The issue of safety has cropped up recently in connection with cycling in the Peak District, but in two very different ways.
Derbyshire Police issued a cheery seasonal message a couple of days before Christmas warning that people risked getting their new bikes nicked if they didn’t secure them properly. Sgt Steve Edwards said: “Don’t make it easy for a potential thief to make off with your bike. A cycle can be an easy target, especially if it is left insecure, so it’s also worth investing in items such as substantial locks, alarms or movement sensors.”
I’m not sure if movement sensors is a little bit over the top, but they also had some specific cycle safety tips which included the following common sense advice:
- When buying a bike, budget for security. You will need one or more locks and somewhere secure at home to keep your bike.
- Take out adequate insurance, either by extending your home contents insurance or through a separate policy. Cycling organisations and bike shops may offer specialist cover.
- Record and register your bike. Take a clear colour photo and note down any unique features, so that you can report it accurately if it is stolen. Register your bicycle model, make and frame number with a third party such as www.bikeregister.com.
Amid the usual reminders about securing your bike properly at all times was an entreaty to lock it to an immovable object – although in these strange days when drain covers, signposts, war memorials and the like are themselves the targets for thieves, wouldn’t it be bizarre if they nicked the metal signpost but left the expensive bike chained to it?!
Apparently eight bicycles were stolen in the Matlock, Bakewell and Ashbourne areas during October, November and December. I know that’s eight bikes too many, but it’s important to get a sense of perspective (how many vehicles were stolen from those areas in that time, I wonder?) and not see danger lurking round every corner. As always it’s about weighing up the risks – like so much in our day to day lives – and taking sensible precautions.
Much the same could be said for riding a bicycle generally, of course. You can make a conscious decision not to wear a helmet, spring a red light, under-take slow moving traffic, cycle on pavements, and so on – each a calculated risk with its attendant dangers. And this leads me to the second angle on safety that appeared in the news before Christmas. The Ordnance Survey announced (via its blog) that the Peak District was the best place for “traffic-free cycling in Great Britain”. It headed a list of four locations which also included Edinburgh, New Forest, Brecon Beacons and (a little strangely) London – the full text is at blog.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/tag/peak-district/
It’s a testimony to the very public success of the extended Monsal Trail, but also the other traffic-free routes in the Peak District like the Tissington, High Peak, Manifold and Trans Pennine Trails. There are some clear, powerful and very obvious messages we can draw from this: that the Peak District is a wonderful place to explore by bike and given the opportunity a good number of visitors will opt for healthy and sustainable travel; people want to (and should have the chance to) enjoy a safe and scenic cycle ride; that in our car-dominated/obsessed culture we have to make space for cycling for all; and that too many of our roads are now simply too busy and too dangerous for your average cyclist.
Last weekend we took our four-and-a-half year old daughter out on her new bike (complete with stabilisers – do you remember yours?!). We spent the morning on the Manifold Trail and the afternoon on the Tissington Trail and it was great fun, if rather cold going at a small person’s pace. But apart from a local park or maybe an exceptionally flat bridleway, there are few other truly traffic-free options available – even in this National Park. It’s time we put safety up there with all the other headline stuff that makes cycling so important in the Peak District – sustainable travel, healthy exercise, green tourism, and so on. It’s time to make more space for traffic-free cycling.