Will the £1.4m being invested in Sunderland's cycling routes get you on your bike

Sunderland City Council has been awarded over £1.4m of government funding to improve cycling routes across the city.

Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 12:07 pm
Good on them. Cyclists are healthier and greener. Pity I won't be joining them.

Almost five-and-a-half miles of new cycle paths will be built or upgraded. The council sounds chuffed. Opposition councillors have misgivings over where the paths will be located, but are supportive of cycling in itself.

Cycling is hardly a new activity. But only recently has it caught on, especially among adults. Almost a tenth of people in Sunderland cycle at least once a week and the figure is rising.

This is a welcome change from years ago. It’s difficult to imagine most people of my parents’ generation ambling in after a day’s work, then mounting a bike for a five-mile pedal before Nationwide. A few people rode to work, but that was about it.

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Nowadays people in their 40s, 50s and beyond, tootling round Sunderland on two wheels is commonplace.

As we all know, cycling, as opposed to motoring, is healthier, cheaper, environmentally beneficial, safer for pedestrians and de-congests the roads.

So, Sunderland’s growth in cycling notwithstanding, why aren’t the other nine tenths of people pedalling too?

The money being spent on cycle paths provides even less reason not to bike our way to a healthier, greener lifestyle. What would it take to get, well, the likes of me on a saddle?

I’m open to persuasion, but can’t see myself joining the cycle revolution.

It’s a long time since I owned a bike. I think my last one was a Chopper. However, on my regular trips to Eindhoven in southern Holland, I do occasionally cycle. Even I, on an old boneshaker, can do three miles in around 15 minutes.

But the Netherlands is famously flat and has the best system of cycle paths in the world. Inconveniently, Sunderland has hills which provide one reason why I and many like me are unlikely to ever take up cycling.

Hills that only go down are one solution, but there are no plans for this as yet.

Another obvious, insurmountable drawback is the difficulty of transporting either passengers or a week’s shopping on a bicycle.

Another is the price of bikes. A new pair of wheels can easily cost more than skinflints like me would spend on a car (over a grand and I expect a Lamborghini).

Also, I don’t think I’m a vain person, but I’m not sure if the thought of being seen in Lycra and a helmet would appeal less to me, or to the unfortunates who might catch a glimpse.

We’re now wandering from the territory of reasons and into excuses. However, cyclists do make themselves unpopular.

Forgive the sweeping generalisations I’m about to make. But I can’t overlook the sanctimony the cycling community adopts because they don’t use petrol (even though I welcome it).

Riding two abreast, aggressiveness, the cavalier attitude they have to red lights and the unthinking alternation between road and pavement, depending on which one suits them, all conspire to make me not want to be thought of as part of that gang. They’re almost as bad as motorists.

So while I welcome the investment and the activity generally; cycling is for other people.

I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise.