‘Not cycling is dangerous’

Failing to cycle to work results in lower life expectancy and higher risk of obesity and heart disease - as well as harming the environment.

Speaking at an event put on by the Westminster Energy Environment & Transport Forum to look at options for decarbonising transport this week, Roger Geffen of the Cyclists’ Touring Club led a spirited defence of the humble bike.

Improvements in the performance of fossil-fuel hungry forms of transport are necessary and to be welcomed, he said, but shaving a few per cent off emissions here and there was not going to be enough.

“We’ve got to face up to the scale of change we face,” he said.

“Slightly lower carbon emissions will not avert catastrophic climate change.”

He said bicycles were true zero-carbon vehicles and the four-mile commute that is the UK average should be easily achievable for most people – and would take less than half an hour.

Doing this alone would, he said, cut the average individual’s carbon emissions by 7%.

Statistics suggest 65% of car journeys in the UK are less than five miles – and therefore could usually be replaced by cycling.

Mr Geffen said that it is a myth that cycling is dangerous – statistically cyclists are involved in less collisions than those taking journeys by cars and, as the number of cyclists increases, so the risk of accidents falls further.

The number of journeys made by bike has more than doubled in London since 2000, and accident rates had fallen by more than 20%.

The more cyclists on the roads, the safer it becomes for them.

“Cycling is healthy, not dangerous. The number of cyclists [injured in accidents] is trivial compared to those with obesity and cardiac diseases,” said Mr Geffen.

He said that research shows that regular cycling increases life expectancy by two years and if taken up relatively early in life will result in fitness levels of those a decade younger.

He argued that it is good for the economy, too, claiming that cyclists find it easier to stop off on their journey and spend on local services while a large increase in cycling would also mean a more resilient national economy as it would be less prone to issues of fuel security or spikes in oil prices.

He also pointed out that the environmental benefits are many – better air quality locally, less noise pollution, low carbon emissions and often improved green spaces.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie