People who know me have probably already seen my second hand blue old bike, that I ride as much as I can. I bought this bike second hand back in Germany, probably 12 years ago, and it has accompanied me in all my adventures around Vienna, Brussels, and now Maidenhead! It has been repaired and revised many times, its accessories have changed with my life (from a basket to carry my errands to a baby seat at the back), and I wouldn't change it for the world.
I do bring my son to nursery on my bike (when it is not raining) and it really make the journey fun rather than just a necessity. We try to see the white cat just before we cross the rails, and we love when we can see the train (we feel so lucky). Arthur even moans if we pick him up with the car. Now he can ride a bicycle by himself, so our journey is even richer! We stop at the "bee garden" (a beautiful front garden that a Maidenion planted with lavender, penstemons, hollyhocks and more), Arthur is commenting on the trees that are the same as at home, and we pick some trash up when we stop, and lift our feet when the road in downhill (shouting of course).
I have been delighted to see how many more bikes I could see around as a side effect of the lockdown. I have been less delighted by the reaction of other road users... The other day, a lady in her 50's on board of a big SUV shouted at us (as we cycled lined up and on the side of the road) "You should cycle on the pavement!" - for the records it is illegal to cycle on the pavement and could be fined £30. Another time, as the pavement was empty and a lot of cars were passing by, we chose to carefully cycle on the pavement and stepped down of our bikes with 2m distance and we have been muttered at "It is not allowed to cycle on the pavement". We just cannot win. In the last Maidenhead advertiser, a resident did complain that the council didn't put a NO CYCLING sign to "protect the elderly" on the High Street. In another Maidenhead advertiser, several residents did complain to see bikes on their walking path.
I am appealed by this reject of cyclists. I am myself at times a car driver, a pedestrian and a
cyclist. When I cycle is when I experience the more aggressive behaviour against my transport mode. I don't believe that cyclists are less considerate than the others, I tend to think that stupid people are evenly distributed - one can only observe that there is a significant lack of cycling ways in the borough, and that neither pedestrians nor cars are happy to share their way with the cyclists. From a law point of view, cyclist and cars belong on the road, and cyclist pay council tax as much as car drivers do. But sometimes it seems more sensible to ride on the pavement, of course in a lower pace to avoid any collision. This shouldn't be frowned upon... I did ask the police for traffic accidents stats to understand the real danger of cyclists vs. cars and will edit this post later on with the results, as I have a feel that insecurity linked with bicycles is factually wrong.
The reality is that the car industry did a great job in making so many people in love with their cars, resulting, among many other matters, in air pollution which is damageable to the health of our kids in particular but everyone's' really. Thanks to Public Health England, there are 69 premature deaths in RBWM annually due to Particulate Matter [coming from cars and gas boilers]. Recent research indicates that one is more likely to die from Covid-19 if there is poor air quality. Note that on the 6th of June, 125 people had died of the Coronavirus in the Royal Borough. I know those figures are not directly comparable, but the response to tackle the 2 issues are clearly disproportional. Thanks to Dave Scarborough who is campaigning for a better air quality in the borough, there are currently 5 areas inside RBWM (including the centres of Windsor and Maidenhead) in which the levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are above the legal limit and this has been the case for between 14 and 5 years. Moreover, RBWM has the highest growth rate of asthma related death in the country (If you wish to know more, please get in touch to take action through the RBWM CEC Facebook page). Reducing car pollution is factually critical. Cycling is part of the solution.
Rather than focusing on the seconds that as a car driver, we might loose when we are stuck behind cyclists, we should definitely be thankful for what cyclists do for us! They definitely are in better health and hence reduce the NHS costs. Secondly, riding a bike is more likely to reduce traffic jams than increasing them, which is reducing the general level of stress (what is more frustrating than sitting in a traffic jam?1) and freeing up our time. And surely it reduces the overall level of air pollution, which is responsible for 40 000 deaths per year in the UK. And last but not least, cycling is sexy. Oui madame. Look at my legs (or not).
Often I hear that being ecofriendly is too expensive. Cycling is definitely a way to save money! And the good news is, that in Maidenhead, we have a lovely charity upcycling and repairing bikes at a low price for you and the environment : the Maidenhead Cycle Hub. Arthur's bike did cost us £35...
Of course cars are necessary in many instances, and not all of us have the possibility to switch. But the benefits of cycling are so multiple on many levels that if you can consider it, it will make a big difference to your health, to your bank account and indirectly to the community.
So go on your bikes, save lives, protect the NHS.
And this is why all cyclist keep smiling, because they have this song in their head :)