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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-26-07, 10:15 AM   #1
Nate1952
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Member of Parliament Weighs In

See below for the text of an op-ed by Member of Parliament Emily Thornberry, which appeared in The Guardian newspaper.

Three things I love about this article:

a) She emphasizes that, in urban situations, the average bicycle speed compares very favorably with the average speed of motorists.

b) She shoots down the PseudoRacer Mandate that we must spent thousands of dollars just to ride on the street.

c) Like most Europeans, she finds the Perforated Salad Bowls to be thoroughly dispensable.

*****
If you have a short commute and still don't cycle to work, why not? Emily Thornberry busts 10 persistent myths about this easy, green and healthy way to get on the move

Saturday June 16, 2007
The Guardian

'You cycle to work? You must be mad," used to be the reaction when I told people about my commute. Today, especially in London, cycling to work is at last becoming "normal": it is no longer the reserve of Lycra-clad men.

Joining the swarm of cyclists travelling south towards central London from Islington in the morning, I feel like I could be in Amsterdam or Copenhagen - where cycling accounts for a third of all trips. But in the UK, we still have a long way to go. Just 3% of commuters here cycle, with around 4 million people still driving less than three miles to work - a 20-minute bike ride each way. If all of these people swapped their cars for bikes it would save around 1m tonnes of CO2 a year.

Article continues
As a member of parliament, my four-mile round commute to Westminster takes under half an hour (with the trip back, uphill after the 10 o'clock vote, taking a bit longer). It is by far the quickest way to get to the House of Commons. In fact, most traffic in London moves at the same speed it did a century ago - barely 10mph. On a bike you can easily keep up with or beat that speed.

If it's so easy and so quick - why aren't more of us commuting by bike? Here are some of the common myths that people claim prevent them.

1. "But won't I be killed?"

The Department for Transport's own statistics show that, over the last three years, cycling is - per mile travelled - safer than walking. Indeed, the more people who cycle, the safer it becomes, because drivers get used to seeing cyclists on the road. As more people have taken to their bikes in London, so there has been a 50% drop in cycling casualties per mile ridden since the mid 1990s.

We all need regular exercise and the truth is that most people do not get enough. Cycling is much more convenient than joining a gym or going swimming, and is a regular exercise that can be slotted fairly easily into most of our lives. I discovered in February that I have the cardiovascular fitness of someone almost 20 years younger.

2. "Don't I need lots of gear?"

All you need is a bike, a lock and some lights. With a few outstanding exceptions, Lycra really doesn't do justice to the figures of most people over 30. If you feel most comfortable wearing a suit, then wear one and cycle slowly. You are going to work, not climbing Mont Ventoux.

Helmets aren't compulsory and their benefit isn't proven outright. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that wearing a helmet may encourage drivers to overtake more closely - putting you at greater risk.

3. "Won't my bike get stolen?"

A good lock and a secure area to park your bike will help. More enlightened employers will often provide the latter. Forming a bicycle user group in your workplace can improve your chances of obtaining decent facilities.

Most police forces have started offering people bike registration schemes. They'll be able to enter details of your bike onto a database - this will help to recover it if it's stolen.

4. "I haven't done it for years"

The government recently launched Bikeability, a series of three levels of cycle competency, which teaches children the skills and confidence to ride on the road. Local authorities - especially those in London - now offer a free or heavily subsidised adult version of Bikeability.

Even if you think you are a good cyclist, professional cycle training will greatly help boost your confidence and can provide tips and skills to staying safe. I've had cycle training myself and, even though I felt very confident beforehand, I'm certainly a better cyclist because of it.

5. "The weather in Britain is too bad"

In many cities in northern Europe, up to 30% of all journeys are taken by bike - often in places with wetter, colder weather than the UK. Some cities in this country have similar levels of bike-friendliness; a quarter of commuters in parts of York, Cambridge, Oxford and Hull cycle to work.

In my city, Transport for London claims that the average cycle commuter will only be caught in the rain 12 times in the average year. This is, as any cyclist will tell you, quite obviously a lie - but you'd be surprised how infrequently it actually does rain. My policy is - if it rains, the bike stays at home. No one wants their MP turning up looking like a drowned rat.

6. "I live in a hilly area"

You can't tackle hills without gears. The worse the hill, the more serious the gears needed. But, frankly, no one is going to blame you if you get off and push. And then you've got a free-wheel downhill.

7. "There's too much pollution"

Pollution levels for cyclists are lower than you might think - on hot days when pollution levels are highest, cyclists are exposed to less pollution than commuters sitting in their cars.

8. "Bikes are expensive"

There's now a tax incentive, which means that you could buy a bike for a substantial discount through your employer. Find out about the scheme here: tinyurl.com/zob7l

9. "I can't carry anything on a bike"

Some people have moved house by bike, and transported furniture - even pianos - by bike. Modern panniers are adapted for files and laptops. You can buy huge panniers and removable baskets that can carry shopping - and even David Cameron's shoes!

10. "There are other reasons"

No there aren't. Get on a bike and give it a week. Chances are you'll soon join the ranks of converted cycle commuters: green, healthy and just a bit smug.

Emily Thornberry is MP for Islington South and Finsbury, and chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary cycling group
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Old 06-26-07, 10:24 AM   #2
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Wouldn't it be great to hear something like that out of a member of congress over here in the colonies?
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Old 06-26-07, 10:31 AM   #3
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North America has a loooooong way to go.
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Old 06-26-07, 12:00 PM   #4
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That's a really great read - good for her.

I know we have CAN-BIKE in Canada, but it'd be nice to hear some actual MP/MPPs to speak up about riding into their respective offices. The trouble here in North America has been, and still is from what I can gather, communities/towns/cities are built and designed with car-centric thinking. No longer do we have our local butcher, our local greengrocer and the hardware store... We have to go to the bigbox plazas, industrial parks, etc. Now I speak with generalizations - I actually live in an area of Toronto that still does have those local stores, but I also can't get somethings without needing to visit one of the bigger supermarkets or plazas for a Home Depot, etc.

Britain, my home country, is a LOT smaller than Canada, and the USA - I'm thinking the sprawl afforded here just isn't possible in the UK and that must impact the way things are done, too.

I think, though, the main thing is the land of convenience thinking... I definitely feel my life and the luxuries I'm offered are a huge amount more convenient than they ever were in the UK - I don't know how this transcribes into people using their cars here a lot more, but it's evident. Never in my life before coming over the pond had I ever dreamed of a drive-through ATM, or a coffee shop. That just seems (seemed) ridiculous to me, but they're here and being used with fervour (particularly coffee shops ). I was also amazed with awe that we could drive down the main street downtown (Yonge). In the gross majority of towns and cities in the UK I've been/lived in, the city/town centres are more often than not a pedestrian-only zone (with early/late hour exceptions for deliveries) - there is no such concept here, the city is divided by the grid of streets and that's the way it is.

I liken this convenience to people who drive to the gym. Now I know there must be practical reasons for some people, but it just seems logic defying at times... Why not walk/jog (hell, RIDE) to the gym and incorporate this into your workout? People here seem so time-strapped between the 32482742 tihngs they're trying to do in that day that I guess a car is the only way they see fit to achieve this.

Cars definitely have their place, laziness is everywhere in the world and it breeds, but it's breaking that "need my car" mindset that I think would start making more of a change. I do believe Toronto, if not many other cities, is on the way to SLOWLY change this through more support for cycling, but it's slow and there are still a HUGE amount of cars/vehicles around town.
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Old 06-26-07, 02:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vulpes
Wouldn't it be great to hear something like that out of a member of congress over here in the colonies?
It would be. And there are individuals in Congress who bike. Unfortunately, the collective mindset on Capitol Hill is just not where it needs to be:

http://www.prwatch.org/spin/2006/04/28
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Old 06-26-07, 02:50 PM   #6
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The head of the (UK) Conservative Party has made a big show of riding a bike to and from work. There are a couple of other MPs that are known for it, too.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, takes public transport to work every day (as does Bloomberg).
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Old 06-26-07, 02:56 PM   #7
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So thoughtful, so reasoned, so well-written, it's obviously not the work of an American legislator.
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Old 06-27-07, 08:02 AM   #8
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"But in the UK, we still have a long way to go. Just 3% of commuters here cycle..."

Of course, she is a member of the party that has ruled Britain for the last ten years, and she should also be taking responsibility for the failure to develop a real integrated transport policy outside London (which is not under Labour Party control). One puff piece in a friendly newspaper doesn't get you off the hook for that.
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Old 06-28-07, 08:43 AM   #9
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But, does SHE BIKE TO WORK?
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Old 06-28-07, 08:57 AM   #10
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But, does SHE BIKE TO WORK?
If you had read the article you'd know that she said she rides to parliament and back home from it.

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10. "There are other reasons"

No there aren't. Get on a bike and give it a week. Chances are you'll soon join the ranks of converted cycle commuters: green, healthy and just a bit smug.
That one's my favorite.
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Old 06-28-07, 11:58 AM   #11
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That's a great article, something that should be picked up by news papers all over NA.
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Old 06-28-07, 12:06 PM   #12
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If you had read the article you'd know that she said she rides to parliament and back home from it.
I did read it...guess I missed that part. Reread to see it now.

Damn....I thought that was a good joke too.
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