The world faces many problems and believe it or not, cycling cannot solve them all. UK Government policy regarding cycling is focused on keeping cyclists safe, which is a good thing of course but does seem to generate negative tension between cyclists and the rest of the human race. How to solve that?
A good start would be to make more humans cyclists? Why would you want to do that? This maybe tenuous, scientifically unproven but a human that cycles is a happier human. Why? Scientific research has probably proven that they’re fitter, healthier, explore more, socialize more, have more fun.
Don’t believe me? Don’t see the benefits to the human race? With 1 case study I can’t prove it but here’s a great cycling story to warm the heart of cycling humans and maybe some that don’t.
My 65-year-old father clocks up more mileage in a week on his bicycle than I do. I have to take his word for it as he doesn’t know how to use the Garmin bike computer I gave him to record his rides. And there you have it, the old boy rides his bike for fun and the social life not PBs and post ride analysis. It wasn’t always this way. His early retirement was spent buying stuff he didn’t need from LiDL, being nagged around the house by mother and itching to open the bottle of wine at 11am in the morning.
Maybe it was being an enthusiastic (if rarely in the right place) support driver for the Bicycle Moaning Collective’s forays into Europe or simply fed up with being trapped in the house and made to do mundane chores, whatever the reason he joined his local Cycling Touring Club. Now he’s out on his bike 2 days a week and at the weekend with his new bike friends, or ‘old farts’ as they affectionately refer to themselves.
As far as I can tell the routes for their rides are largely dictated by the locations of coffee shops and pubs and with no time commitments, why shouldn’t they be? They navigate by vague memory and something called a ‘map’. They don’t dream of carbon race bikes or shaving off weight with a carbon seat post. No, they want steel Audax style bikes with a triple although according to Dad, his NBFF*‘Old Charley-boy’, who’s 80 has built his own frame and says you only ever need a single speed and he’s officially the fastest up ‘what’s-its name hill’ in the whole County!
That’s all well and good. Yes, my father is looking healthier and fitter than he has done for years, in less than 12 months the transformation in the old boy is astonishing, he’s lost weight, drinks less (well starts later in the day). The best bit is that I don’t have to listen to the him telling me about the deal of the week at LiDL, instead he is brimming with enthusiastic stories about his cycling adventures with Old Charley-boy and the other old farts.
Solutions are not always linear. An answer can be like a good bike ride with twists, turns and maybe a few dead ends, often heading in a direction that doesn’t make sense until you arrive. The NHS is at breaking point in part due to caring for an ageing population leading unhealthy lifestyles. Were the government to stop automatically giving pensioners free bus passes and instead provide vouchers to purchase new bikes not only would they reduce their long term bus pass outlay they would stimulate cycling related retail, encourage pensioners to take-up cycling which would encourage good health, reduce the number of vehicles on the road, save the planet, make roads a safer place to cycle whilst reducing the burden on the NHS. More humans cycling – whatever their age – can help solve more than just our obvious cycling problems.
(*NBFF: New Bike Friend Forever)