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Campaigners call for more space — and money — for cycling

Cycling campaigners have issued a fresh call for more space to be given to cyclists on Britain’s roads after more than half of the respondents to a survey commissioned by the BBC said that it is too dangerous to ride on the roads where they live.

The poll of 3,012 adults, carried out by ComRes, is published ahead of Saturday’s start of the Tour de France in Leeds, but only one in five of those surveyed, 20 per cent, agreed that the prospect of the event coming to Britain had encouraged them to cycle more.

While 52 per cent said that their local roads were too dangerous for cyclists, only a third, 34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders. Meanwhile, 55 per cent believe that employers are not doing enough to encourage and facilitate cycling to work.

Chris Boardman, policy advisor to British Cycling which has today unveiled its vision of how the Headrow in Leeds could look if annual spend on cycling were raised to £10 a head, told the BBC: "It's clear … people don't feel safe when riding their bikes on our roads.

"In order to rectify this we need a clear commitment from government and local authorities to prioritise the safety and needs of cyclists in all future transport schemes."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport insisted however that the government had "doubled funding for cycling to £374m to help deliver safer junctions."

That funding relates to England and is spread over several years and as a result is well below the minimum £10 per head recommended in last year’s Get Britain Cycling report from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

According to British Cycling, current annual per capita spend on cycling in the UK is £2, compared to £24 in the Netherlands.

Martin Lucas-Smith of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, the largest such group outside London, said that residents of many parts of the UK “felt unsafe to cycle."

He also said that "things like narrow cycle lanes" and "badly maintained roads" contributed to safety fears among riders.

"We'd like to see proper allocation of space on these roads which can almost always be achieved simply by a bit of redesign, so people can cycle safely and easily," he added.

In April this year, research from the University of the West of England found that perception of the danger posed by traffic was the main barrier to getting more people on bikes.

Meanwhile, last week a survey published by retailer Halfords found that 40 per cent of respondents agreed that a dedicated cycle lane on every road would encourage them to cycle more often.

The Halfords survey also found that 19 per cent of people said they would ride a bike more often if there were better facilities at their workplace, such as showers.

Responding to the BBC’s findings on that issue, Claire Francis, head of policy at the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said: "Employers who encourage cycling can increase their profitability and have employees who take fewer sick days but without decent facilities and support, many businesses miss out on these benefits.

"Cycle parking and showers in an office should be as common as a printer and a coffee machine.

"But we also need the government to deliver better infrastructure and slower speeds on our roads, so that people feel safe to leave home on their bike," she added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

70 comments

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Nick T [913 posts] 1 year ago
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Have we had any results from the report into how many members of the public look for excuses to take "easy" options yet?

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dreamlx10 [144 posts] 1 year ago
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"the danger posed by traffic"

Exactly, the roads are fine, it's the nutters who drive motor vehicles who are the problem.

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Simon E [2539 posts] 1 year ago
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It's not really the roads and junctions that are at fault, it's dangerous driving.

Cycle lanes on every road is pie in the sky and wouldn't be needed if drivers were more considerate. That's not to say they shouldn't be built but they should not be a prerequisite for travel.

Showers at work aren't really necessary for most people, that says more about the answers people give to these kinds of surveys.

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rich22222 [159 posts] 1 year ago
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"34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders"
I doubt these people understood the question...

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DanTe [165 posts] 1 year ago
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How do you change the way of thinking of an angry nation? Hard - yes. Impossible - maybe.

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brooksby [735 posts] 1 year ago
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Quote:

A spokesman for the Department for Transport insisted however that the government had "doubled funding for cycling to £374m to help deliver safer junctions."

Which is a pretty pathetic amount, when you consider how much road schemes seem to cost and how readily the powers that be will spend that money on them.

As an example, the 'M4 Junction 19-20 and M5 Junction 15-17: Smart Motorway scheme' - allowing cars to use the hard shoulder when its congested during rush hour (which for that section of road is every weekday evening, weekday morning, and all weekend from April to September) - cost £86 million. For one road scheme strtetching for about six miles and which involved just new signage and resurfacing the hard shoulder.

