“I used to cycle, but the traffic…”

Three similar comments I’ve heard from elderly visitors to my town in the past fortnight.

“I used to cycle in every week to watch the football team play. But these days the traffic…” (This gent lives just 6 and a half miles away.)

“I used to jump on my bike and cycle here with my mates to watch things at the cinema. The country lanes were lovely and there was never any traffic.” (This gent lives just 5 miles outside town.)

“I used to cycle home from work along Watling Street.* But of course I couldn’t now. There never used to be any cars, just the odd coal lorry would go past.” (The section of Watling Street is now a busy 30 mph zone where too many push the car up to 40 mph.)



Yes, there are a lot of cars around these days. I can’t argue with that. BUT they slow each other down. 

I’m chuffed to say that cycling sensibly in this neck of the woods is just about as safe as you’ll find in England. We live in the county with the 3rd lowest rate of traffic incidents in England. And in the town with the lowest rate of people being being injured in traffic in this county. And, as is happening nation-wide, the number of crashes locally is going down steadily every year. Moreover the visibly rising number of bikes is making car users more aware and tolerant of us.

I reckon any halfway road-savvy person is safe on a bike here.


4 thoughts on ““I used to cycle, but the traffic…”

    • A good point, and David Hembrow wrote a good post recently addressing perceived danger.

      However, the perception of danger here is freakily high. An evening class I attend has two people who live not more than 3 minutes’ walk from the venue. Yet they drive every time “because it’s dangerous walking around at night”. Lovely people though they are they sound like junkies, needle poised, rationalising their next hit.

      Traffic isn’t the only problem. (And cycle training would address much of this, IMHO.) They’ve simply spent so long shut off from other people that strangers scare them.

  1. Indeed I did, but note that the third type of safety is “social safety”. That’s the problem of thinking you’ll get mugged (or worse). To address this, not only do cycle routes need designing with adequate lighting and a lack of blind corners, you also need a low crime rate and an effective police force who are sympathetic to cyclists.

    “Stranger danger” is taught to British people from a young age, but seemingly not to Dutch children. It’s quite normal for very young children, out on their own, to speak to you as you pass.

    • David, I agree totally with what you’re saying. Stranger danger has reached paranoid levels here. After living in and around the Asia-Pacific for 4 years, that was one of the two things that struck me most when I got back to Britain. (The other was how hilariously fat everyone most people were/are.)

      The safe cycle routes, the lighting, low crime, police officers on bicycles, and so on – we have those things round here. But, as a friend on the police force points out, we have the odd paradox of street crime creeping down towards zero but everyone says they’re afraid to walk anywhere.

      Psychogeographer Will Self once said something along these lines. There’s a popular train of thought that if you leave your child alone in an urban setting for 10 minutes, he or she will be abducted by a pedophile ring. The reality is that if you leave your child alone for 10 minutes in an urban setting, he or she is going to be hit by someone in an SUV and be killed. In order to cover up our obsession with maintaining private car ownership for trips around town, we’ve invented vicious gangs of pedophiles.

      It’s an almost entirely imagined fear. I’m not sure how you tackle that.

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