and Health Study Group* completed an extensive review of cycling for its book “Health on the Move 2”. It concluded against the promotion of cycle helmets and strongly against their compulsion. The main reasons given are:
- the risks of cycling are in the same range as for walking or driving.
- Young males face higher risks as drivers.
- A mile of cycling is typically safer than a mile of walking;
- the health benefits of cycling are large;
- daily cycling benefits health as much as giving up cigarette smoking;
- the risks of cycling fall as it gets more popular;
- helmet laws have not noticeably reduced serious head injuries, except by reducing cycling.
An excessive focus on helmets adds “fear” to the obstacles hindering a cycling revival. Enforced helmet compulsion reduces participation, ironically worsening safety due to lost “safety in numbers”.
*For more information see: http://www.transportandhealth.org.uk/?page_id=74 .
Cyclenation is also encouraging local groups to consider taking similar action in their areas, to start rolling back the public perception of cycling as an inherently unsafe activity. Ed. What do members think about this? More about Spokes' action can be found in their newsletter (113 page 6) at http://www.spokes.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/pall.pdf .
Cyclenation would also like to gauge the scale of the problem across the UK and has asked for details of any public ride requiring helmet use or where publicity for cycling is restricted to helmeted images. They would like details of such restrictions, including things like hi-viz clothing, to be emailed to email@example.com.
From the Chair: A Day in York
On Saturday 23rd June John and I hitched a lift aboard a coach taking members of Leicester Secular Society to explore the city of York, so that we could visit the CTC York Cycle Show at the Knavesmire race track.
Our elder daughter Sophie had asked me to find her some Giordana shorts. She had bought a pair when we visited the show in 2006 and liked them immensely. The words 'needle' and 'haystack' had sprung to mind, but of course I agreed. So the visit got off to a good start when I found a pair on the very first clothing rail I examined. Shortly afterwards I secured for myself a nice yellow Altura jacket. Road-testing it in the dusk the following Tuesday evening, I suspected it of being not merely fluorescent but radioactive! Regarding its breathability and durability, time will tell.
One of the great joys of Yorkshire is the fish and chips, so lunchtime found me tucking into a particularly excellent example. We were joined by new CTC Chief Executive Gordon Seabright who is still very much learning the ropes; this was his first York Rally.
Immediately after lunch we attended a talk by a representative of Brooks Saddles. His analogy of Proofide as being 'like anti-wrinkle cream for older ladies' made me resolve to apply some to the Brooks saddle on my Whitfield at the earliest opportunity, despite the fact that I am not riding that bike at the moment. The two cycle manufacturers with the most prominent displays were Claud Butler and Spa Cycles. Thirty years ago Claud Butler was a name associated with 'serious' touring cycles; my first tourer was a Claud Butler Majestique. Now their focus appears to be on attractive ladies' town bikes, an affirmation of the impression I have obtained recently from TV advertisements that such machines have become a female fashion accessory. This is a phenomenon which has got to be good for the future of cycling.
Spa Cycles were displaying their new titanium range. John was very interested in these machines and is likely to buy one soon. In 1995 he had a fine Mercian built, a heavy-duty tourer suitable for conveying toddler Sophie over the hills and far away in a child seat. In 2010 teenage Sophie became big enough to confiscate this machine for her own mount, leaving Dad with the 1987 Raleigh Randonneur which he was touring on when I first met him! That he is deserving of such a treat is therefore beyond question.
John and I have attended the CTC York Rally five times now since our arrival in Loughborough. On two occasions we travelled up for the day; on the other three we rode up (abeit for only part of the way on one of these) and stayed in York for the weekend. The latter certainly leads to a better 'experience' of the event, but the former is well worth doing if that is all that is possible, allowing one to meet people and see what is new.
Our final, and probably most lasting, impression of the day, was that British and cyclists' obsession (hence a double obsession for British cyclists), the weather. On our return to the coach at 5pm, we found the tow-path which had given us egress from the car park that morning under several feet of water! The day had been mostly dry, with only a few showers, but York is known for its delayed flooding, as it can take several days for high rainfall in the surrounding hills to flow down the river to the city. Being unable to relax as soon as the sun comes out must surely be at the root of the famously stoic character of its citizens.
St Leonard's Church, Swithland
Just a reminder that, if you are going out for rides this summer, St Leonard's Church, Swithland will be open for tea, coffee & cake on these weekends:
- Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July
- Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th August
- Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September (the 8th is Ride and Stride day). Church Open from 10.30 a.m.
Cycle market to boom
2011 was a difficult year for the cycle industry, but the future’s looking bright. A report from Mintel predicts cycle sales will reach an all time high in 2012 - with the market growing 8% on 2011 to reach £700 million http://4c3.de/luq .
Fear of cycling - some thoughts
An article by Dave Horten about the fear of cycling is worth a read http://4c3.de/luW. It has a good reference list with further reading and contains some thought provoking quotes such as :
- Across government, cycling is now seen as ‘a good thing’. But despite growing pro-cycling rhetoric and policy in the UK, many people appear remarkably reluctant to ‘get on their bikes’. Why? Discussion about impediments to cycling tends to concentrate on lack of good cycling infrastructure, such as cycling routes and cycle parking. Seemingly insurmountable barriers, such as hilly topography, high levels of rainfall and cold winters, are also considered influential. But what about emotional barriers to cycling?
- I contend that fear of the accident and fear of being pushed towards cycling (and thus towards adopting a cycling identity, becoming ‘a cyclist’) are related, and together constitute contemporary fear of cycling. Cycling promotion needs to recognise and develop more effective strategies to overcome both these fears, of cycling as a practice to be feared and of the cyclist as a figure to be feared.
- Other fears are more connected to issues of identity and include the fear of ridicule, of losing status, of riding a gendered, classed, raced and stigmatised vehicle, of undermining one’s existing sense of identity; fear, in other words and as we will see later, of becoming ‘strange’.
- making the use of seat-belts compulsory ‘had no effect on total fatalities, but was associated with a redistribution of danger from car occupants to pedestrians and cyclists’.
- The road safety industry thus strives to reduce casualties by inculcating fear in children, and giving them not incentives but disincentives to walk and cycle.
- On off-road routes, the cyclist is no longer so viscerally threatened and endangered, and instead becomes perceived as the source of threat and danger to slower-moving, more leisurely others.
- Scapegoating deflects attention away from greater crimes, by in this case sacrificing the cyclist in the ideological pursuit of ‘motoring-as-usual’. Through representing the marginal practice of cycling as ‘deviant’, the dominant practice of car driving is reproduced and reaffirmed as ‘normal’.
Cycle to Work Scheme picks up
The Cycle to Work Alliance (Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords) report that the Cycle to Work Scheme is growing in popularity, with a 9% increase in take up during the first quarter of this year compared to 2011. The Government-supported scheme is a tax-efficient employee benefit designed to encourage more adults to commute by cycle. www.cycletoworkalliance.org.uk
Cyclist Segregation Survey
CTC has carried out a survey on this subject that attracted 526 comments. The respondents broadly fell into three camps:
- ‘hardened sceptics’ are those who think segregation is dangerously designed and fear that refusing to use paths leads to antagonism with other road users;
- ‘softened sceptics’ are similar, but understand the need for good facilities, especially for children and novice cyclists;
- ‘segregation enthusiasts’ want to see more cycle facilities whatever the circumstances, arguing that segregated cycle tracks are key to achieving a substantial increase in cycle use.