We look at why and how you should cycle commute: fitness, time management, stress relief, daily productivity, money saving, independence and 7 essential safety tips.
The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your cycling for the year. Of course the nights will draw in eventually, and the warmer weather will make way for, er, ‘fresher’ climes. But if you get the cycle commuting bug now, you may just want to invest in lights and a good cycling jacket in a couple of months’ time. So let’s look at why it’s really worth committing to cycling to work or school right now.
Autumn and winter can be the seasons for comfort eating. Like a proverbial woodland creature, many of us feel like lying low and stocking up on grub in the coming months, hoping to burn it off again next spring and summer. But why go through this annual yoyo-ing? Keep up a schedule of riding throughout the year and you can be in fighting shape all the time. Not only does that mean you can enjoy Christmas treats guilt-free when they eventually come, but next summer your beach (or bike :)) body will be even easier to attain.
Never be late and spend less time travelling
Without the risk of your daily journey being affected by train delays, signal problems, something on the line, strikes, full carriages, roadworks or accidents causing tailbacks, you can be far more certain of arriving at work or school when you’re supposed to. Particularly in the case of people who have to travel through the urban jungle, you may well find you spend a great deal less time commuting as well.
Feel less stressed
Because of the security in terms of timing and the myriad of route options available to you, cycle commuters should feel a great deal less stressed than their motorcar, bus or train-born colleagues. Add to that the feeling of freedom to potter and explore where you like on the way home, and the exercise-induced endorphins that give you a positive mental boost, and you can see why cycle commuting is good for your mental health, too.
Increase your daily productivity
So we’ve seen that cycling commuting is good for both your mental and long-term health, but on a day-to-day level it is also hugely beneficial for your productivity levels when you reach work or school. By the time you’ve ridden a little way in the fresh air, your blood will be circulating and you will have shaken off the fug of sleep. That means you will be ready to enjoy a positive day of activity.
Well, you’ll have to spend a small amount on bike maintenance and some essential kit (but don’t forget you can buy a bike and equipment using Evans’ excellent tax free RideToWork scheme, but there’s no massive season tickets, parking or fuel bills to pay. How many activities can you think of that give you all these other benefits and actually save you money?
So much of our daily working and school lives seems to be controlled by people or organisations outside our control. By cycle commuting you are taking back just a little of that self-responsibility. For school cyclists, it introduces a very important element of independence, but even for working adults it removes that feeling of despair or helplessness that comes with relying on road conditions or public transport. We all have to be at work or school at a certain time but the freedom to choose how we get there and then how we travel home makes the day just a little bit wonderful.
Commuter safety shortlist
Pick your route. Enjoy finding new trails, paths and roads on your commute — don’t stick with main roads.
Bike control. The better your bike handling, the more confident you’ll feel, so head off-road at the weekends to test yourself.
Dress brightly. Even if the evenings aren’t dark, bright colours will make you more easily visible to drivers and pedestrians.
Lights. Running lights even in the daytime can make you more visible to other road users, and they’re a necessity at night.
Layer up. It may not be there yet but as the weather becomes less predictable it’s essential to have layers to be able to regulate your temperature.
Kerbs. Ride at least 3ft from the kerb so drivers can see you and you avoid any hazardous roadside debris such as glass.
Lorries and buses. NEVER sneak up the inside of long vehicles, it’s very possible that the driver just can’t see you.
Left-hand junctions. Look out for cars coming out from roads joining on the left — drivers are prone to not spotting cyclists when they pull out in front of you.
Parked cars. Give parked cars a wide berth — wide enough to avoid a door opening in your path.
Enjoy the ride!