Let’s get back on our bikes

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From Stephan Beddoe.

I ADMIT I love driving my car just as much as the next person. It’s great and, yes, I do use it when I really don’t need to. But for the future of the Island and, dare I say, for the planet, the Chief Minister must set up a task force to begin to reduce car usage and encourage the use of the bicycle.

This fantastic piece of engineering by virtue of its age and simplicity lacks the glamour of modern technologies and, therefore, is overlooked as the solution to our mass transport problems and in particular to the daily commute. We on the whole have become addicted to the car. Like any addiction it is very hard and painful to break but for our future well-being we have to suffer that short-term pain.

I liken the bicycle to a story I once heard in relation to the space race. NASA spent millions of dollars inventing a pen that could write upside down in the zero gravity of space. The Russians took a pencil.

If I placed an advertisement in the JEP with a product that would save you thousands of pounds a year, help you lose weight, keep you fit and save you time, all for £300 or less, I would be sold out. The bicycle does all of these things.

We are told obesity is the next big health challenge for one and all. A big cause of this is the car and the ever-increasing predominantly sedentary lifestyle we lead. By cycling we will incorporate exercise into our daily lives and stay fitter and healthier. And how much time is spent in traffic jams or looking for parking spaces?

At present, the political hot potato of the day is the question of the need for more immigration to maintain the future workforce at its present level. Jersey could comfortably increase the population without any detriment to the quality of life if managing this increase did not have to allow for the increase in cars.

The desirability of living in St Helier would dramatically increase if the car was removed from residential streets which would turn into perfect recreational areas for children. Better-sized houses could be built because garages would not be required and the area given over to providing access to the garage or parking space could provide larger dwelling space. We would not have to spend £75 million to provide a tunnel.

So much development has to be amended and diluted to make provision for the motor car. The regentrification of St Helier will never happen unless tranquillity is restored to the streets and roads of town.

Like many problems there is no one simple solution but it is no longer good enough to turn our backs on this challenge. The answer must be a combination of measures of reward and charge, including a limit on the number of car licences, priority lanes for bicycles, scooters, buses, taxis, etc, and a congestion charge for cars entering town between 7 and 10 am.

We must make it safer for children once again to cycle on the roads and get in to the habit of using it as their mode of transport. We must remove the glamour of the car, modify vehicle standards that would allow the use of golf cart-type vehicles on our roads and adopt a can-do philosophy. We can transform Jersey into a utopia. All we need is the vision and bravery to do it.

Eventually, as with smoking in public places, it should also become socially unacceptable to use the car for journeys that could be made by alternative means. We have to make it cool to cycle.

Ellora West, Old St John’s Road, St Helier.

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