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Cycling could help the motorist and improve health

Ray Cobbett


By Community View columnist Ray Cobbett
Published in the Portsmouth News on Monday 14th January 2013

The inconvenient truth is that the UK is not a very bike friendly nation, although there are some welcome signs.

London leads the way with its cycling mayor and the Sir Bradley Wiggins factor is doing wonders for bike sales.

Locally, some slug it out in the press over road and pavement space often involving people who walk, drive or cycle or do all three. Anti-social behaviour is not exclusive to any one group.

Portsmouth Friends of the Earth focus a lot on transport and support cycling. Each year it holds an annual ride to test out all the bike routes across the city. There are very active Friends of the Earth groups in Fareham and Gosport too. Havant Council already has more than 10 miles of cycle paths on and off road and more are planned, funded by developer contributions and the biking charity Sustrans.

The increasing popularity of the bike has a downside. Last year 122 riders were killed, a five-year high mostly involving a collision with a vehicle. Wherever bikes collide with a metal box the cyclist will come off worse. There needs to be more separation and cycle friendly roads. Speed is the greatest enemy. Survival from being hit at 20mph is a lot more likely than 30mph. Bike security is another focus area as thefts reach record levels.

Politicians of all stripes are beginning to get it that fixating on the motorists’ vote is no longer a good idea. But there is still a long way to go. South Hampshire Draft Transport Delivery Plan wants to spend up to £2bn over the next 14 years but has little to say about bikes.

With more safe space, security and speed management cycling could replace the car as the preferred way making short local journeys.

· Ray Cobbett is co-ordinator for Hampshire Friends of The Earth Network and part of Emsworth bike club.

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