For our Get Britain Riding campaign, in association with B’Twin and Decathlon UK, We put together a poll asking nearly 2500 self-confessed non-cyclists what was keeping them off the road. Many admitted having enjoyed riding regularly as kids but no longer had the courage or confidence to cycle on our roads. Some reasons for not riding will be familiar, you’ve possibly heard them every time you’ve tried to get someone you know to join you. So, for the next time you’re met with a negative response, hopefully this insight and the experiences of once reluctant riders will help you to change their minds.
Britain’s infamous changeable climate accounts for almost one in four people refusing to go anywhere by bike. Oddly though, 7% of the total respondents do admit to cycling off-road and 8% engage in trail running, jogging and orienteering. But 23.9% of women and 23.4% of men blamed the wind and the rain for their refusal of road riding.
There’s no such thing as bad weather…
Only poor clothing choices so the old adage goes. Few sports have devoted as much science, testing and kit manufacture to combatting the elements as cycling. Reluctant riders can cover themselves from top to toe with additional, waterproof-yet-breathable layers in stylish designs.
With almost 49% of respondents saying this was the chief reason they didn’t cycle this proved to be the most common response. Risk of having an accident and being injured came a close second with 39% of replies citing this specific reason. Among those who consider our roads too risky to ride on were 60% of female respondents who used to cycle but no longer do so because roads are busier and perceived as more dangerous now.
Take the safer route
Along with confidence-boosting courses, greater visibility techniques and equipment and bike maintenance and safe cycling courses, like Bikeability, are ways of taking some of the danger out of riding comes with route planning,” explains Hamish Belding, Cardiff-based cycling coach for schools with the charity Sustrans.
“Seek out the cycle paths, the quieter roads and the safer routes using tools like cyclestreets.net, it’s like Google Maps for cyclists giving you direct routes, also intermediate and the best traffic-free option. It’s really good for safe routes, especially to get people started.”
Lack of time
Almost 12% of those not cycling insist it’s because they don’t have the time. Among the excuses given were ‘The time to get the bike out and lock it up again, it’s quicker to walk to the tube station or shops…’ and ‘I’d have to give up golf to make time for it…’
Fit the bike in
“Instead of seeing cycling as a separate and therefore additionally time-consuming thing to do, try incorporating it into your everyday life,” suggests Belding. Turn it into a family affair – time with the kids, trips to the park and even shopping chores offer the opportunity to go for a ride and feasibly give you more time for other things. Set a limit – you don’t need to head off for four-hour slogs. Set a goal that you’ll do any car journeys from home that are under two miles, for example, by bike.
Hostility on the road
One in four of the non-riders we spoke to said the behaviour and attitudes of others stopped them from cycling – the figure was the same among male (25.1%) and females (25.7%) and highest among younger (age 16-34) respondents.
Don’t let them deter you
“Abusive road-users could have stopped me from cycling, but I know that the benefits of getting out on my bike far outweigh those attitudes,” says Kelly Hargie, 36, from Belfast.
The mother of two, cyclist and blogger has experienced the good, bad and ugly aspects of being a cyclist in her home city. “We’ve taught our children to cycle well, safely and courteously but last summer while riding along the Lagan Towpath we overheard a lady say ‘I really hate cyclists’ as we went by. We were in single file, on the left-hand side of the path, cycling at a slow, steady pace. I could tell by the looks on my kids’ faces that they’d heard. I stopped to explain to the lady that we weren’t ‘cyclists’, just ordinary people who just happened to be on bicycles. It’s about changing that mindset. It’s something that cyclists and non-riders need to work on. “I had other ugly experiences from road users who’ve shouted abuse and even pushed me off my bike. I’m a strong person but I can see how it puts people off.”
Lack of confidence
One-fifth of those who refuse to cycle cite a lack of confidence in their cycling ability as a chief reason. Within those respondents women were almost three times more likely to admit that confidence was keeping them off of a bike.
Take a fresh course
There’s no doubt about it, there’s a lot more traffic on the road these days. For some this can be intimidating enough to keep them off their bikes. But there are many more cyclists than ever before too, partly because of changes to cycling infrastructure, which have helped insecure cyclists become regular riders.
“There are confidence-building cycling courses available to people of all ages,” explains Martyn Jones, cycling & walking programme co-ordinator, from Northern Ireland. “We not only help riders with their bike handling and riding on busy roads but also equip them with skills that will boost their confidence.”
Take the right path – planning routes that use the UK’s growing network of cycle paths, Greenways and trails help cyclists improve capability and familiarity with the bike and cycling in safer surroundings.
Learn the craft – bike maintenance courses can turn the most wary rider into a sure cyclist by learning about on-road repairs, safety checks, puncture fixes and so on.
Join the club – cycling clubs may give the impression of being a home to KOMpetitive weekend warriors, and there’s no denying plenty are, but many offer starter courses and ‘buddy’ systems to help novice riders find their way. Contact local clubs or British Cycling.
I can’t afford a bike
At least 12% of respondents cited bikes being ‘too expensive’ as a reason not to ride. Aside from multitude of bike share schemes popping up in UK cities on a daily basis – offering access to a bike for a minimal hire charge – you could put those who are currently put off cycling in touch with a Cycle To Work scheme.
How it works Under the scheme, it’s possible to get a decent bike and accessories and spread the cost over manageable monthly instalments. Tell your employer that you want a bike (up to the value of £1000). Once they’ve registered, the bike can be bought cut price through the scheme and you reimburse them over the next 12 months through your salary. Your boss can save up to 13.8% on National Insurance contributions, and gets a fitter member of staff, and you can save up 42% on the purchase price of bikes and kit.
Sign yourself and friends and family up to Get Britain Riding for the chance to win a B’Twin Ultra 920AF worth £1299. Simply click here!