Blog by Maria
Sustainable Merton Community Champion
There has been a huge increase in cycling and walking during the pandemic, as the streets emptied of cars, and more people took advantage of the daily outdoor exercise allowance.
However, as the UK Government has begun to plan the route out of lockdown, walking and cycling needs to be supported and encouraged. Last year, the Government announced £2bn of funding for walking and cycling, with proposals such as low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and improved cycle lanes and walkways.
The benefits of cycling are numerous, with health and fitness continuing to be one of the key motivators. Other motivators include cost-saving over other modes of transportation, cycling being an enjoyable and convenient way to commute, and a social activity to do with family and friends. More recently, there has been a substantial growth in the number of bicycle users who consider the environmental advantages (e.g. better air quality, less congestion, more efficient transport) as their main motivator. The most common barriers cited for people not taking up cycling include fear of being involved in a collision, too much traffic, poor road conditions and lack of confidence.
After taking up cycling more seriously for the past year, I fell in love with it, and want to see more residents in Merton cycling. With collision risks and lack of safety being the most relevant discouraging factors, I do agree that cycling is a personal choice based on both the benefits and risks. However, with a greater proportion of the population being willing to cycle, there will be increased demand and pressure on the Government to address these issues and allow for greater cycling infrastructure improvements.
Safety on the road is the main deterrent to people taking up cycling, and in many instances, this can play an especially important role in making someone afraid of cycling in traffic. However, there are some points I would like to address. Please note, this is aimed at people who already know how to cycle.
1) Be aware of everything on the road. You need to have a high level of awareness of the drivers’ turning intentions, even when they do not indicate, your position in relation to a driver’s blind spot, and any potholes, as well as objects/hazards such as rubbish, wheelie bins, car doors, etc…
2) Maintain high visibility at all times. With most collisions occurring because the cyclists were not seen (or seen too late), it is vital to make sure you are seen at all times. Ride in a visible position on the road and make sure the drivers see you, by wearing high visibility and reflective clothing, as well as using the mandatory front and back lights when riding in the dark.
3) The Highway Code for Cyclists is available here. The rules are not only beneficial for you, but for other road users as well. Make sure you know the rules of the road and follow them all the time.
4) Signal your intentions early. To be able to do this, there are two important things to know: first, the hand signals (which can be found here), and second, how to keep your balance riding with only one hand, or looking back. So, make sure you learn these skills in a safe space (park, quiet road) before cycling on the road.
Lack of proper infrastructure
What puts many cyclists at greater risks is the lack of cycling infrastructure. Fully segregated cycle tracks are the best option for cyclists, however many cycle lanes do not meet this standard. Cycle Superhighways and Quietways are both a great way to stay safe on the road. Here is a map of all existing cycling infrastructure within Merton.
Many new cyclists are afraid that their bike might get stolen, but there are some ways to help prevent that from happening.
1) One of the first things I did after getting my bicycle was to register it at BikeRegister. This is a highly-effective deterrent to bike thieves.
2) Make sure you have recorded details of your bike and good photos.
3) Always double lock it, using two good quality locks, with at least one being a D-lock.
4) Lock the frame and both of your wheels to a cycle parking stand.
5) Your bicycle should be as close to the parking stand as possible, so that it is hard to manoeuvre.
6) Always remove lights and other accessories, so that they do not get stolen.
Maintaining a bicycle can be hard work, but a faulty bicycle will mean you are more likely to be seriously harmed. Get your bicycle serviced whenever you feel it needs it, depending on how often you cycle. There are many tutorials online with maintenance tips for beginners.
It takes a lot of dedication to cycle in a downpour, however this is simply your choice. For less favourable weather conditions, I suggest investing in a few basics like a good waterproof jacket and shoes, warm socks for winter and a padded saddle cover for added comfort.
For a free adult Bikeability cycle training in Merton, check cyclinginstructor.com
Free TfL’ online Cycle Skills course available here.