Are you already cycling in London or you’re seriously thinking of starting?
Cycling in Cities.
Tip 1. KNOW WHAT KIND OF BIKE TO USE IN LONDON. MOUNTAIN, ROAD OR CITY BIKE?
You’ve probably seen that most Londoners use mountain and road bikes to cycle. No doubt that London is a hectic city punctuated by a number of hills but are those bikes really the most appropriate bikes to use here? As tempting as it is to copy your fellow citizens, here is some light about bike types and what they are best for.
What are the benefits of road and mountain bikes?
Nearly 50 year after the now so called city or urban bikes, road bikes were invented in 1937 to cycle as fast as possible. Their light frames and curved handlebars require cyclists to bend and lower their bodies to the handles. This offers the least air resistance possible creating an ‘aerodynamic’ vehicle and that is great to have on race tracks or biking trails! In a word, you can cycle as fast as a cheetah on a road bike.
More recently, mountain bikes were created in the 1980’s to allow their users to stand on pedals to absorb shock due to off-road uneven terrain while leaning on the low handlebars to spring over obstacles. This offers the most ‘suspension’ and that is the most useful to have in a natural environment. In a word, on a mountain bike you can be as supple as a kangaroo!
Are they the most appropriate bikes to use in a city like London?
These bikes are amazing to use in natural environments or on race tracks but what about using them on a daily basis in an urban context? Some would argue that London is so big that cyclists need to use road bikes to cycle fast in order to still find it an attractive mean of transport on a long distance, while others might also argue that London is so hilly and has got so many potholes and speed bumps that it takes a mountain bike to overcome these. In fact, are these true advantages compared to those of a city bike in an urban context? In fact, they might one of the sources for the many accidents involving cyclists. As reminder, there were 23,000 accidents and 80 deaths involving cyclists in London over five years (2009-2013), according to Department for Transport (DfT) figures.
NEW: The need for a study about the link between bike types and accidents
In France, people that want to earn their motorbike license, need to learn about risk behaviours. There is an official worksheet (Fiche 4. Prise de Conscience des Risques) that explains to students that there are 2 groups (careful vs risky driving) and 5 typical biker profiles that have a different approach to risk. As caricatural as they sound, these groups are the result of scientific studies realised by both insurance companies and a national transport and infrastructure institute to understand the link between motorbike type/behaviour and number of accidents and make bikers aware about the potential risks they take. These groups and profiles are:
- Careful driving: the moderated (cruiser/standard/touring), the stressed (often scooters), the serene (all bike types);
- Risky driving: the sportsmen (sport touring/unclad sport/supersport biker) and the transgressives (often moped and scooters).
No doubt the quality of infrastructure plays an important role in cyclists’ choice for a type of bike, but the type of bike do have an impact on the number of accidents. An American researcher has studied the link between 10 motorcycle types types and driver death rates per 10,000 registered vehicle years and the prevalence of fatal crash characteristics such as speeding. Conclusion? Overall, driver death rates for supersport motorcycles were four times as high as those for cruiser/standard motorcycles. That would be very interesting to run such a study for cyclists.
In the windmill land, people use city bikes almost without exception and so does the Dutch community here in London. In the next article, discover why they consistently choose their vintage-like city bikes over sulk mountain and road bikes. A hint. Maybe that’s to be as safe, social, skillful, alert and relaxed as a meerkat?
Let us know what you think!
(Remember this is a satirical website about serious cycling stuff)