Matteo Trentin is concerned about the future of cycling. Believing that cyclists are forced to "take more and more care on the roads" as a result of the dangers they face while training, he thinks parents are less likely to allow their kids to ride bikes.
The UAE-Team Emirates rider told Cycling Weekly: "It's more of a jungle than a proper training environment. That's what we have to deal with every single day, everybody knows it."
The three-time Tour de France stage winner has been outspoken on rider safety before, telling Procycling magazine last year that riders risk their "lives every single day on the road".
What do the numbers say?
Cycling has been shown to be statistically safer than other types of road use. UK stats from 2018 showed that car occupants accounted for 44% of road deaths, pedestrians 26%, motorcyclists 20% and pedal cyclists 6%.
In the UK, fatalities did rise by 5% between 2004 and 2020, with serious injuries up 26%. However, cycling journeys were up 96%, meaning that casualty rates actually fell by 50% per mile cycled.
January saw multiple high-profile training incidents, which included Egan Bernal suffering serious injuries in a collision with a bus in Colombia. In Spain, meanwhile, Irish champion Imogen Cotter was struck by a car and seriously hurt while training last Wednesday.
Cotter said she felt "lucky to be alive" following a collision with the car, writing on Instagram "it could have been so much worse."
Despite the relative safety of cycling, when compared with other methods of transport, Trentin believes that more needs to be done to protect bike riders.
"Every time you step out your door going for training in the morning you never know which side you're going to come back on," the Italian explained. "Whether it's upright, or laid down in some kind of ambulance. We have to take more and more care on the roads."
Trentin believes that the situation has got worse: "There's more traffic, people are getting more nervous. I cannot even count how many times a car passed me and then straight away turned right. Or a car has passed me and then stopped on a speed bump ten metres after.
"It happened already today. People get stressed for nothing. Then you put someone who's cycling in danger."
Trentin says that he pushes the concern to the back of his mind, to allow himself to do his job: "If it's always in your mind in the first place, you can't be a cyclist, you cannot train. But of course the care you take in training has to be more and more. Especially for me, around Monaco, on the Italian and the French side, traffic is pretty big, so you need to deal with that."
However, it is the future of cycling that the 32-year-old Italian is concerned about. "I have two kids, a lot of riders have kids, but not many are happy about their kids going on the road," he explained.
"What's going to be the future of cycling if all the parents don't allow their kids to ride bikes? I think cycling really needs to look into this."
"When we talk as the Italian riders union, most of the time we don't talk about us. We talk about why kids can't go to school or to the park by bike. Why a lady can't go shopping or to work by bike, because they're afraid about their own life."
Women are statistically more likely to avoid cycling due to fear of road traffic, and Covid lockdowns have shown that when measures are taken to cut car dominance, more women ride. Some steps are being taken to encourage cycling as a means of transport; the European Commission has prioritised cycling in its latest policy, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions.
The importance of incentivising travel via bike isn't lost on Trentin, who says: "We are going into this green economy etc, but a green economy is using bikes."
Trentin's views tally with those of a report published by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS): "[Green economy] doesn't mean using electric cars, because you need to the electricity from somewhere and this is not possibly without fossil energy," he adds. "The bike is the only tool for me, to move from A to B in a quick and safe way. It's quick, it's green, and it can be safe."
His advice for drivers frustrated by being held up by cyclists is simple: "If you know the road is full of cyclists, just take an extra five minutes."
As for himself, he tries his best to stay safe while out on his bike.
"I try to do everything I can," he says. "I have a front light, a back light, our clothing is quite visible. A lot of professional teams have visible training jerseys. We do what we can do to be visble and safe.
"We are alone on the road, and stuff can happen. It's part of the story. If the majority of people were more relaxed we'd have less accidents in general."
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