For a number of years now, a small group of keen cyclists (myself included) at my workplace have formed a cycling group. The original intention was to offer a place for all cyclists in the company to come together, do cycling things. It’s morphed, slowly, into a group that spends more time encouraging people to cycle to work, attempting to encourage the company to invest in cycling facilities and also working with the council to try and encourage better facilities. We talk to people to try and help them get past the barriers they erect for themselves to stop them riding to work, we provide an on site repair service which is very popular and we provide route guidance, facility support, purchase guidance…lots of things. I’d like to think we have made a difference but it’s hard to tell.
Surveys at work during events we hold have taught us that the absolute, main cause of ‘people not cycling into work’, is safety, especially amongst the women we talk to. They’re scared of the roads, it’s that simple and it’s not difficult to understand why. The UK’s roads are incredibly toxic environments which is very much a cultural issue. Not only are the roads populated by a proportion of aggressive, selfish drivers who actively resent cyclists being there, there is also a sub-culture of people who may not have a problem with cyclists but believe cycling is far more dangerous than it really is. These people are vocal.
At work we have an intranet as most large workplaces do (we employ over 2500 at our main site), with open forums. One such group has been set up specifically to discuss roadworks in the area around the main site. This is currently a very active forum as there are lots of changes taking place in the area. It’s not uncommon for people to complain about delays here including this quality post recently from one lady.
“It took me 50 minutes to drive 2.5 miles the other day”
Now any cyclist, or indeed, any person whose legs work fine could tell you a much quicker way to travel than that but this is a corporate environment, you can’t just blurt out the ridiculousness of the statement so after some thought I typed up a new post in that forum.
It sounds like the continued roadworks around the site are causing lots of problems for people travelling short distances. Allow me to help .;-)
*********** is extremely well served by a network of segregated, safe, well maintained cycle paths. It is possible to travel from one side of Warrington to the other without ever riding on the road more than a few meters. Cycling has the benefit of no queues, no delays. You can consistently guarantee how long your journey will take no matter how many roads are being dug up, no matter how many cars are around.
If you’re frustrated by all the cars holding you up, there are alternatives. All you need is a bike, you don’t need a helmet or special cycling gear, if you pedal gently you can still do 8-10mph quite easily without raising a sweat. If you want to pedal harder, there are a good selection of changing, shower and locker areas on site. You’ll save money quickly and will get fit without even realising it.
The ********* cycling group are based at ******* and can provide guidance on the best routes in, where to store your bike, where to get changed. We can even fix a puncture, adjust your brakes or mend a broken chain if you get here and have an issue. if you’ve not got a bike we can help with suggestions on which bikes would be most appropriate. The weather is getting better, now’s the time to make a change.
Doesn’t read like it’s too controversial, does it? Of course, those of you who are used to discussing cycling advocacy will already of seen my naive and silly mistake.
I mentioned helmets. In fact, I did worse than that, I mentioned, no helmets!
So, as expected, I got some comments back. One from the lady whose journey which as one Twitter user stated ‘I could forward roll faster’, whose friends son crashed a bike and had to have some bowel removed. Another lady, equally concerned about my recklessness, highlighted how her husband got knocked off his bike and broke his arm. They both advocated helmets.
87% of Twitter users who responded to my poll, guessed the correct answer.
How many people, reading those responses, who were previously thinking about cycling into work, are going to now? Not many, that’s how many.
It’s terribly sad and while I’d be happy to argue the case and shoot their anecdotes down on this forum, it’s harder to do on corporate forums. The damage is already done too, no matter how much data I provide, now matter how many coherent arguments I put forward, any potential cyclists will only have visions of someone impaled on a bicycle handlebar and losing a portion of intestine.
It’s almost a one way street, these people, even though their intent is good (I think), have permanently impacted any opportunity the delays may have had to move people away from their cars and onto their bikes. They are unpaid shills for the motoring industry, something I was called paranoid for suggesting last week. The very cause and solution to their complaints, is right in front of them and yet the instant an opportunity to seize that solution presents itself, they shoot it down. Even if they don’t get on their bikes and solve their own issues, less people in cars would help them too but they’re not interested in that.
I felt so demoralised after reading these two comments, I really felt for a short period, what’s the point, they’ll always win, they’ll always have their un-contextual stories to bring up the instant someone says ‘helmet’ or ‘cycling’, their minds are set and they are keen to ensure others feel the same way.
I don’t feel quite so disappointed now after a weekend of cycling, I’ll still continue running the cycling group and I’ll still keep trying to encourage people to ride in. I know there’s people I’ll never convince but have learned a little here, certain subjects are guaranteed to bring out the nay-sayers and should be avoided at all costs.
Enjoy your 50 minute queues.