I started biking round Halswell when I was a kid - around about the age of 9, from what I remember. It was nothing unusual at the time - it was just what we all did. Unlike most, however, I’m still cycling now a few decades later. Why? Mainly because it’s fun, but it is also convenient, quick, cheap, friendly and safe.
"You're taking your life in your hands" someone said to me the other day and many people say to me that they won't cycle because it is too dangerous. It's not as bad as most people think. It is much more common to die or be severely injured driving a car or a motorbike than it is riding a bike - so much so that bike deaths are still considered newsworthy - so we hear about them.
Looking back over the many decades that I've used roads around Christchurch - and I've biked 1000s of kilometres each year - I've had one accident (in 2010, someone turned his vehicle, right, into my path as I travelled straight ahead at the traffic lights by the Halswell Library, because he didn't see me) and I was driving my car at the time. Despite travelling at well below the speed limit, the car never recovered, and I was out of action for about three weeks while my ribs healed enough for me to get back on the bike
Not that I haven't had near misses on the bike, but I've also learned where to look for trouble, and how to avoid it. It is possible, as with driving, to be a very defensive cyclist and to cycle in ways that minimise risk.
In rush hour, cycling is incredibly safe, fast and fun. I love passing all the cars in the tail backs from Dunbars road onwards. The only things moving at any pace are cyclists.
On top of all the obvious things, are the statistics on the effects of inactivity on health and death rates. We never consider that too much time sitting down in front of the computer or watching TV might be dangerous - but it is!In fact it turns out that the overall health benefits of cycling are far greater than the overall health costs (in terms of cyclist injuries etc)
"Those who exercise regularly are at signiﬁcantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity,” says Dr Lynn Cherkas" in this article.As a cyclist, the research indicates that I have less chance of catching colds and 'flu and when I do I"ll recover quicker than people who do not exercise as much. Kids who get exercise on their way to school do better at school and adults who exercise before work do better too.
A study of 200 people carried out by the University of Bristol found that employees who exercised before work or at lunchtime improved their time and workload management, and it boosted their motivation and their ability to deal with stress.And on top of all this cycling is a great for mental health! As this article points out, cycling not only makes you smarter - it also increases a lot of the chemistry in your brain that makes you feel peaceful and calm.
On top of that, I save money. There is the obvious, of course. I fill my car up with about 35 litres of petrol every 6-8 weeks rather than every week or two weeks. My car running costs are not high. I don't have as many sick days as I would if I didn't bike (and because I work for myself and as a volunteer, that is significant). I don't have as many doctors bills, I don't pay gym fees.
I even save YOU money! How? Well, There's lower health bills, and this is pretty significant! Check out this publication for a very comprehensive outline.
I do about 10,000 times less damage to the roads on the bike than in the car, (and I still pay the same rates and taxes as you for that roading). In Portland, Oregon, they found that investing a few million dollars in cycle paths caused about 10% of car drivers to get onto their bikes. The savings to the city in road maintenance alone more than paid for the cycle paths.
I also subsidise your parking - particularly around Halswell where parking is "free". Car parking is, of course, NEVER free! It's just that out here you don't pay the cost of it directly (and even in town you don't pay the full cost of it). Car parking takes up a lot of real estate and we share the cost through rates, or in our shopping bills.
So, get out there guys - consider the benefits and think about the possibilities. Even getting out there and walking more can be of major benefit to you personally. Both cycling and walking are friendlier than driving a car - after all, it's much easier to smile and say hello! :-)