I’ve been searching this morning for a tweet sent by a local councillor within the last few months asking why so many people drive when the evidence is clear that the pollution is a killer and the congestion means that in a city it is nearly always the slower way to travel.
I wish I could find this tweet to illustrate this post, but alas, it has disappeared into the noise of the internet.
It’s weird though as it’s a tweet which has stayed with me since I read it. I mean, what type of person would it take to drive a car knowing the facts?
Why do most people drive?
According to the UK Government, there were 38.2m cars registered in the UK in September of 2019. That was an increase year on year of 1.3%.
Look, the reason why so many people drive is simple – Most people drive because most people drive. Yes, I know. Not exactly earth-shattering, but just think it over for a minute.
As humans, we instinctively follow the pack. We see it throughout human history whether it be the formation of religions, fashion, what we eat and how we travel. But each one of these ‘movements’ requires a period of growth to get to the required level of critical mass – or a tipping point, if you will, before it becomes ‘the way it’s always been’.
We just don’t think it through
I too was guilty of following the bandwagon and not thinking it through when I was in my late teens. I just looked out into my world and saw that learning to drive and owning a car was a natural progression in mine and my friend’s lives. As so many are, I was well and truly blinkered thinking a car was not only a right but a need.
Of course, I needed a car to get from A to B, to be able to work, socialise and go away on trips to the coast with friends. A car would give me freedom – or would it?
The reality of the car
In fact, the car took a large part of my income, added inches to my waistline, made me a part-time taxi service, limited me to shopping at places where I could park the damn thing and ended up wasting days of my life stuck in traffic or searching for a parking space – I ain’t getting that time back!
And let’s not forget… It has massively contributed to local air pollution which would have killed vulnerable adults and children and to the global climate crisis which we are seeing unfolding in the present time which will affect the lives of my children and in time theirs as well.
Why the humble bicycle is the solution
Since ditching my dirty diesel, I have not only saved tons of carbon and other toxic emissions from being pumped into the air which we breathe. I have also connected much more with the community around me.
I also don’t get stuck in traffic, pay parking charges and I usually get to lock my bike up within feet of my destination.
Cycling has also given me a smaller waistline and made me generally feel much fitter. It has also given me new friends and contacts as I find that urban cycling has a culture and community all of its own.
More people cycle when…
My hope is that one day soon, the following statement will ring true.
Most people cycle because most people cycle!
As urban cycling and commuting by bike in the UK continue to grow, it will eventually reach a tipping point. In some areas, this is much closer than in others, but there are things we can all do to get to that point sooner.
Simply going for a bike ride is making a difference. That’s right, taking a simple ride is cycle activism. Often as I was stuck in traffic I would wonder about the cyclists whizzing past. Each one more than likely a seed in my unconscious that this was, in fact, the future of travel?
It really is as simple as getting out there on your bike at every opportunity and adding to the numbers.
Find your tribe
I’m only about five months into my car-free cycling journey, but I have already felt a strong connection with my local bicycle community and you can too.
Why not see if there is a Critical Mass ride in your area, and if not, why not set one up?
Find out if there is a local cycle campaign or a Bicycle User Group (BUG for short) and get involved.
Active travel such as cycling and walking are growing in popularity in towns and cities throughout the UK. The future is healthier, cleaner and brighter when we all work together to end the reign of King Car.
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