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Promoting cycling in a changing climate

I remember years ago when I first started working for Life Cycle, some clever person worked out that if you commuted to work 5 days a week throughout the year, statistically you would only get wet 8 times.   Well this year, that statistic is clearly not going to be true.  I, for one, almost lived in my waterproofs for a couple of weeks at the beginning of February, and was getting pretty fed-up of cycling in the wet by the time the weather finally changed.  Let’s face it, cycling in relentless rain or through a foot of water on the cycle path is no fun at all.

The flooded "Chocolate Path" in Bristol

Whilst this might seem like stating the obvious, it raises some questions about cycle promotion as we face a changing climate and the likelihood of more wet weather.   It's ironic that cycling is a potential solution to issues that are causing climate changes - e.g.  carbon emissions from the ever increasing motor traffic - and yet its growth is itself hampered by climate change in the form of wetter weather.

The most determined amongst us will just don our waterproofs and grin and bear it, but for others this is unrealistic and they are just not going to carry on cycling in miserable weather.

As an organisation keen to get more people on bikes and cycling,  it is important that we support people  to cycle as much as possible, but that we  don’t tread a hard line, or give the impression that you either are or aren’t a “cyclist” depending on whether you battle on doggedly through driving rain or not or flooded roads.

There is nothing worse than meeting someone, and finding they immediately start apologising for not cycling very often.  If people feel they have to apologise every time they meet a cyclist, then surely we are doing something wrong in our efforts to persuade people to get on a bike and get riding.  Guilt tripping people into it cannot be the answer.

Our message has to be that we can help you cycle; we can give you the skills and know- how so that you feel safe and confident about riding a bike, we can provide you with the information you need to make journeys by bike but just because we can help you to ride, it doesn’t mean that you have to make every single journey by bike whenever and wherever you are going.    It is OK to leave the bike at home – especially when its raining!