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Environment – breaking the cycle of carbon dependency

Oh, for the freedom of the open road! Cumbersome Victorian safety cycles gave way to the internal combustion engine. But as car emissions ruin our health, we need more low-carbon, high-tech cycling.

( Text content written by Twenty6 for Luke Fussell, LIC Energy )

Don’t think of today, think of a healthy lifetime

It’s Monday morning, dark, raining and you have to get to work. Your car is sitting there, smiling at you. It is so inviting, warm and dry – with lights and a radio. Everything you could possibly want! Why wouldn’t you get in?

Not so fast. Old habits die hard. Many of us see our cars as a right and symbol of individual freedom. But with ever more congested roads, plus climate change and air quality issues affecting our wellbeing, it’s time to review our relationship with the automobile.

Surely there must be another way? Thankfully, there is: the humble bicycle.

Except that it is not so humble anymore. Cycling offers a combination of low-carbon, sustainable, local transport, with the added benefits of peace of mind and potentially better physical and mental health. We should be lapping it up.

Short-term grit for long-term gain

And indeed, we are, with the caveat that average riding figures for the population in general are still low, as I consider later. However, more and more of us are turning to high-tech, light-weight cycles in a new generation of machines that didn’t exist when we were younger. But given the size of the serious environmental problems we face, we could do more.

On any particular winter morning, it comes down to a bit of short-term grit I’m afraid. Why on earth would you get on a bike? The answer is that you are doing something good for yourself, your neighbourhood community and the national environment and economy.

And if you happen to live and work in a metropolitan area, you are excused congestion and emission charges for being virtuous.

Carbon, carbon, carbon

Climate change is an inescapable fact of the modern world, whether some factions of society would care to admit it or not.

We can see this in the procession of wet and windy storm winters – and wetter summers – predicted for the UK as a result of global warming. Since last autumn, we have been battered by an unprecedented number of extreme weather events.

But it isn’t just us. In South Africa, the executive mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, is warning also that from ‘Day Zero’ on 12 April, some 3.7 million citizens will have to queue for their daily water ration. Two years of drought means that coastal Cape Town will become the first major city in the world to have its taps turned off.

The culprit, she says, is unprecedented climate change, proving that it really is a global problem in which we can play a small but vital part.

Personal choice

Even so, it is sometimes easy to be disheartened when governmental policy makes us feel powerless. But I am convinced that this doesn’t have to be the case. Simple low-carbon actions, like cycling instead of driving, if taken up by large numbers of people, can make a huge difference.

Imagine the cut in carbon emissions in the world if everyone ditched their cars and cycled to work instead! This is the ultimate form of environmental democracy.

Of course, not everyone can or will cycle to work every day. But a great many of us – particularly those of us who live and work in cities – definitely can.

What has changed recently is that the Government has been forced to take strategic action to phase out fossil-fuel transport and actively phase in the new era of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids after being successfully taken to court over appalling air quality by a London-based group of campaigning environmental lawyers. Cycling is even better.

Healthy, wealthy and wise

As a quick summary to convince you of my case, regular cycling is: –

  • Good for you

  • Good for the environment

  • Often actually faster than driving in city centres

  • Reduces congestion

  • Reduces parking problems (can fit multiple bikes into a single car parking space)

  • Weather can be unpleasant, but it’s character-building! Much nicer than driving in the summer

  • Reduces pressure on NHS – those who exercise regularly are generally healthier

Last mile delivery

It’s important to remember one other growing group who take to their machines for a living -last mile delivery cyclists. Last mile refers to supply chain management between a transportation hub and final destination.

The changing nature of digital commerce has swung make or break margins in favour of speedy delivery. As management consultant McKinsey explains, this has shifted market share from B2B to B2C. Some 23% of customers are willing to pay a premium for same-day or instant delivery.

While employment status and remuneration structures have been controversial, it is generating a new sub-sector of keen cyclists who are slipping round both cities and costly environmental charges that are likely to increase dramatically.

Company support

LIC are supporters of cycling and offer all employees to use the government cycle to work scheme to get cheap bikes. For more official information, please go to: – cycle to work scheme guidance

The Department for Transport also provides technical guidance and tools to help local authorities plan cycling and walking infrastructure as part of its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy : – cycling and walking infrastructure guidance

Its aim here by 2040 is to ensure: –

BETTER SAFETY – ‘A safe and reliable way to travel for short journeys’

BETTER MOBILITY – ‘More people cycling and walking – easy, normal and enjoyable

BETTER STREETS – ‘Places that have cycling and walking at their heart’


January 2018 survey figures ( walking and cycling statistics) released by the Department for Transport reveal that people are now walking less often but cycling further compared to ten years ago. The results show that: –

  • Two fifths of adults walk for travel at least once a week and one in eight adults cycle at least once a week

  • In 2016, average adults walked 198 miles during 243 trips. The same people were likely to cycle 53 miles a year in 15 journeys

  • Walking trip rates decreased by 19% between 2005 and 2015, from around 4.7 trips per week to 3.8

  • Distance walked decreased by 8% in the same period from some 3.8 miles per week to 3.5

  • People cycled 26% further in 2016 compared to 2006, up to 53 miles per year from 42.

  • Walking was the second most common choice in 2016, with 25% of trips being walked; only 2% of trips were cycled

However, the caveat was added that: –

  • Whilst cycling trip rates decreased by 16% between 2006 and 2016, this is more likely to be due to sampling variation rather than a real decrease in cycling trips

I’m sure we can do much better if we put our pedals to it!

Free water top-ups for cyclists and walkers

As a policy footnote, the UK Government launched a scheme on 25 January 2018 for shops, cafes and businesses to offer free water refill points in every major English city and town by 2021. Industry body, Water UK, says it could cut disposable plastic bottle use by tens of millions a year.

Refill stations and public fountains will be shown via an app and window signs.

Happy cycling. Spring is on its way!