The Bicycle as Means of Personal Transport

The bicycle was the first affordable private transport for the masses. It was the poor man's horse and it is more valuable today, in the this era of climate change and the need to reduce our environmental footprint than ever.

The invention of the bicycle proper and especially the “mass production” of them made personal transport for the poor affordable and enabled them to get further afield for word and leisure than ever before. In fact the bike itself also became a leisure activity and many a person went on bicycle tours around the countryside on Sundays and during vacations, once they had actually arrived for the masses.

The bicycle still has a place as a means of personal private transport and not just for children. It is a viable alternative to the motor car, at least and especially around town and village. But it also has a place in the countryside for personal transportation over shorter distances. The bike also gets through were a car often cannot. This was shown by the Viet-Cong on the Ho Chi Min Path during the Viet-Nam war.

While the bicycle may not be the best means for long distance transportation this could be solved with a proper cycle policy on mass transit systems, such as trains, underground, and similar, and here ideally a carriage or two dedicated to those with cycles. This would, probably, have to mean longer trains, but so be it.

For this to be getting anywhere, however, we need to take the public transportation systems back into public ownership and the fare set at an affordable level; affordable to the poorest and not the richest.

In addition and especially we need, everywhere, networks of cycle lanes. While in some countries of Europe cycle path nigh on cover the entire country, in the UK, alas there are very few proper ones of them. This needs to change if the use of the bicycle is to become more widespread in the UK as a means of personal transportation. The current type of “cycle lanes” - now there is a joke – is entirely inappropriate as it doe not give the cyclist any safety from the traffic and all too often vehicles are parked in said cycle lanes and the cyclist has to move into the fast flowing traffic. This is especially dangerous for children and it is therefore not surprising that in the UK very few children, compared to other EU countries, actually go to school by bicycle. In addition to that the so-called cycle lanes in the UK are often just little strips here and there that end as abruptly as they started.

© M V Smith, August 2007