Today, in an evidence session before Parliament, Chris Boardman said Britain’s 2012 Olympic legacy should be a return to the levels of cycling last seen in 1948, the previous time Britain hosted the Olympic Games. It’s an appealing proposition, and more so if accompanied by a return to 1948 style on two wheels. Check out Eileen Sheridan, a star cyclist of the time, in action:
Apart from being more stylish, what was cycling like back in 1948? A couple of graphs tell the story very well. 1948 was one of the final years in which British people rode more miles by bike than they drove by car:
Not so long after 1948 began the great extinction of cycling in Britain, in tandem (excuse the pun) with the nation’s blossoming love affair with the motor car:
The two trends cannot be separated. The more cars there are on the roads, the less viable those roads are for everyday cycling. We’ll never construct a whole parallel network of cycling-only, but taking away carriageway space on busier roads and setting it aside for cyclists is an essential step towards a rehabilitation of two-wheeled travel, as is reducing speeds and volumes of motorised traffic wherever this can be done. Encouraging cycling is a hopeless task without taking serious steps to tame the car. And that’s what’s needed if we’re to turn the clocks back to 1948.