On your bike:

Cy­cling is a great way to get fit, save cash and care for the en­vi­ron­ment. So what’s stop­ping you Pro­fes­sor Ker­ryn Phelps asks.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - AWW

cy­cling ben­e­fits your health and the planet, so why don’t more women do it?

When was the last time you rode a bi­cy­cle? I still re­mem­ber learn­ing to ride when I was a child, and par­tic­u­larly that eu­phoric mo­ment when the training wheels came off and I felt the sense of achieve­ment that I could stay up­right. I never ac­tu­ally owned a bi­cy­cle as a child, but just re­cently I bought my first one and I have re­dis­cov­ered how much fun it is to cy­cle.

One Sun­day, I joined a cy­cling tour of my home town, Sydney. Most of the ride was on ded­i­cated cy­cle paths or rec­om­mended back streets and parks. I saw the city from a com­pletely new per­spec­tive.

There are the prac­ti­cal as­pects of cy­cling as a form of trans­port, too. With cities be­com­ing more and more con­gested with traf­fic, park­ing your car is an in­creas­ingly frus­trat­ing and ex­pen­sive pro­ce­dure, and public trans­port doesn’t al­ways get you where you need to go.

Cy­cle-friendly cities

The de­sign of towns and cities has a ma­jor im­pact on the phys­i­cal and men­tal health of the peo­ple who live in them, and in­fra­struc­ture such as ded­i­cated cy­cling paths can make a real dif­fer­ence. The Min­istry of Trans­port House­hold Travel Sur­vey (2013) showed 19 per cent of New Zealan­ders had biked in the past month. Of those, 67 per cent were aged five to 12 years old, and 53 per cent of those aged 13 to 17 years old had biked in the past year. Around 45,000 peo­ple ride to work (about 2.9 per cent of commuters), ac­cord­ing to the 2013 Cen­sus. Com­mut­ing by bike is in­creas­ing in many cities, in­clud­ing Auck­land, Welling­ton and Christchurch. Of course, cy­cling to work also de­pends on how far away from your work­place you live.

One of my clin­ics is by a cy­cle path and I have seen it grow in pop­u­lar­ity from the be­gin­ning, when few bikes were seen, to be­com­ing a busy com­muter route to and from the CBD.

New Zealand, how­ever, is way be­hind many western Euro­pean cities in the trend to have cy­cling as a trans­port op­tion.

Cy­cling is a very ef­fec­tive way to ex­er­cise, so there are ob­vi­ous health and fit­ness ben­e­fits. On a larger scale, the spin-off ef­fect is a re­duc­tion in non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble chronic health prob­lems, such as obe­sity, heart dis­ease and di­a­betes, in the com­mu­nity.

Women and cy­cling

Women cy­cle for fit­ness and as a form of ac­tive trans­port. Those who cy­cle for trans­port ride a bike to do their shop­ping, run er­rands and com­mute to work and study. So with all of these ad­van­tages of fit­ness, cost sav­ings and con­ve­nience, why aren’t more women in New Zealand tak­ing up cy­cling?

Safety, or at least per­ceived safety, is an is­sue. A na­tional sur­vey by the Cy­cling Pro­mo­tion Fund and the Na­tional Heart Foun­da­tion of Aus­tralia in 2013 found that a lack of safe cy­cle paths is stop­ping a lot of women from rid­ing.

Safety con­cerns

The study found that more than 60 per cent of women would like to cy­cle more often, with 50 per cent iden­ti­fy­ing that hav­ing more sep­a­rated cy­cle paths, bike lanes and wider lanes on the road would be among the in­cen­tives to en­cour­age them to cy­cle more.

In­fra­struc­ture plan­ners need to con­sider the safety con­cerns of women when they are de­sign­ing trans­port sys­tems. Safe, sep­a­rated cy­cle paths sup­port women us­ing ac­tive travel for trans­port and re­cre­ation.

Cy­clists are also con­cerned about ag­gres­sion by mo­torists, such as cut­ting them off and sound­ing the horn, as well as ver­bally at­tack­ing them.

It also has to be said that mu­tual con­sid­er­a­tion be­tween cy­clists and other road users needs to im­prove. So, along with im­proved in­fra­struc­ture, we need to see ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes aimed at im­prov­ing aware­ness and safety for cy­clists.

If you are look­ing for a new way to ex­er­cise, or a way to avoid traf­fic jams and park­ing fees, think about cy­cling. Good for fit­ness. Good for your heart health. Good for your men­tal health. And good for the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Cy­cling is a very ef­fec­tive way to ex­er­cise, so there are ob­vi­ous health and fit­ness ben­e­fits.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.