London is gearing up to become one of the cycling capitals of Europe. To clean up it’s air, reduce traffic and increase movement, there needs to be more bums on bikes. Thornton et al produced a report for the Department for Transport in July 2011, "Climate Change and Transport Choices" which outlines that the main reason Londoners, especially women, don't cycle is due to safety concerns. 69% of women surveyed stated that it’s too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads. It’s worth noting that In the survey population, 90% were physically capable of cycling, and 92% had 'learnt to cycle' at some point in their lives.
The British Social Attitudes Survey on 'Public Attitudes to Transport' found that 61% of respondents felt that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads.
A 2010 Transport for London study found that 'safety, traffic and lack of facilities are the greatest barriers' to uptake amongst existing infrequent cyclists.
For all groups, including frequent cyclists, safety was the most significant barrier to cycling in general and for specific trips. This suggests that, in order to realise the remaining potential from existing frequent cyclists, practical measures to increase safety and improve the provision of facilities will be the most effective.
A TFL report stated that, “The main barrier to more utility cycling by leisure cyclists is their fear of traffic”.
Research has shown that on roads where there isn't a segregated cycle lane, matching speed with traffic is safer than travelling slower and thus being overtaken by traffic. For most casual cyclists, they do not have the fitness or confidence to maintain this place.
Anecdotal research undertaken by the guardian revealed that after safety, the topology and weather of London was another major issue that made cycling less attractive. One cyclist noted,
“It's been so wet and miserable recently that I just can't be bothered to use the bike. Hopefully now that Spring is here I'll use it more. But the topography and climate of Britain are hostile to cycling and it's hard to imagine them changing for the better”.
As part of another Guardian panel event Chris Boardman, Olympic cyclist and British Cycling policy adviser, Andrew Gilligan, cycling commissioner for London and Dr Rachel Aldred, senior lecturer in transport at the University of Westminster discussed why people in London suburbs aren’t cycling into central London.
"By starting in the centre and forcing the way out, we’ve encouraged this myth that the only people who cycle are wealthy white males who can afford to live in central London and cycle half a mile to work."
Living 5-12 miles outside of central London is intimidating for all but the lycra clad enthusiasts. The technical clothing alone for a commute this long would cost over a hundred pounds. There is no way of commuting this distance without working up a significant sweat and not every office has the facilities to deal with this.
Safety, sweating and road confidence are some of the main barriers to cycling in London. Electrically assisted bikes increase safety by allowing the user to match traffic and concentrate on what’s in front of them rather than what’s behind them. Fewer overtakings increases safety. Electrical assist allows the user control their own micro-climate. Too cold? Turn the assist down. Too hot?, turn it up. A user of an electric bike will feel fitter, more comfortable and more confident on the roads.
Starts and stops generally require the most exertion but when these are assisted the user will take fewer risks, like speeding up to catch an amber light or powering through a pedestrian crossing.
So in short, going faster keeps the things that can hurt you, behind you. Eat my lycra shorts white van guy!