So £374 million really isn't going to do a lot (unless the powers that be have found a good supplier for blue paint...).

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brooksby [735 posts] 1 year ago
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rich22222 wrote:

"34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders"
I doubt these people understood the question...

Well, they may have actually been asked whether they thought a tarmacced road was better designed for bike riders than a mud track, or some such nonsense.

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 1 year ago
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There is a newly re-designed junction near I live and they could not of made it any more dangerous for cyclists, the road planners just don't give a shit, cyclists are the lowest of priorities.

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rich22222 [159 posts] 1 year ago
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brooksby wrote:
rich22222 wrote:

"34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders"
I doubt these people understood the question...

Well, they may have actually been asked whether they thought a tarmacced road was better designed for bike riders than a mud track, or some such nonsense.

I suppose they would be well fairly designed if no motorised vehicles were allowed on them.

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 1 year ago
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There are huge (and growing) misconceptions by the public as to how dangerous the roads are and how safe cycling generally is. For example most people wrongly believe that the roads today are much more dangerous than they were say 20 or 30 years ago when in fact 4-5x more people were killed on the roads back then.

Most folk would be astonished if you told them that 6x more people were killed on stairs each year than were killed cycling. But that's the truth.

In my view the survey actually underestimates the scale of the problem. If the question was changed to ask if the respondent themselves would personally be confident about cycling on the roads then even fewer would agree. Most people I know would not be confident at all about cycling on roads and generally believe that 'roads are for motor vehicles' and that cyclists get in the way of motorists' supposed entitlement to progress at the speed limit.

I've just been visiting an old buddy who now lives in Maryland, USA. Before I went I asked him if he had a bike available for me to borrow so that I could get some exercise whilst there. He had but strongly warned me against it because, in his view, the local motorists would not know how to safely negotiate around cyclists. It turned out that the roads were generally superb with many cycle lanes and the locals amongst the most courteous drivers that I have ever encountered.

It's all about the public's perception and I have no idea how that can be addressed.

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CanAmSteve [245 posts] 1 year ago
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I have to differ with some commenters - there are issues with the roads and of course with drivers.

I ride on both London streets and country roads, and both could be improved immensely at little cost.

In London the different authorities need to get joined up in their thinking. Many times when I need to get somewhere east/west or north/south, I run out of a sensible route and into some "vehicle proof" one-way system or get dumped into a mess like Holborn, Victoria or Vauxhall. There needs to be an overall plan on how cycling routes connect, not many local ones.

In the country, some lanes are in bad shape, and depending again on the authority, holes may be patched (if large enough to swallow a car and hence incur liability) or (more likely) ignored. It is obvious that (for example) broken surfaces that are dangerous on a bicycle are ignored while a larger pothole in the centre of the road has been fixed.

On some roads, the lanes have been artificially narrowed (using built-out kerbs and islands) at rural junctions.This creates a "pinch point" on purpose - the idea being that drivers will slow down as they approach the restriction. The problem is that many don't. So you have a cyclist, travelling at 12 mph, being forced out into a lane with large trucks coming up behind at speed (or Audis at 80 mph). There is no need to create such a danger - leave a narrow opening for a cycle to the side.

In towns and cities I continue to see artificial "chicanes" built to restrict traffic speed. Most do not allow for a cycle lane and also force cycles out into the oncoming traffic - bu many drivers do not understand that a cycle is a vehicle and refuse to wait or give way. I frequently have oncoming drivers try and force me off the road when I have priority. I guess the idea is cycles don't count or aren't worth being late on the school run for.

Again, many of these situations can be made safer for cyclists at no extra cost if some thinking is done in advance.

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congokid [252 posts] 1 year ago
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Simon E wrote:

Showers at work aren't really necessary for most people, that says more about the answers people give to these kinds of surveys.

Well, only 19 per cent of respondents agreed that showers would make a difference. Not a majority, then, and therefore a point that Sustrans doesn't need to bang on about, especially when you consider that in countries such as the Netherlands, where the cycling modal share is so much higher, showers are not regarded as essential at the journey end point.

