Workin’ on the Chain: 16 Reasons We Need Bikes

MikeachimThe Everyday15 Comments


It’s the British National Bike Week – and on Thursday, I’ll be attending the University of York Cycle Fair (PDF).

Please excuse me while I enthuse wildly on this subject.

A Matter Of Fact

  • Remember those long summer holidays where you bronzed your limbs by cycling helter-skelter down country paths, enjoying the movement of the pit of your stomach when you hit a bump and relishing your own power and immortality? You’ll be the previous generation, then. Nowadays it’s a bitch of the highest magnitude to prise teenagers away from their electronic other halves, and combined with the reaction to the popular media’s dog-with-a-bone respray of the British Isles as the “Paedoph Isles”, kids just aren’t roaming like they used to. Slowly but surely, we’re unlearning to ride.


  • It’s much easier to gut-feel your speed on a bike – so let’s wonder how cycling at 152 miles an hour felt for John Howard in 1985.
  • Some people don’t even bother with clothes. The World Naked Bike Ride is all about highlighting how invisible cyclists usually are to motorists by everyone stripping off, leaping on their steel steeds and waving their unsuntanned bits around for all to see. That in mind, I like how the main page of the official website features the word “dignity”.
  • Deep down, America does love to cycle (PDF). However, it might need the occasional reminder. And everywhere else too – except Holland.


  • You’re more vulnerable on a bike, and plenty can go wrong. However, cyclists live longer. (It’s not quite a contradiction, but it’s still rather startling).

A Matter of Opinion

  • When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.  Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.  And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.  Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others.  Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.”       – Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills


  • Cycling is just the right speed to travel. Walking is delightful, but it doesn’t get you anywhere at a useful lick. Automotive transport is great at getting around, but speaking of my own neck of the woods, I believe the UK car is mainly designed to simply arrive. Not to truly travel: to merely get somewhere. The UK isn’t quite big enough for cars; it’s too densely packed to take the scenery in at speeds above 30-40mph. On a bike, you’re travelling at the right rate to take it all in and end up somewhere truly new at the end of the day – and you’re truly *in* the world, not just passing through it. I love road-trips as much as the next travel-addled peep, but when I get somewhere by car, the journey never quite feels real and I never quite feel like I earned the destination. Is it practical for us to all ditch our cars and switch wholesale to cycling? Nonsense. Entire countries would fall over with a bang. But that’s not a problem with bikes – it’s a problem with the way we’ve engineered our world around cars. In the process, we’re losing the middle part of a journey, and maybe even the middle part of ourselves.
  • How about…anyone who want to learn to drive a car is required to go through cycling lessons and a cycling test first?
  • The Western world has a health problem because we travel wrong. It’s a balance with three scales. We eat a certain way, we work a certain way and we travel a certain way. They should balance. These days, they don’t. Regarding travel – in energy terms, we are teleported around: machines do nearly all the hard work for us. The modern automotive world is one great big biological short-cut, and we haven’t adjusted the other two scales to compensate. We try to compensate in other ways – for example, by going to the gym after work. This simultaneously makes perfect sense and is complete madness. That’s the pickle we’re in. And I believe that with gritted teeth and plenty of creative effort, we could cycle right out of it.


  • “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”    – Susan B. Anthony.
  • Cycling should be the standard treatment for depression and anxiety. Then drugs.
  • How about…all workplaces building an “arrival room” where people can change from their cycling duds and grab a shower before they start work? And how about workplaces somehow encouraging people to leave their clean work clothes in their lockers a week in advance? How would that work?
Images:, tricky ™, pesis, killthebird, night86mare

Useful links:

Britain’s 50 best cycle routes (Telegraph)

Sustrans and the National Cycle Network

How To Cycle Along The Solar System