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Biking [on the Wrong Side of the Road] is “Normal” [in London]

4:57 PM EDT on June 18, 2007

Emily Thornberry, Member of Parliament for Islington South and Finsbury in London and chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary cycling group, debunks 10 persistent myths about bicycle commuting in this op-ed for London's Guardian:

In London, cycling to work is at last becoming "normal": it is no longer the reserve of Lycra-clad men. As a member of parliament, my four-mile round commute to Westminster takes under half an hour. If it's so easy and so quick - why aren't more of us commuting by bike? Here are some of the common myths that people claim prevent them.

"But won't I be killed?" The Department for Transport's own statistics show that, over the last three years, cycling is - per mile travelled - safer than walking. Indeed, the more people who cycle, the safer it becomes, because drivers get used to seeing cyclists on the road. As more people have taken to their bikes in London, so there has been a 50% drop in cycling casualties per mile ridden since the mid 1990s.

We all need regular exercise and the truth is that most people do not get enough. I discovered in February that I have the cardiovascular fitness of someone almost 20 years younger.

"Don't I need lots of gear?" All you need is a bike, a lock and some lights. With a few outstanding exceptions, Lycra really doesn't do justice to the figures of most people over 30. If you feel most comfortable wearing a suit, then wear one and cycle slowly. You are going to work, not climbing Mont Ventoux.

"Won't my bike get stolen?" A good lock and a secure area to park your bike will help. More enlightened employers will often provide the latter. Forming a bicycle user group in your workplace can improve your chances of obtaining decent facilities.

Photo by Aaron Naparstek, biking in London with Tom Bogdanowicz of the London Cycling Campaign, March 2, 2007

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