As a bike owner what was more important for me at work was secure bike parking, preferably under cover. When my company moved from a premises with bike parking to one without, I switched to public transport. For two whole days, before giving up once I discovered the 5-mile journey in central London that took just 30 minutes by bike could take between 60 and 90 minutes by bus. I bought a Brompton, which stows neatly under my desk.

For many people, the lack of secure parking could make the difference between continuing to cycle to work and giving up once their bike is nicked or damaged. My Brompton was an extravagance that not everyone would consider, but I can keep it secure and it has paid for itself many times over since I bought it.

What would be even better from employers is to offer some kind of incentive for staff to actually use their bike, rather than simply to buy one. Perhaps in the form of a rebate for distance travelled, which would underline their green credentials and also enable them to make savings on car leasing, taxis, and the cost of parking places.

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Bikebikebike [186 posts] 1 year ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

There are huge (and growing) misconceptions by the public as to how dangerous the roads are and how safe cycling generally is. For example most people wrongly believe that the roads today are much more dangerous than they were say 20 or 30 years ago when in fact 4-5x more people were killed on the roads back then.

In my view the survey actually underestimates the scale of the problem. If the question was changed to ask if the respondent themselves would personally be confident about cycling on the roads then even fewer would agree. Most people I know would not be confident at all about cycling on roads and generally believe that 'roads are for motor vehicles' and that cyclists get in the way of motorists' supposed entitlement to progress at the speed limit.

It's all about the public's perception and I have no idea how that can be addressed.

Rubbish, unfortunately. There are so few deaths for cyclists because the people who actually cycle on the roads are not a cross-section of the population. Get the same proportion of children and old people who cycle around in the Netherlands on the roads in the UK, and watch the carnage. Get a pensioner on a trike riding down the road and see what happens then. The roads are objectively not safe for a large proportion of the population.

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GrahamSt [166 posts] 1 year ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

Most folk would be astonished if you told them that 6x more people were killed on stairs each year than were killed cycling. But that's the truth.

That's purely because most folk have absolutely no idea about statistics.

If you naively compare absolute numbers like that then roughly 8x more people were killed in cars each year than were killed cycling.

That doesn't mean bikes are safer than cars or stairs.

congokid wrote:

..only 19 per cent of respondents agreed that showers would make a difference. Not a majority, then, and therefore a point that Sustrans doesn't need to bang on about..

Showers at work are about more than just having somewhere to freshen up or clean off the mud on wet days. They are a clear signal that management approve of and actively encourage cycling to work. Same as providing proper bike parking or offering the Cycle To Work scheme.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

For example most people wrongly believe that the roads today are much more dangerous than they were say 20 or 30 years ago when in fact 4-5x more people were killed on the roads back then.

That seems, to my mind, to be a little bit of bad science, surely you need to compare;

The levels of car ownership from 20/30 years ago.

The numbers of people walking 20/30 years ago.

The numbers of people who used public transport* 20/30 years ago.

The waistlines of people 20/30 years ago.

The level of air quality and related diseases 20/30 years ago.

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GrahamSt [166 posts] 1 year ago
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Bikebikebike wrote:

Rubbish, unfortunately. There are so few deaths for cyclists because the people who actually cycle on the roads are not a cross-section of the population. Get the same proportion of children and old people who cycle around in the Netherlands on the roads in the UK, and watch the carnage. Get a pensioner on a trike riding down the road and see what happens then. The roads are objectively not safe for a large proportion of the population.

Agreed!!

This happy picture is of eight year olds cycling to school on their own in Assen.
How many eight year old kids in the UK have that opportunity?

(Pic from aviewfromthecyclepath.com)

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HKCambridge [215 posts] 1 year ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

There are huge (and growing) misconceptions by the public as to how dangerous the roads are and how safe cycling generally is. For example most people wrongly believe that the roads today are much more dangerous than they were say 20 or 30 years ago when in fact 4-5x more people were killed on the roads back then.

Couple of confounding factors here. Cars are a lot safer now than they used to be: fewer people die in cars because of improved safety features.

Also, fewer people walk and cycle. If there are fewer of the most vulnerable users around, fewer people will die.

Not saying that there isn't a trend, but would need more info to draw conclusions.

