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How safe is cycling in cities?

The issue of improved safety for cyclists has been a key talking point in the media over recent weeks.  At the forefront has been The Times, who have led with their Cities fit for cycling campaign, launched after journalist Mary Bowers was badly injured on her way to work in November 2011 and still remains in hospital.  Their eight-point manifesto calls for the UK’s cities to be made safer for cyclists and has the backing of notable cycle champions, including Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Bradley Wiggins.

The perceived danger associated with taking to the roads by bike is a barrier faced by many commuters.  London’s Mayor has hailed the much publicised Cycle Super Highways, but when you’re crammed up in the tube and read in the Metro that cycling injuries in London have increased by 13 per cent in three years, who can blame you for thinking, ‘you know what Boris, I don’t think cycling is really for me’?

I avoided cycling for several years because I was unsure how safe I would be taking to London’s roads with its big red buses, but while talking to colleagues who cycled on a regular basis I realised that there were many benefits which I was missing out on.  Now that I try to cycle as much as possible I don’t spend anywhere near as much on train fares and I actually get to work more quickly on the days I cycle, not to mention the benefits it’s having on my health and lowering my carbon footprint.  It’s a decision I’ve never regretted.

Yes cycling is risky, but lots of everyday things are actually more risky… such as gardening.  In fact some studies have shown that people who cycle regularly are more likely to avoid health problems in later life and live longer than non-cyclists.  When looking at it from this angle taking up cycling can only be a good thing.  That’s not to dismiss the good work of those calling for improvements in safety because improvements are needed.  This will require a better understanding of the needs of both cyclists and drivers to help them travel more safely.

Hopefully as the first projects funded by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund take shape over the coming years we’ll continue to see a growth in interest in cycling as safety measures are introduced.  If this can be backed up with a successful year for Team Sky in the Tour de France, with Wiggins and Cavendish bringing the glory back for Britain, then enthusiasm for cycling could reach unprecedented levels.

Safety is an issue which needs to be addressed, but don’t let recent media reports put you off cycling.  If you have even the slightest inkling to try it out I say give it a go!

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