Cycling is touted as a solution to various mental health issues, to be truthful it is. In fact, for my day job, I’m creating social prescribing courses based on cycling for the NHS. The problem for me, and I’m sure for many other people, is getting out the door. I’m going to offer one solution that I think can help solve this issue and also boost your local economy.
The answer is not e-bikes, I’m fed up with going to meetings that tout e-bikes as the saving grace of active travel. The answer I’m thinking of, and also it will increase e-bike use, is infrastructure. We need segregated cycle networks.
In the UK, we have become a divided community. Over the years I’ve watched cycling on the road become more of battle than it ever used to be. We see more people riding, which in other countries increases road safety. Yet in the UK during the first pandemic lockdown when we saw more people cycling and less traffic on the roads, we saw accidents and deaths increase.
Now, you could argue that my anxiety about riding on-road stems from knowing these stats. I accept that, and the next argument is that I can ride on traffic-free routes. Yes, these exist, and yes, some are near me.
The problem here is, I have to ride on roads to get to them, and many of them are less than a mile long. The length then is not really long enough, unless I do loops, which seems to kill the freedom that cycling used to bring to me.
The first issue I raised there is also a big problem. During lockdown, I tried to ride to these traffic-free routes, but I had close calls with people passing me each time. The roads were empty, and with no oncoming traffic, people still felt it was appropriate to graze past me and cut in right in front of me.
When you’re suffering from anxiety, people doing this magnifies. You spiral. It makes it hard to leave the house as you’ve decided you will get into a car crash. I’m not using accident here, as I truly believe it is bad driving that causes the majority of these incidents.
A segregated lane would allow me to get out as these issues would be less likely to happen.
There then is one health benefit straight off the bat. My mental health would be better. Did you realise that inactivity costs the NHS £1.06bn a year?
Its the economy dummy
I think we’re at a stage where we all know active travel will bring health benefits. That argument is won. We need to focus on getting society changed, so we need to look at the issue’s economics. Maybe we should just get a bus and paint, “Save the NHS £19,230,000 a week,” on it.
Many shop owners complain about taking car parking away. There is a simple argument to help these business people understand why car parking should go and be replaced by active travel infrastructure. In areas focused on walking and cycling, local shops see around a 40% increase in sales.
In the lowest economic quintile, we find that 48% of households don’t own a car. We are further disadvantaging these people. If we make it easier to walk, or cycle, to work and the shops we can help them and their local economy.
These are two simple points. Points that local Councillors should be able to grasp. We should take these arguments to meetings about new infrastructure. We need Councillors to tell people that even by paying Vehicle Excise Duty, they don’t have the right to park wherever they want