Quote:

It's all about the public's perception and I have no idea how that can be addressed.

You can't. I know the stats, I know the KSIs for walking v cycling, and cycling still feels like the more dangerous thing. You cannot put people on an unprotected piece of metal amongst motor vehicles and then tell them it's safe, because regardless of statistical safety.

Subjective safety is not something that can be wished away. People can, and already have, voted with their feet on what they are comfortable doing.

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700c [817 posts] 1 year ago
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Blimey - I wouldn't cycle to work if there wasn't a shower here, think my colleagues would get fed up pretty quickly if I just sat at my desk, stinking..but agreed, secure parking for me is as important, if not more so.

I'm one of about 4 fairly regular cycle commuters in my office out of nearly 100 people. most just wouldn't entertain the idea. Perhaps because roads are quite busy, with little cycling infrastructure, or perhaps they're just of a motoring mindset. But it's not dangerous, it's only perceived as being dangerous.

This is in spite of there being good facilities here for cyclists and C2W scheme. So I think it's perception of danger, rather than danger itself that is stopping people, this mindset plus the culture of the motor vehicle would take a lot to change..

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Leodis [399 posts] 1 year ago
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I agree with the 19% that showers, lockers and dry rooms are essential for commuters. Its ok if you cycle at 5mph and live in some Danish/Dutch dream that the UK could be like it one day but if you are cycling to lose weight or like to push yourself then getting sweaty in summer is one of those things and a shower at work is a massive bonus.

People use to say to me use wet wipes, yeah great you feel really fresh after standing nude in the work toilets with a pack of baby wipes, someone walks in and its P45 time thanks Mr Oddball and usually the employer who doesnt provide showers doesnt provide lockers so you end up in winter with a bag of soaking clothes and slipping into wet lycra after a hard day is not nice.

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notfastenough [3661 posts] 1 year ago
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The question of showers is a distinguishing point between 'types' of cyclist. If you're happy bimbling along without breaking a sweat, then a lack of showers is fine. If, like me, you see an 8-mile journey with 5-10kgs of stuff and a fair amount of stopping and starting as an opportunity for strength/interval training, then you really do.

As an aside, I would only feel safe bimbling along on a shopping bike or whatever if I could use dedicated infrastructure. On the roads as they currently are, I feel like fitness and speed are essential. It's not how it should be, and is certainly not inclusive, but that's my current perception.

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Username [144 posts] 1 year ago
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I'd be curious to know how many Dutch commuters shower when they reach their destination. I would hazard a guess it would be such a small number as to be immeasurable.

You wouldn't need one either if you weren't trying to run with the traffic from one set of red lights to the next.

If we want to know what gets people cycling en masse we need only look at what the Dutch have done. They moved from a car-centric culture in the '60s and '70s - which was indistinguishable from ours - and built a proper cycle infrastructure. It took time but the longest journey starts with one step; we need to take that step and stop talking about it.

In the meanwhile we also need a massive educational drive (pun not intended) to teach motorists that people on bikes are legitimate road users and do not have to get out of the way for 'superior' cars. The ignorance and sense of entitlement of the average driver is truly shocking. This could be addressed now for relatively little cost.

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GrahamSt [166 posts] 1 year ago
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Leodis wrote:

People use to say to me use wet wipes, yeah great you feel really fresh after standing nude in the work toilets with a pack of baby wipes, someone walks in and its P45 time...

Use a cubicle you weirdo!

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Simmo72 [583 posts] 1 year ago
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GrahamSt wrote:
Leodis wrote:

People use to say to me use wet wipes, yeah great you feel really fresh after standing nude in the work toilets with a pack of baby wipes, someone walks in and its P45 time...

Use a cubicle you weirdo!

I just rub myself vigorously against my boss's coat.

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Simmo72 [583 posts] 1 year ago
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poor planning - ie 130 in Hampshire has been narrowed in places to single lane. did they use this to get a bit of blue paint out and make part of the closed lane a bike facility. No. Cocks.

