Which is safer: cycling or staying in?

This is the article we submitted for the June edition of the Hayling Islander. The published article was subject to editing by the Islander.

Do you remember the first time you ever rode a bike? That magical moment when you stayed upright, just by moving? Most of us learnt as kids, of course.

But it’s never too late to recapture that moment. And never a better time than summer to do it!

More evidence that exercise is the best medicine. This time from Australia, where an extensive study has found indisputable evidence that exercise even helps cancer treatment and recovery.

“If exercise was a pill it would be prescribed to every cancer patient worldwide, and viewed as a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.”

Of course, it applies to healthy people too. My favourite is the King’s College London study of over 2,400 identical twins. They found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’, even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

They found that regular exercise significantly lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, all types of cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. The body becomes much more efficient at defending itself and regenerating new cells. And there’s plenty more evidence that it helps sleeping, and brain power. More evidence here.

Cycling might seem dangerous, but accidents are fortunately rare, and it’s still about 20 times more dangerous to be a couch potato.

But we do recommend a cycle helmet, especially for children and anyone who hasn’t cycled recently. You probably won’t need it, but if you do have a bump, it can make all the difference.

Helmet standards are regulated, so you don’t need to spend a lot, unless you want to chase the latest fashion. Much more important is to adjust the straps so it’s securely attached and comfortable, especially children. It’s no help if it slides out of the way when you hit something.

But making them compulsory would deter people from getting the health benefits of cycling. One study of head injuries coming into A&E found they would be more beneficial for motorists and pedestrians, and no-one suggests making that the law.

Our intrepid Cathedral Challenge riders are well on the way. Here’s some of them at their first challenge – Portsmouth Cathedral. You can see we’re not all Bradley Wiggins, by any means. By the time you read this, some will have made it to Chichester and their final goal, Winchester Cathedral. And they will all be fitter, more experienced cyclists, and they’ll have seen some of the finest scenery Britain has to offer. Let’s hope they saw the finest weather too.

If you want somewhere new to ride, there’s a beautiful smooth bike path alongside Farlington Marshes. You could even combine it with a bit of bird-watching on the marshes? You can ride to it from behind the Langbrook Farm Restaurant, or from the car parks by the Broadmarsh roundabout. It continues right down the Eastern Road to Fratton Park, so it’s a great way to beat the traffic into Portsmouth, especially when Pompey are playing at home.

Thank you for all of you that voted for me in the local elections. I didn’t get in, but all our councillors say they support cycling, so please keep pushing them to make Hayling more cycle-friendly.