Why older people don't take up cycling - rebuttal
- (snip) People returning to cycling when older are dismayed at the amount of
traffic. This is the biggest disincentive to cycling. They last cycled at a
time when you did not even really need proper brakes (at least in the
provinces). Now you have to cycle with one hand ready to jam on the levers
(discourages signalling). A few token obstacle courses masquerading as
cycle paths are not going to change the ... (snip)
(Reply) I returned to cycling when older in 1997 after taking a health test
with the University of Birmingham Sports Lab who were researching the
connection between exercise and health among the middle aged. One line of
research was to invite people to cycle to work at least twice a week in
return for a before and after health check over 6 weeks and a free cycle
computer. I was converted both by the test results and the pleasures of
cycling in Autumn (I'd been an occasional summer holiday cyclists on leisure
circuits like the Forest of Dean) and have never looked back. It helped to
see the difference between my dear old £50 Raleigh (still in the garage) and
a "proper" £500+ hybrid bicycle and a couple of Bromptons (expensive but
cheap compared to buying, driving and maintaining a car.)
I now cycle regularly across Birmingham, London and other cities in all
weathers at all times of the year and I've cycled the Sustrans route from
Glasgow to Inverness and cycled in Paris over the carfree day "weekend" last
September. (The last 2 on my Brompton with my 15 year old daughter, friend
and friend's son).
I've had occasional spats with impatient motorists (oddly rare in Birmingham
or London where there are a lot of skilled and courteous drivers - real
problems tend to be small towns IMHE) but while I am far too superstitious
to say I'm safe (I know I'm not) I have studied the brilliant detailed
advice on "urban-cyclist", John Franklin's excellent guidance on cycle
craft, and now feel I am ready to go into the formal transport reassignment
program to have the full operation to become a cyclist. " ... er ..
throughout my life I have been a cyclist trying to get out of the body of a
motorist. I now feel my true self emerging..." (enough of that - but I
mention it to prepare the ground for saying my car is still in the drive.
Well .. er .. it makes the house look occupied during the day and ... er ...
I need to take stuff to the dump now and then ... "STOP RIGHT THERE!! ...
We'll not allow you the operation if you go on with this denial of the toad
urge still lurking inside!")
I take the point made in "U-C" and elsewhere that going on about the dangers
of cycling is counter-productive especially as I actually feel safer and
happier since I took to cycling (superstitious crossing of fingers again).
In 1997 driving at 15 miles an hour in a residential area a girl ran out
into my car. She was OK - because I was going slowly - but I got a whiff of
the risks I'd been taking with other's lives over 30+ years of driving and
realised the real danger was not to my life in a car but to my moral make-up
if I killed or injured another person by continuing to buy (and motoring is
financially, psychologically and socially expensive) into the accident
lottery that is still an accepted part of participating in "car culture". On
a bicycle I have the freedom of knowing that on the whole and if I cycle in
an honourable way the balance of the danger is to me and not others. That
individual experience Velcro's onto broader issues concerning urban fabric,
mobility, health and the sustainability.
I save myself and my clients travel expenses and offer a good example of
green transport in practice and have given up being my children's chauffeur
because they know asking for a lift ("pleeeeeas Dad!!") is not just an
inconvenience but "offends deeply held principles relating to saving the
world -now piss off and walk or bus!"
I'm healthier and freer from stress. These factors balance the obviously
parlous state of cycling provision and the auto-dependency that surrounds
trapping, good friends and neighbours as well as "them out there" who's
tribulations it is easier to enjoy being rude about or experiencing
schadenfreude. (I feel like a convinced evolutionist at the time of the
great Oxford debates - as the evidence against Special Creation accumulated
inexorably and became increasingly undeniable.)
My chief reason for not emphasising the dangers is because of experiences
I've just referred to and political lessons learned from Patrick Field and
John Franklin (I've met neither except through their writing and in
cyberspace) which is that there are so many other dangers in life anyway
including indoors (e.g. the fate argument that goes "except for certain
specific places DIY is a lot more dangerous than the IRA!") and that we
would do well to rejoice in the liberty afforded us by discovering the joys
of cycling and walking.
I add to this mix political engagement in transport being a lobbyists,
article writer, letter writer (thanks "U-C" and others for putting up with
this), radio phone-in voice, campaigner and attendee of public meetings for
safer roads and better public transport - all of which helps inform and give
credibility to my academic and consultancy work.
I'm a member of SUSTRANS, Transport 2000, The Pedestrians' Association, the
CTC, RoadPeace and supporter of the Slower-Speeds-Initiative and the Road
Traffic Reduction Campaign and an avid reader of books on car-free
environments and urban regeneration. My chief political activity is
defending a space next to Handsworth Park in Birmingham (I'm a founding
member of the "Handsworth Park Association") called the Victoria Jubilee
Allotments which is threatened with development after being deliberately
blighted by its private owners. So cycling isn't even my chief
preoccupation - but a valued part of my life.
34 Beaudesert Road
Birmingham B20 3TG
0121 554 9794
- Thanks, Roy.
----- Original Message -----
From: Roy Preston <preston@...>
Sent: Sunday, March 04, 2001 11:40 AM
Subject: Re: [carfree_cities] Why older people don't take up cycling -
> >(Reply) I returned to cycling. . .
> So much more enjoyable than the Sunday papers, Simon!!
- John Whitelegg, Editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice
is I am putting together a special issue of the journal "World Transport
Policy and Practice" on the theme of transport, accessibility, mobility and
the elderly. The planned contents are below. But it occurred to me that
there might be place there for a cycling piece that looks at it from the
vantage of the 70+'s. Anybody here have any thoughts or guidance for us on
= = = = = =
The contents will include the following:
The transport needs of older people
Travel behaviour and the elderly
Walking, cycling and public transport use in this group
Car use in this group especially car use by the over 80 years age group
The links between accessibility and mobility for this group
The links between physical activity (walking and cycling) and maintaining a
long healthy life
Travel needs of older people in developing countries
Poverty, age and mobility
Parkinson's disease and the continuation of a healthy, involved life style
Older people and community vitality: the great under-utilised resource
Disabled /differently abled people and transport needs
The emphasis will be on real insights into this group of transport users
based on original research and on evaluations of practical policy
initiatives to address the needs of this group.
All papers will be refereed.
If you would like to submit a paper please let me have a title, author
details and 50-100 word abstract.
The paper itself would be needed by 15th September this year.