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Pushing Pedals: Stop the Cycling Culture War and Admit We are Addicted to the Car

Published on: 13 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 17 Mar, 2023

This is the regular column on local cycling by the Guildford Bicycle User Group (G-BUG). Its vision is to make cycling in Guildford safer, more convenient and fun. Members share a passion for making the borough more accessible through increased cycling.

By Cameron Allan

The UK has an motoring obsession creating a culture war against cycling. Suggest a cycling improvement and you can guarantee a cry something like “bloody lycra-clad cyclists, holding up traffic, riding like idiots, breaking the highway code”.

Cycling on the London Road. It is “intimidating” for cyclists on some roads in Guildford.

There are some like that but that is a distraction. The issue is we need a safe cycle infrastructure so everyone can cycle if they want and not have to drive.

People claim we don’t need cycle paths in Guildford because nobody cycles. Engineers do not build a bridge over a river based on the number swimming across. They build it because, once it is built, people use it.

Cycle paths allow regular people to get about, not just the lycra-clad but children, elderly and women who are more likely to be put off by intimidating roads.

G-BUG member, Cameron Allan said we should “admit that maybe we are addicted to the car”.

On new cycle lanes on the Chiswick Road in London, you see children cycling to school, women cycling to work and, dare I say, the odd workman peddling a cargo bike with tools for his next job.

These are not cyclists, just people previously put off riding a bike but now safely cycling as the best way to get around town.

Parents struggle with the school run dealing with Guildford traffic perils. It can take an hour before you are home again. They don’t dare let their child make their own way home because it’s too far to walk and too dangerous to cycle.

But in the not-too-distant future, with a Guildford equipped with safe cycle infrastructure, parents will be able to rest assured that bang on 4pm their son or daughter will walk in the door having cycled home.

They can be relieved of many of the daily stresses by giving their children the freedom to travel independently. Children like being able to travel without the need to rely on parents, going shopping in town with friends or to Spectrum for bowling.

The UK government say walking and cycling provide benefits from reduced NHS spend of between 13 to 35 times the cost of the cycling infrastructure. New Zealand found the benefits outweighed the costs by 10 to 1.

So it is cheaper to build cycle infrastructure than it is not to.

It’s not surprising the Netherlands, where 27 per cent of all trips are done by bike (in the UK it’s just 2 per cent), has the second lowest obesity rates of the developed world at 20.4 per cent only overtaken by Denmark where 16 per cent of all trips are cycled.

Guildford is not Amsterdam. But we are also not Copenhagen, nor Antwerp, nor Oslo, nor Paris, nor Seville, nor Berlin, nor Cambridge, nor London and all these places have invested in cycling and, unsurprisingly, more people now ride bikes.

Guildford could be a cycling paradise but we haven’t tried yet.

It is time to admit that maybe we are wrongly addicted to the car and to give the humble bicycle a go.

If you would like to see Guildford become a cycle-friendly town then join G-Bug, the Guildford cycle campaign group and join our mailing list.

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Responses to Pushing Pedals: Stop the Cycling Culture War and Admit We are Addicted to the Car

  1. Julia Shaw Reply

    March 15, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    Well said. I look forward to Guildford building much more cycle infrastructure. We are quite limited on where we can safely cycle to as a family at the moment.

  2. William Brewster Reply

    March 20, 2023 at 3:21 pm

    Surrey is now basically a cycle park. Every lane and field and bridleway is absolutely full of men clad in skin-tight clothing who are actually quite rude to anyone who dares to get in their way.

    What Guildford and the villages don’t need is more bikes or money spending on more bike lanes or services.

    • Joe Taylor Reply

      March 20, 2023 at 7:30 pm

      If Guildford had a proper cycling infrastructure then Mr Brewster wouldn’t encounter those rude, scary lycra-clad men on every lane, field and bridleway as he claims.

      His comment implies he didn’t bother to read more than the title of the article. Cyclists aren’t a homogeneous group of spandex and bad manners in the same way that every car driver is a boy racer type.

      Imagine how nice Guildford would be with 20 per cent fewer cars on the roads.

    • Andrew Calladine Reply

      March 25, 2023 at 11:25 am

      In my experience, Surrey is full of oversized privately owned cars and we know the real damage they and HGVs are doing to our villages. See: Traffic Damaging Shere’s Historic Buildings – ‘Too Many Cars and Oversized Lorries’

  3. Mike Smith Reply

    March 22, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    Although I drive and also have an OAP bus pass (for which I’m very grateful) I’d much prefer to cycle into town more often if it wasn’t quite so unpleasant riding in heavy traffic. (Set your mind at rest Mr Brewster, I’m more bicycle clips than lycra.)

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