"As congestion charges hit central London, there seems no better time for those affected to start cycling to work. But how practical is it for doctors (and GPs in particular) to opt for their bikes over their cars?"
That’s the question posed by BMJcareers, and it was answered by Maidstone GP John Green.
He said: "A working lifetime exhorting patients from your comfortable swivel chair to take control of their health and fitness, while you fail to do so, is unlikely to be satisfying."
Green lists GP’s usual objections to cycling, and attempts to overcome them.
The full article can be found at
The BMJ is a very pro-cycling magazine. In an editorial during the Millennium Festival of Medicine in 2000(BMJ 2000;320:888), the BMJ’s associate editor Douglas Carnall wrote:
"The car, weighing the best part of a ton and often conveying only one person and a briefcase, is a highly inefficient mode of transport. The excessive use of motor vehicles severs communities and makes active modes of transport such as walking and cycling more difficult. Yet 70% of all trips made by car are less than five miles long and eminently suitable for cycling or walking.
"Regular exercise has worthwhile effects on several cardiovascular risk factors, notably a reduction in blood pressure of 10/8 mm Hg among hypertensive patients and of 3/3 mm Hg in normotensive people. Today 70% of British adults take exercise less than once a month.
"Building walking and cycling into daily life is much more likely to be sustainable in the long term than gym based exercise prescription schemes. We own more bicycles than ever, an estimated 27 million in the United Kingdom, so why do we not use them? The most important deterrent that non-cyclists express is fear of motor traffic. The fear is exaggerated in comparison with the statistical likelihood of injury, but lowering the speed limit in towns to 20 mph would be a straightforward way of reducing it. Seventy per cent of motorists currently exceed the 30 mph limit in free flowing traffic. We know that the difference between 20 mph and 37 mph is quite literally life and death.
"But the best rule is self rule. Doctors have bought the motor myth as hard as anyone, and it is time to change. After all, "do as I do" is more effective advice than "do as I say."
The theme of reducing vehicle speeds in order to encourage cycling was taken up by the editor of BikeBiz.co.uk in a letter to the BMJ, welcoming John Green’s article:
"Unfortunately, the UK does not have an ingrained bicycle culture. Well, we had one but we lost it in the 1950s, when car culture took over.
"Since then bicycles have been viewed as ‘poor man’s transport’, despite the fact that many people ride to work on £1500 machines.
"Cycling GPs, just like cycling bank managers or cycling judges or cycling Channel 4 news anchors, are thought to be oddballs.
"Getting more GPs on bikes is a great idea but it’s going to take a seismic societal shift for car-less doctors to be perceived as ‘normal’.
"The London congestion charge will persuade a few more people to get around and about on their bicycles but poll after poll suggests that hesitant cyclists need bike-friendly infrastructure. This need not be dedicated cycle paths (especially when they go on long detours) but measures that slow down cars can work wonders. The intra-urban 30mph limit is breached routinely by the majority of motorists.
"This is oppressive for pedestrians and cyclists alike.
"Health professionals ought to be clamouring for lower speed limits (20mph max in all urban areas) and more traffic calming measures. Not only will this lead to less carnage – and save the NHS heap loads of cash per year – but more people, including GPs, will be encouraged to cycle for those short journeys they may have otherwise used their cars."