Don’t be fooled by first impressions – the UK is a nation of cyclists. Almost a million of us commute to work on a bike, with a 5% increase in the amount of people choosing to cycle to work in the last year.
The UK has been rated the 10th most bicycle friendly country in the world, with the Netherlands and Denmark vying for first place, and cyclist awareness courses are becoming more popular with drivers wanting to know what it’s like to experience Britain’s roads on two wheels.
With words like ‘deficit’ and ‘recession’ still flying about in the news, it was a pleasant surprise when David Cameron announced that £214million will be invested into making Britain’s roads safer for cyclists; he acknowledged that Britain’s professional cyclists were among ‘the best in the world’, and stating that he wanted to start a ‘cycling revolution which will remove the barriers for a new generation of cyclists.’
£114 million will be split between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich – Manchester has set a goal that by 2025, 10% of all journeys will be made by bike, which is an ambitious but refreshing target.
Cameron will allocate a substantial (although also substantially smaller) figure to the rural areas of Britain most popular with cyclists – The New Forest, The Peak District, the South Downs and Dartmoor will have a budget of £17million; the New Forest alone plans to improve 30km of cycle routes. Cycling hasn’t always been well received in the Forest, which earlier this year refused the chance to implement a cycle scheme similar to London’s ‘Boris Bikes’, due to a general ‘anti-cycling’ sentiment in the area.
There has always been a somewhat inherent distrust between cyclists and motorists with statistics showing that the majority of accidents, regarding bikes, cars and pedestrians, happen on rural roads. Motors.co.uk reported in 2013 that Scotland were calling for a change in the Law to make motorists automatically at fault in the event of an accident, which has continued to win support across Scotland; this includes the Scottish Olympic Gold Medallist Craig MacLean.
In summary, the UK is behind the Dutch and the Danish in the cycling stakes – 70% of journeys in Amsterdam are taken by bike. In these countries the rules are also stricter, so if the UK moves towards being more cycle friendly, then cyclists could find themselves as tightly governed as motorists. The investment announcement will only further help the government’s ambitions towards cycling, whilst hoping the success of the 2012 London Olympics and the Yorkshire Tour de France Grand Depart will further encourage the public to get on their bikes.