A recent survey showed that a very vocal minority is damaging the cause of cycling in the UK. It’s time the silent majority used their voice to make sure cyclists get the infrastructure and recognition needed on UK roads.
Research commissioned by the Bike Is Best campaign found that 77 per cent of people support schemes to encourage cycling and walking where they live, but for every 6.5 people in support there is one person who is opposed to such interventions. Whilst the size of support for cycling is fantastic news, the minority in opposition is making more noise and having its voice heard in influential places, putting the brakes on cycle planning and infrastructure to the detriment of whole communities.
For example, while councils across the UK have been implementing temporary infrastructure to boost cycling and walking instead of using public transport and enable social distancing, some schemes, such as in Filton in South Gloucestershire and Trafford in Greater Manchester have disappeared after complaints from motorists and some local politicians and, in the case of Reigate in Surrey, the town’s MP.
Dr Ian Walker, Environmental Psychologist at the University of Bath who analysed the data for #BikeIsBest, said: “Perhaps one reason negative voices find it so easy to sway things their way is that people tend to misjudge public levels of support. The survey showed that, while most people think Britain would be a better place if more people cycled, they also guessed that other people were less supportive, and more hostile, to the idea than they were.” Perhaps knowing the size of support will give more cyclists the confidence to speak up and defend their viewpoint.
Another interesting aspect to emerge from the campaign is that people do not see the dominance of the motor car on our roads as inevitable, 66 per cent (rising to 83 per cent of those with an opinion one way or the other) disagree that there is ‘nothing that can be done to stop people from being harmed by motor vehicles’. Similarly, 71 per cent (rising to 86 per cent of those with an opinion) disagree that there is ‘nothing we can do to stop people being harmed by air pollution caused by motor vehicles.
Having the independence to drive our own cars is valuable to many people and of course not every journey is practical by bike and cycling is not practical for every person. However, more journeys, particularly short ones, can be done by bike if individuals feel comfortable on the roads and have provision for cycling at their work place. E-bikes have transformed the distance a cyclist can reasonably travel on a daily basis, making it easier to replace a car with a bike for the commute to work.
For the goal of better infrastructure and more people riding bikes for short journeys to be achieved there needs to be some effort expended; by individuals, communities and those in positions of political and planning influence. The first step is demonstrating that there is a real demand for better cycling provision and dampening down the voices to the contrary. The #BikeIsBest campaign, which is supported by British Cycling, Cycling UK, London Cycling Campaign, Sustrans, The Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) and Wheels For Wellbeing, has launched an online petition make your voice heard by signing up today.