The politics of pedalling

Paint the town green

On mainland Europe, the shift towards the bicycle has created better cities. You can campaign for better bike facilities here, too.

Cycling campaigners, by and large, are not woolly-hatted idealists. On the whole they are enthusiastic, sensible people with a message that is far ahead of its time. Our society cannot continue to build more roads and fill them with even more cars. The UK is not America, we do not have the space for the roads that will be needed if car usage continues at its current levels.

The bike as one part of an integrated transport system, that has people as its first priority instead of the motor car, is an idea whose time will come. The mainstream media is now pointing this out regularly, talking about CO2 emissions, global warming, and the loss of the Polar ice caps.

You could be part of the revolution. If you don’t already do so, cycle into work tomorrow. See how much quicker it is (if your journey is less than five miles, that is) and see how much better you feel when you cycle each day rather than inch along in the car, getting angry with the cars in front of you for not inching along fast enough. Cyclists sail through traffic jams. And cyclists pay next to nothing to commute the stress-free way: car drivers are paying through the nose for travelling from traffic light to traffic light at an average speed of just 10mph!

And that’s in cities outside of London. In London, there are now less motorists because of the £8 congestion charge, a measure that has created lots of new cyclists. More bikes means less cars and less cars means better cities, cleaner air and healthier people. Bike shops do not simply sell bicycles, they are also selling health and a reduction in fumes.


Pro-cycling campaigners predict that because of increasing congestion and higher incidence of smog, all firms will soon have to comply with strict legislation concerning the type of transport their employees use to get to work.

Anti-congestion and smog laws in some American states already stipulate that employers have to ensure a minimum of ten percent of their workforce arrive at work on bicycles, by foot or by public transport. Heavy fines are levied on those companies who fail to meet the regulations. Business grinds to a halt when the transport system fails.

The bicycle is the answer to many transport ills. It has many benefits:

  • Cycling is the fastest form of transport through cities. Employees get to work on time.
  • Cycling is healthy. Employees who bike to work are more alert, they are ill less days each year and, being healthier, they are more motivated.
  • Cycling is the cheapest way of getting to work when compared to public transport or using a car.

Poor man's transport?

What could employers do?

1 Encourage cycling by having a cycling mileage allowance similar to any scheme they operate for cars.

2 Convert car-parking spaces into cycle racks or turn a redundant room in the office into a cycle storage area. Bike security is very important.

3 Explore the possibility of installing showers and a changing room.

4 Give interest free loans to employees who want to buy bikes, see the details on the government’s ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme.

5 Promote their cycling drive to get others involved. They could try to team up nervous riders with more experienced cyclists. Form a BUG – Bicycle User Group.

What can you do?

1 If you own a car, use it as little as possible, use a bike for local trips.

2 Join your local cycle campaign group.

3 Lobby local government. Ask the powers-that-be what they are doing to increase the provision for cycling.

4 Raise the level of awareness among motorists about cycling. Lobby for proper road maintenance so cyclists don’t have to swerve to avoid pot-holes.

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