10 things that put people off cycling

A baffling piece of cycle infrastructure in Romford, east London.By  and 

Census data reveals commuter cycling has stagnated in the UK. Our readers suggest reasons why this might be

For all the talk of a ‘cycling revolution’, commuter cycling has remained static at 2.8% across England and Wales over the past decade. Outside certain pockets – inner London has seen an 144% percent rise – cycling is very much a marginal form of transport.

We asked our readers what’s putting them off from cycling to work, and we received a deluge of responses. Certain themes emerged, and we have compiled the top ten. You can add your own in the comments thread below.

1) Bad driving

Cars queueing at a junction.
Cars queueing at a junction. Photograph: pedrogers_peter

Roads were not built for cars. But they certainly dominate them now, and our readers cited dangerous driving as the most likely reason to put them off cycling.

My commute comprises roads with parked cars lining the sides, drivers passing way too close and shouting abuse when I take up the middle, and generally driving 40+ miles per hour in 30 mph zones.


I wear high viz and bright lights and ride conservatively yet “so what part of a big fat old bloke in high viz lit up like a Christmas tree didn’t you see?” is my most common question to road uses who casually try to kill me.


2) Dangerously designed roads

A busy road in the centre of York.
A busy road in the centre of York. Photograph: Andy D’Agorne

Roads may not have been built for cars, but they’ve certainly been designed for them since.

I do cycle to work occasionally but what stops me doing it more often is having to cycle on a transport network designed solely for cars: a network that has for decades so effectively “designed out” cycling that rates of cycling could hardly be any lower if was made illegal.


3) Substandard infrastructure

This Sheffield cycle path is
This Sheffield cycle path is “particularly hazardous in the dark.” Photograph: Tim Mullett

Last year, we asked Guardian readers to send in substandard cycle infrastructure they’d spotted across the country. What emerged was piecemeal, inconsistent, and sometimes dangerous.

The most direct route from my home to work involves on-street riding with traffic squeezing past you at 40mph, and once you get to the centre having to go the long way round and cross the tram tracks multiple times due to the one way system. On the odd bit of contra-flow cycle lane you have to pray that the buses coming the other way won’t cross into it.


I’d love it if there were more cycle paths. By providing cycle paths, it would reduce pressure on inexperienced cyclists to share the road with cars, motorcycles, buses and lorries. They have a safer alternative, which might be all it takes to convince more people to get on their bike.


4) Perception of danger

Is cycling dangerous? Cycle paths that compels you to cycle close to car doors doesn't help.
Is cycling dangerous? Cycle paths that compels you to cycle close to car doors doesn’t help. Photograph: Andy D’Agorne

What’s more dangerous, sitting down or cycling? What’s clear is that the fear of having an accident – an understandable one given reasons 1, 2 and 3 – is keeping plenty of our readers out of the saddle.

I’ve always found the idea of cycling to work absolutely terrifying – even before I moved to London. All I ever hear about are people who have been knocked off their bike and injured, or worse. Granted, I have plenty of cyclist friends who have overwhelmingly positive experiences on their bikes, but I can’t shake the cycling fear.


5) Lack of facilities

Bike racks run over by a truck in Camden.
Bike racks run over by a truck in Camden. Photograph: willperrin

Lack of showers at work was an issue that came up again and again, as did frustration at a lack of space for cycle parking at home, at work, and at stations.

How many employers offer changing and shower facilities? Who wants to arrive at work wet or sweaty and have nowhere to change or to store their cycling kit? A cycle shed at one end of the car park isn’t enough!


Full Piece…


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