I have been cycling from a very young age whilst growing up in The Netherlands, the whole infrastructure there means that the cyclist has a higher priority over motorised vehicles, which everyone respects because everyone is a cyclist, yes indeed without exception. There are more bicycles than people in The Netherlands, some might even say it’s a problem with so many discarded cycles all over. This would be a nice problem to have here in the U.K.
When I moved to the U.K. in 1977, I cycled with fear and today 44 years later I still cycle on U.K. roads mostly in the countryside where I live, but still with fear, huge fear.
The issues with cycling on U.K. roads can be summarised as follows:
- Most U.K. citizens are not cyclists, most don’t own a bicycle and some have never cycled in their lives.
- Roads are not cyclist friendly, very few cycle paths and not enough room on the main roads for cyclists.
- The cursory dotted lines on some main roads to indicate cycle paths are not maintained or cleaned leaving rubbish in the lanes, as well fading signage and drain covers making it a very risky area to cycle in.
- Car drivers have very little patience for cyclists and have the urge to pass them at top speed so as not to be slowed down. They have no idea what that does to the cyclist, having that sudden and often unexpected rush of a car wizzing past.
- Van and truck drivers definitely don’t leave enough room when passing cyclists and don’t appreciate the massive air flow it causes when passing cyclists at high speed and too close.
- Because the infrastructure doesn’t exist to cope with high volumes of bicycles as in The Netherlands for example, parents don’t want their kids on the roads for fear of accidents and as such they are taught to cycle on the pavements causing risks for pedestrians.
- On top of that as far as I know kids in primary school receive some albeit very little bicycle training and don’t need to pass an exam, which causes even more ignorance about cycling.
- And then there’s the cost. Bicycles can be expensive and if not maintained properly cost even more over time, which means people leave them in their sheds and garages to gather rust and dust.
Since COVID-19 and lockdown a huge effort was made to advise the U.K. people to cycle to work, we were even given vouchers to get our bicycles fixed. In all my cycling outings since those announcements I see no more bicycles on the road, in fact I am lucky if I see even one other road cyclist. Maybe they are many mountain bikers cycling in the forest, which would be great, but somehow I doubt it.
I am also very doubtful that I will ever see a U.K. that is friendlier towards bicycles and I definitely will never witness a situation where bicycles will have priority over motorised vehicles. That will never happen here.
I am very curious how Britain will perform in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. Being a gold medal nation in cycling I am very surprised not more has been done to encourage mass take up of cycling and build the infrastructure for adults and children to jump on their bikes.