Learn to ride before you learn to drive

Nobody likes being treated like a second class citizen. And when it comes to using the road I’m tired of being treated like a second class road user just because I’m riding a bicycle. There can’t be many cyclists who don’t get cut up, blocked, driven too close too, shouted at and threatened by inconsiderate drivers on a regular basis.

What’s more, there must be thousands, if not millions of drivers and users of public transport, who, seeing the vulnerability of cyclists in traffic, are put off from taking up cycling as a means of transport.

I think there is one thing that could be done to make the roads safer and more tempting to those who wish to ride their bicycles on them, and that is to introduce a cycling component into the driving test. And I don’t mean “cycling awareness” – the theory exam question bank already includes¬† questions about what you should do when approaching cyclists: the theory is not the issue, everyone knows that they are supposed to slow down and give at least a car door’s width of space when overtaking. The problem is that as many people never cycle on the road, they are not aware of how it feels to be overtaken by vehicles moving 30, 40, 50 or 60mph that only give you a few inches of space, so they don’t treat cyclists with the same respect as they do other road users. So my proposal is this:

1. Every person who wishes to take a driving test should be required to undergo 10 hours of monitored cycling on various types of roads (urban, country, A and B roads).

2. They should be required to pass a cycling proficiency test.

An alternative could be to have the cycling component taken out of the driivng test and have it as an entirely separate test to be taken as a precursor to the main driving test, in much the same way as the theory test is now.

Whatever method is chosen, with the increasing traffic on the roads, something needs to be done to curtail the dangerous driving of many motorists. I don’t want to feel I’m putting my life in danger every time I go out on my bike, and we need to encourage more people to get out of their cars and save money and get healthy.

Let’s put our money where our minds are.

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of cyclists want a clean planet and less pollution. We are out in the open, we’re exercising our lungs, and we don’t like breathing in smog. So it makes sense that we don’t want to support companies that are making the world a dirtier, more contaminated place to live.

Personally, I have long been a supporter of green issues, and I get very angry at the lack of support from the government and establishment in general for a non-carbon based economy. There is a lack of serious investment in a sustainable economy and renewable energies; it just seems like not nearly enough is being done. But you know what, sometimes it’s too easy to point the finger at others. Sure, other people, especially the powerful, could and should do more… but what about me? Well, up until yesterday I was buying both my energy and gas from e.on. Yes, you read that correctly – e.on. Not the most ecologically progressive company. So what the hell was I doing, handing over about a ¬£1,000 each year to a company that is harming the “environment“, and the “environment” is not just some woolly thing you read about in the Guardian, it is our home, let’s face it. Well I can only put it down to inertia, laziness, and an unfounded worry about the cost of switching to another company.

What finally spurred me into action was reading a Friends of the Earth article asking people to post their horror stories about the big energy companies. Now I don’t have any horror stories about my time with e.on – the truth is that I have experienced no issues whatsoever, and their staff are always very polite on the phone – but it just made me think “what the *&%$ and I doing? I should be with a renewables energy provider.” So I finally pulled my proverbial finger out of my proverbial ass and checked out Ecotricity. The feedback about the company seemed to be good, so I emailed their customer service and exchanged 2 or 3 emails with a helpful employee called Stacey and now I’m in the process of switching over. I don’t expect I’ll have any regrets – in fact right now, my only regret is not having done it sooner!

So – don’t be a slouch like I was – if you think green, then act green, and get on over to either Ecotricity or Good Energy and start putting your money where your mind is.

Ecotricity and Good Energy are UK energy providers. Do you know any others? What about in other countries, who are your green energy suppliers?