My friend Becs, (aka Speedy Becs) from run club, cycles everywhere, so I asked her to write a post to hopefully inspire some of you to start commuting by bike!
You never forget how to ride a bike so put your skills to good use in this summer and hitch your own ride to work. Even if you never learnt how to saddle-up, it's not too late to find out how. From saving you money (not to mention time) and relieving stress, here are my five reasons to go Dutch and turn your daily commute into an easy-breezy voyage en velo.
1. Cycling improves your knowledge
There's no better way to get to know your own turf than by bike. In the seven years that I've lived in London, I have pretty much cycled my way from East to West, North to South and then back again. I can quite confidently say that I'm not only a better map reader than before, I also know how to get to most areas of London or thereabouts. If I am lost, then I usually look at the direction of the bus stops to get me back on track (trust me it works). As well a testing your orienteering skills, you notice more by bike such as the opening of a local shop or the changes in the skyline. It really is an eye-opening way to explore and can, on occasion, be pretty useful when it comes to pub quiz questions.
2. Cycling boosts your confidence
Now I'm not under any illusions here, I know how nail-biting cycling can be for those who have never tackled the Wild West that is London's roads. And those good folks at Transport for London have set up courses for beginners aimed at building your confidence on the road (check here) You may already have heard of Sky Ride (here) (a day of traffic-free routes in London) and the Breeze network (here) , which encourages women to improve their confidence on the road. I'm not a huge fan of women-only rides because I think everyone needs a helping hand but I understand the sentiment at least. Anyway, once you've got to grips with your route and know where you're going, cycling can be a really boost to your self-esteem. Think about it for a moment – not only do you have to leave on time and pack all the right gear, you need to know how to navigate the road so you arrive at your destination safe and sound. The freedom of being on the open road teaches you to be more independent and self-reliant.
3. Cycling relieves stress
Not only does cycling make you more independent, it can also act as a real stress reliever. The last thing I want to do after a tough day in the office is jump on a crowded tube or bus and have to endure a) some inane conversation between two commuters b) blaring music of someone who wants to damage their ear drums c) sweaty armpits – I'm tensing my shoulders just thinking about the commute via public transport. Instead, I'm as free as a bird on my bike, where the occasional nod to a fellow cyclist or comment about the dreaded pot-holes will suffice. The fact that you're focusing on your journey also acts as a distraction from the daily grind. Not forgetting that as a cardiovascular activity, cycling encourages you to produce endorphins (happy hormones), which will boost your mood. Couple this with a glorious day and you'll be beaming when you get on yer bike.
4. Cycling saves you money
Well sort of. You do have to buy all the appropriate gear, including lights, helmet and waterproofs not to mention an actual bike and lock but when you do the number-crunching, you will save a bit of dosh. Over the past year, I reckon I've spent around £100 on my bike. I do have a PAYG Oyster card as well, but even when I compare this to price of a monthly Oyster pass, I'm pretty much quids in. I also take advantage of events such as Bike Week http://www.bikeweek.org.uk/event_search.php . This celebration of cycling includes a free service of your bike by Dr Bike at several locations all over London. The only time I've ever taken the tube for free was on New Year's Eve and after the London Marathon. The initial cost of cycling may feel a little hefty upfront but you'll soon be back in credit after a few months.
5. Cycling is time-efficient exercise
Not only is cycling to work great exercise, it is also the fastest way for me to get to work. Fact. I live in Stoke Newington and work in Camden and it takes me roughly around 25 minutes to commute by bike. My only other options are a bus then tube (around 40 minutes), bus then overground train (around 35 minutes) or bus. A car may be faster but that's without considering the traffic during rush hour. Seriously, if it takes you more than five minutes to walk to the tube and you have to make a change, you're better off by bike. When I want to cycle to Oxford Street during my lunch hour, I can jump on my bike and get there in about 15 minutes via Regent's Park. There's no waiting around for or even on a certain number bus when you travel on two wheels. Cycling to work also gives the exercise a purpose – as in you're actually travelling to a destination using pedal power.
Go and check out Bec's blog http://thestyledynamo.com/
Would you consider commuting by bike? I know that before I started a lot of people warned me against it, and said it was unsafe, but I think if you know the rules of the road, stick to cycle lanes and wear appropriate safety gear, you should be fine!