By Lady Lolita, 30th August 2016

Where there’s a Wheel there’s a Way

From Car to Bike... How will I Cope?

From Car to Bike… How will I Cope?

When I’m driving I get angry with stupid pedestrians. When I’m crossing the road I get angry with stupid drivers. Yet no matter what I’m doing cyclists always piss me off! It’s not the law to wear a helmet, they are on pavements and roads with no thought for those walking and driving, they gather in road-blocking gangs and to top it all off they are just so damn smug with their healthy environmentally aware transport methods.
I know, I know, bikes are the future (even though they were the past too). The problem though is that regardless of my mixed views about cyclists, in my future bicycles are going to feature heavily. Why? Because in a month’s time I am moving to Holland and if I don’t get on my bike one way or another I will struggle to get anywhere.


I have three weeks to change my life and my mindset and literally get my arse in gear. Will I manage to swap my Renault for a Raleigh?

As far as I was concerned, before planning to live in the cycling capital of Europe, bicycles were reserved for kids. Unless you like to wear lots of lycra, own special bum pads and enjoy Sunday’s peddling along mountainous roads for charity…I couldn’t see the point of owning a bike. I made the odd exception for the old ladies that live in pedestrianised villages and want to pootle along from Post Office to Corner Shop with relative ease, but could I – a busy woman in my thirties with kids – really swap my Renault Clio for a bicycle?

Are cyclists a bunch of self righteous lawless risk takers getting in the way of our weekend drives in the countryside…or are us southern Europeans way behind the times and need to get our act together?

Let’s take a look at how all this cycling made a comeback…
The Dutch cycling revolution began in Holland in 1971 after the number of deaths on the road caused by car crashes jumped to over 3,000 with 450 victims being children. In response, Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder), a social movement demanding safer cycling conditions for children, was formed. This movement, coupled with the Middle Eastern oil crises of 1973, convinced the Dutch government to invest in better cycling infrastructure and the famous bicycles of Holland were born.

Many countries have followed suit, with ‘Boris Bikes’ available to hire in London (named after the city’s ex-mayor Boris Johnson). Denmark now tops the European list for cyclists (with 35% of the population riding) and Amsterdam a close second with 32%. I currently live in Spain, it reaches highs of 37C in June, so I’m presuming that’s one of the reasons why Spain features right at the bottom of the cycling list with 0% of people in Madrid using bicycles as transport in 2011. So I’m way behind on the old biking malarkey.

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Boris Bikes in London

In fact I haven’t been on a bicycle in over thirteen years (and that was just an hour of ill advised dating with a guy I met on my travels, my skills were far from impressive and I still have the scars to prove it) and before that I was a teenager wheeling round and round the street outside my house.

I’m doomed, how the hell am I going to manage this? Maybe I just need to pull up my big girl knickers and stop being a wimp? I know there are so many reasons why I need to embrace the bike, here are just a few…

They are better for the environment
Yes they are. No air polluting gases (unless you count my own noxious fumes as a result of the extra excursion), they take up little space on the roads and they can be used on all sorts of terrain.

They are healthy
Yep, you actually move while you get about…beats sitting in a 4×4. Plus you get fresh air, even if it’s ‘fresher’ than you want in the winter. Although if my Spin classes in the gym are anything to go by me cycling won’t be a pretty sight.

You don’t have to find a parking space
Buy a chain and padlock. Find a railing. Done.

Cycling is cheap
No petrol, MOT, taxes, car wash tokens or splashing out on those scented Christmas tree hanging thingies.

It’s a no-brainer, so what’s my problem? I’ll tell you the truth…I’m scared.

The idea of joining a gang of super cyclists on Dutch roads at rush hour, especially with my kids in tow, petrifies me. Why aren’t these people wearing helmets and why is it okay for a tiny baby to wobble precariously on a plastic seat upon a two wheeled bit of metal weaving through traffic, when I had to fork out over a hundred quid for a car seat for my car that doesn’t even go that fast and has a big metal casing around it?

I did some research and I was amazed, it very nearly convinced me that maybe my views of cyclists were just a tad one sided.

Bike Helmet

According to the ECF (European Cyclist Federation) cycling isn’t all that dangerous, statistically there is only one death every 32 million kilometres – that’s over 800 times around the world. 2000-2009 in the US, the annual fatalities for cyclists and pedestrians combined were 4,930 compared to 26,678 motorists. In Holland those statistics are even more impressive with 16 million Dutch owning 18 million bicycles, and bicycle related deaths amounting to just 200 a year. In fact overall traffic safety in NL is the best in Europe with 45 deaths per million inhabitants per year (compared to 147 deaths per million in the USA).

So why don’t cyclists have to wear helmets? Surely that will help with safety? The ECF said this…
“Drivers overtaking cyclists passed an average of 8.5 cm closer to those wearing helmets than those who didn’t. When Australia introduced mandatory cycle helmet law, bicycle usage dropped by 30%.” 

And there is also good reason for cyclists to congregate into swarm-like clusters…
“In a study of 115 cities in the US and Denmark, as well in 14 European countries, it was found that motorists are less likely to hit cyclists and pedestrians when there are more people cycling or walking.  It appears that motorists adjust their behaviour in the presence of people cycling.” Plus “the relationship between the number of cyclists and the number of casualties among cyclists involved in car accident is inverse”

And if that isn’t enough to convince me then the fact that cyclists live two years longer than non cyclists and the health benefits of cycling outweigh the safety risks by a factor of 20 to one are also pretty good odds.

So okay then, maybe cycling in Holland won’t be so bad and cyclists are not as annoying as I thought. Maybe I’ll give it a go and become one of the healthy smugs. Maybe once I get over the constant chilly weather and drizzle, plus the aching bum and numb fingers, I may start to enjoy the wind through my hair and my hassle free commute into work.

So I guess all I have to worry about now is my attire – do I go for an organic eco hemp woven skirt with fingerless gloves and a basket full of ecological farmer’s market produce? Or grab me some snazzy neon lycra shorts and some day glow wrap-around sunglasses? I’m all for embracing the culture after all. Decision decisions…

What did you think?

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