Bike safety campaign gets rolling in Great Britain

People of all generations are turning toward biking, especially on the increasingly auto-congested peninsula of Charleston, to get around.

If you don’t ride a bike, why should you care about bike lanes and safety?

Kaya Burgess, a writer for The Times of London, recently made a strong case as to why as part of an unusual advocacy campaign, “Cities fit for cycling,” by England’s newspaper of record of more than 200 years.

In a nutshell, Burgess says motorists should care because Britain’s roads in towns and cities, designed centuries ago, are becoming a “traffic-choked nightmare” and received no relief by building more roads. “Petrol” prices are skyrocketing and parking spaces are scarce. (Sound familiar?)

Parents should care because children need a safe way to get to schools and because biking offers children an array of benefits, from curbing childhood obesity and improving the concentration of students to learning about road safety.

And taxpayers and employers should care because of the impact obesity is having on health care costs, and the cost to build and repair roads.

He goes on to list several other groups and reasons why the entire community has a vested interest in creating safer environment for cycling.

“Cities fit for cycling,” started after reporter Mary Bowers was seriously injured in 2011 in an accident with a “lorry” (that’s a truck in American English), which heightened the staff’s awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists on British roads.

In an editorial on Nov. 5, 2012, it was noted that twice as many Britons die on bicycles every year than die serving in Afghanistan.

In the past two years, “Cities fit for cycling” has urged readers to take a pledge, spread the word via social media, and contact their “MP” (member of Parliament) and compiled stories on cycling on a campaign home page.

The campaign is starting to bear fruit, as Prime Minister David Cameron last month announced a commitment of $250 million into “cycle proofing” Britain’s roads and this month as the House of Commons is expected to discuss the findings of the “Get Britain Cycling” study.

Talk about government action.

Stephanie Hunt, chairwoman of the Charleston Moves board, says she is not surprised that The Times is advocating improvements in Britain’s cycling infrastructure.

She adds that Burgess’ arguments for improved cycling in Britain are “applicable not only to Charleston, but to about every municipality I can think of.”

“Charleston Moves’ ongoing message is that ‘it’s not about the bike,’ as much as it is about improving livability and connectivity in our region. Getting more people out of cars and onto bikes or on foot is a win-win across the board. Period. There is not a down side, other than the fact that maybe we all sweat a little more.”

Hunt says bicycling’s benefits are broad and indisputable. Among them are improved personal fitness, a cleaner environment, a reduction in traffic and money savings.

Get Britain Cycling’s overall goal is to increase the level of bicycle ridership from 2 percent to 10 percent by 2025 and 25 percent by 2050, says Hunt.

In addition, the proposal calls for improvements in bicycle infrastructure, and governmental funding across departments, not just the department of transportation.

“It’s a comprehensive vision and entirely doable, for Britain and for Charleston,” she says. “But as the petition clearly states, it takes leadership from the very top to make it happen. That’s true here, too.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand