Could You Be The Next Bradley Wiggins? Why Not Cycle To Work.
OK, I am happy to accept most car drivers don’t like cyclists, but then to be fair, most motorists don’t much like anyone that slows them down or gets in their way, but there has been an old saying that if you cant beat them, join them, so with cycling being very much flavour of the week now, have you ever thought of dumping the car and setting off at the front of your own peloton?
Well firstly, I guess it depends on where you live as to if this is going to be possible and to some extent; it also depends on what you’ve got to take to work with you and wear when you get there. Is it good to see the MD arrive on a bike, I don’t know and is a hard ride going to tire you out for the day and leave you all sweaty? What if you’ve got a company car and unexpectedly have to nip out, but because your cars at home, you’ve only got your bike. Clearly there are lots to consider here.
Facts are though that companies that have monitored the health of their staff, have said that those who bike to work take less time off sick and are far less likely to suffer from inactivity related health problems and that’s shouldn’t come as any surprise as cycling is recognised as one of the best ways to stay fit and for those like me, with the extra kilo or two, the best way to lose weight. A major study of more than 10,000 people found that those who cycled at least 20 miles a week were half as likely to have heart problems as those who don’t and that’s mighty impressive. Want to lose that weight, well cycling burns around 300 calories an hour, so at the very least is a good way to make sure you control your weight and those that do the exercise thing tell me that it relieves stress and anxiety, so is a good way to stay happy and reduce the chances of depression, so this far, its all pretty positive stuff.
Most town and cities are getting more cycle friendly and there are now plenty of places to safely corral your bike whilst you’re off on foot. Dedicated cycle paths are spreading like, whilst you are avoiding paying fuel costs, or chipping out for the bus or the train, whilst congestion charge zones hold no fear for you at all, and if many councils have their way, you’ll even avoid being charged to park in your own companies car park, so it just gets better and better. Traffic jams; well they will be just a thing of the past.
Other benefits you’ve probably never considered will open up to you and your non-polluting way of getting around as cycling is a great way to meet people and a great way to interact with others as you’re not constrained in your mechanical bubble and you might find yourself chatting to your neighbour for the first time, despite have lived next door to him for 10 years.
Our worlds a pretty spectacular place and out of your cocoon, you can truly appreciate what mother natures got on offer and perhaps take a little longer looking at things and breathing in the smell of the seasons as we go through the year.
Despite all this, unfortunately most of the cycles in this country aren’t used very much. There’s an estimated 27 million bikes in sheds across the UK – but we don’t see many of them on the roads. About 70% of all journeys made by car are less than five miles and a bike ride would do just as well.
So, other than annoying car drivers, perhaps getting a touch tired and a little bit sweaty, everything else about biking to work is great, apart of course that you’ve probably got to leave for work a touch earlier and wont get home until later than normal and of course, if its going to rain, you’re gonna get wet, oh and of course, when its dark, you need really good lights and one of those fluorescent jacket thingy’s, oh and if its icy or snowy, well maybe its not such a good idea to venture out on your bike and if you’re a bit wheezy, stay away from traffic- – – but other than that its just fine, isn’t it.
Well so far in our appraisal of getting on your bike; we’ve mainly looked at the positives, but it’s got a downside and we can’t be objective without talking about it.
ROSPA reported in October 2011 that every year in the UK, around 17,000 cyclists are injured, seriously injured or killed on our roads. Figures they offered showed causalities for 2010 were 14,414 slightly injured, 2,660 seriously injured and 111 killed. Figures show injuries to cyclists are increasing.
DfT statistics revealed that the biggest single contributory factor on the part of the cyclist is the cyclist failing to look properly (25%), followed by failing to judge the other person’s path or speed (10%), the cyclist entering the road from the pavement (8%), and careless or reckless behaviour (8%). We don’t know how the remainder is made up, but ones got to assume that part of it is “someone else’s fault?”.
17,000 causalities is a lot of that there is no doubt, but overall in pretty much the same period across all modes of road transport, there were 204,350 casualties which was a reduction of 5% on the year before and 1780 deaths, which whilst also down, were only down by 0.5%.
So we’ve got to get to the really important bit, the deal breaker and it’s those silly looking helmets. I hope you feel that having just read the accident statistics that you’re never going to ride a cycle without a proper helmet, because research suggests in cycle accidents, that the riders head hits the road first in 70% of cases, so whilst you might feel a bit silly with your funny helmet on, its better than feeling a bit dead and to be honest, its only non cyclists like me who think they look silly, your piers may even envy your sartorial choice of headgear?
Are you sold on this idea so far? Well if you work for a living and if your employer wants to help, riding a bike to work can get even better because the governments “Cycle to Work” initiative can provide you a cheap tax free bike and that cant be bad.
You can check the offer out online at www.cyclescheme.co.uk where you will be greeted with a banner telling you that people who cycled to work yesterday, burned off 58 million calories and that your average user burns around 8,391 calories a month and that’s equivalent to 17 cheeseburgers, or about 20 hours in the gym (I know which one I would prefer).
To give you a taster of what the scheme can do for you, well its going to allow you to get your hands on a ‘tax free bike’ and they say, that represents around a 32% saving on the price of your new bike and you can pick one up from around 1700+ participating stores across the UK and that’s got to be pretty good. However there are a few hoops to jump through first and as usual, things are not as attractive or simple as they first appear.
Your employer needs to sign-up to the scheme and once they’ve done that you can get access to the cycle scheme online system, which allows you to visit one of the 1700 or so participating stores and once there, you choose exactly what you want and you’ll get what’s referred to as a paper quote and you’ve got to then enter these details online and request what’s called “a secure certificate”
Your employer will be told you’ve applied for this and will confirm your eligibility and approve the request and will then get an invoice for the package you (the employee) have chosen and in turn, your employer will ask you to sign a hire agreement. You can then go off and collect your bike.
Whilst you have the bike, your employer will deduct regular amounts from your salary via what’s called salary sacrifice and at the end of the hire period (I guess when you’ve paid the bike off) you then get an opportunity to make the cycle theirs by buying it for what’s referred to as its market value. I wonder if you fancy that.
We started out here trying to get you to think differently about cycling and hoping that if you do own one of those 27 million bikes that are lying around in peoples garden sheds, that you’re going to get it out, dust it down, pump its tyres up and go for a bit of a jaunt, because I can tell you, that as you pedal away, the years drop off and suddenly you’re 10 years old again and do you know what, as one final inducement to get you out of your car and onto your bike, its free, yes as simple as that, its free, because once you’ve bought you chosen steed, its no fuel cost, no road tax, no insurance costs, no parking costs and that’s got to be pretty damn rare in today’s world. No one, but no one can safe cycling isn’t a good idea, other than those who say it’s a great idea, because that’s exactly what it is. Its plain common sense taken to absolute extremes and it delivers in so many ways.
So do yourself a favour and even if you don’t want to go off to work on your bike, dig it out and just take a run around the block and you could rediscover why, when you were a kid, that your bike was pretty much the most important thing in your life.