We all know that cycling is good for our health – it’s not only a fun way to do exercise, it’s fun anyway. It’s cheap, it can be the quickest and easiest way to get from A to B, there are no hassles when it comes to parking, it’s a sociable activity and it’s good for the environment. So why are more people not taking it up?
The answers to this question often depend heavily on where a person lives. In more highly urbanized areas, there is a general perception that the roads are just too dangerous to make cycling a serious everyday possibility. Narrow roads, tunnels, fast-moving traffic and heavy loads, combined sometimes with heavy rain, snow, black ice, potholes and uneven surfaces can cancel out a lot of the assumed benefits of cycling – it certainly ceases to be fun, does indeed become more dangerous and requires a lot of effort and may not save any time. On top of that, if it’s hot or wet, you may arrive at your destination in need of a shower and a change of clothes. While many workplaces offer showering and changing facilities to employees, most do not.
In adverse weather conditions, it’s often preferable for commuters to use public transport. You can wait in a bus shelter or a train station until you are safely on board. Then you can sit snugly in your heated or air conditioned carriage or bus, close your eyes and de-stress until you get home. Cycling is just the opposite – you are bombarded by the elements constantly, while having to burn further energy to keep moving, all the time negotiating traffic and road signals, often in poor visibility and adverse road surface conditions. Some progressive cities have taken major steps to address some of these concerns – dedicated cycle lanes remove other forms of traffic, thus enabling cyclists to focus on the road. Whether the cycle routes are effective depends on how seriously the city in question takes cycling – in some cities, lanes are unconnected or are designated along poorly planned routes. In other cities, the lanes are fine but there is a lack of safe storage facilities for cycles along them.
In certain places, cities are promoting cycling in the hope that it will help to alleviate severe air pollution. Unfortunately, the poor quality of air also acts as a deterrent to would-be cyclists. Many cyclists cover their mouths with masks – but when you leave home wearing a white mask and arrive at work wearing a black one, you’re bound to worry what effect being amid all that smoke is having on your lungs. For some places, other means of improving air quality are necessary before cyclists will take to the streets.