Does anyone else thing part of the problem is cars are now much wider than they used to be. Fiat punto overtaking - no issue, BMW X5 however......that's whats causes the tailback, lots of people driving excessively large cars

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broomie [7 posts] 1 year ago
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Our parents and grandparents got along fien without a shower.

I see lots of excuses genuine and invented.

The roads are dangerous, unseen hazards, aggressive and thoughtless drivers (and door passengers!) - i have commuted in London for 40 years - I know.

Cycling to work takes some planning simple tips are:

1, Keep a lock At work dont ride around with it -saes alot of weight

2. Keep your clothes at work just swap in and oput shirts/blouses etc when you need them- I see so many folks with huge backpacks where they take their enture wardrobe to work everday,

3. Squaddie wash In the gents/ladies a scrub under the offending armpits is the most you need unless seriously you have done 100 miles/

4. Deoderant!

Broomie

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bikebot [1633 posts] 1 year ago
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No shower at work? Use Muc-off dry shower, surprisingly effective.

And then, if your workplace has more than one or two people cycling more than 10km a day, complain about the lack of showers! The Dutch don't need them for two simple reasons, their commutes are usually short and they don't have any hills.

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bikebot [1633 posts] 1 year ago
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Simmo72 wrote:
GrahamSt wrote:
Leodis wrote:

People use to say to me use wet wipes, yeah great you feel really fresh after standing nude in the work toilets with a pack of baby wipes, someone walks in and its P45 time...

Use a cubicle you weirdo!

I just rub myself vigorously against my boss's coat.

Do you wait for him to take it off?

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parksey [343 posts] 1 year ago
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broomie wrote:

Cycling to work takes some planning simple tips are:

1, Keep a lock At work dont ride around with it -saes alot of weight

2. Keep your clothes at work just swap in and oput shirts/blouses etc when you need them- I see so many folks with huge backpacks where they take their enture wardrobe to work everday,

3. Squaddie wash In the gents/ladies a scrub under the offending armpits is the most you need unless seriously you have done 100 miles/

4. Deoderant!

Broomie

Can only echo this comment myself. I only travel a few miles each way, but still use a hill on the way in for a bit of interval training, and there's absolutely no need for me to shower when I get to work.

I simply shower before I leave, then when I get to work I nip in a cubicle and have a rub down with a few baby wipes and a squirt of deodorant and, most importantly, a complete change of clothes, and job done. All-in it's about 5 minutes, and I can honestly say I don't feel any less "fresh" than had I just got straight out the shower. No complaints yet as to my personal hygiene either, even on the warmest of summer days...

Work shoes, trousers, ties etc are all kept at work, and I just roll up a freshly-ironed shirt every morning and it goes in my bag, to emerge unscathed at the other end (ok, "non-iron" shirts help with this). A world away from that creased-shirt look you get when you've been sat in the same position in a car seat for an hour.

Ok, I acknowledge that things might not be so simple if the journey was 30/40/50 miles, but how many people would ever commute that sort of distance on a bike?!

And I think that's part of the problem. Not so much that employers don't have the facilities for cyclists, rather that people choose to live too bloody far from where they work as to make cycling viable. A quick straw poll in my office shows the average distance amongst a dozen or so of us to be over 25 miles, and that includes the 3 or 4 of us who live within 5 miles and do cycle.

I don't want to say that nobody should be allowed to work outside of a 10 mile radius of their home postcode or some such nonsense, but equally, all the while it is considered socially acceptable to do a 100 mile round commute every day, you won't be getting those people on bikes for utility purposes.

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notfastenough [3661 posts] 1 year ago
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bikebot wrote:
Simmo72 wrote:
GrahamSt wrote:
Leodis wrote:

People use to say to me use wet wipes, yeah great you feel really fresh after standing nude in the work toilets with a pack of baby wipes, someone walks in and its P45 time...

Use a cubicle you weirdo!

I just rub myself vigorously against my boss's coat.

Do you wait for him to take it off?

Where would the fun be in that? Cycling to work is supposed to be 'invigorating', after all.

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parksey [343 posts] 1 year ago
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Oh, and can I propose we invoke a new version of Godwin's Law on here that, whenever there is an article about cycling infrastructure, the sodding Netherlands gets mentioned...?

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