Thursday 18 October 2012

The problem with ‘British Cycling’

The problem with ‘British Cycling’ is partly that it goes outside its remit. If it stuck to sports cycling there would be no reason to criticise the organisation. Instead BC tries to pretend it has something valuable to contribute to the wider issue of utility cycling and to Britain’s lamentable modal share for cycling. I don’t think it does. On the contrary, its interventions are damaging to cycling.

The other problem with British Cycling is that when it exceeds its remit it adopts the orthodox British cycle campaign position of going for gold (froth) with a glittery dusting of empty statistics. I criticised its latest frothy initiative with reference to Tunbridge Wells, and just a day later came news of a Tunbridge Wells cyclist’s perspective on cycling in the area: he said he experienced "two or three" near misses every day on his commute.

British Cycling’s most recent PR push has also been roundly and more substantially criticised here by Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester and by As Easy As Riding a Bike.

But let’s not forget this, from just a few weeks back. It contains all the clichés and claptrap which have been catastrophic for cycling in Britain, and the reason for this is that, despite expressing its support for better and worthy cycling policies at a national level, British Cycling’s core commitment here is to get people cycling in traffic:

let’s not forget that cycling is not an intrinsically dangerous activity. Cyclist deaths have more than halved since 1990 and, statistically, there is only one death per 32 million kilometres cycled. There is an established ‘safety in numbers’ effect as cycling becomes a more popular form of transport. Evidence from countries that have significantly increased cycling participation rates has shown that, as more people cycle, it becomes safer.

Like Bradley Wiggins, we want to encourage a culture of mutual respect among all road users. Cyclists are also drivers and vice versa and it is important that we look after each other whether we are travelling on foot, by two wheels or four, pedal-powered or motorised.

Helmets can help save lives in many incidents and we recommend they are worn.