With rising petrol prices and clogged-up roads, it’s cheaper and quicker to cycle in Britain’s towns and cities. And, you may have noticed, when the sun comes out more and more cyclists take to the streets to get to work, or to school or to college. Be one of them.
Why? Because it’s a brilliant form of exercise. But cycling is not just a sport, not just a pastime, not just a means of transport. It’s all these, and much more besides.
It’s an activity endorsed by, amongst others, the British Medical Association, the Health Education Authority, the Campaign for Better Transport, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Forestry Commission and the National Society for Clean Air. Even the AA and the RAC promote cycling as a viable option to drivingr for short journeys.
Cycling reduces pollution, congestion, danger and transport expenditure. Higher levels of use can improve transport choice, civilise cities, aid tourism and produce a healthier population. Cycling is clean, green and quiet. It’s also a lot of fun.
DEALING WITH TRAFFIC
Use cycle paths and quiet back roads until you gain the confidence to travel alongside motorised traffic. To find such routes, use the Bike Hub journey planner, available as a desktop planner or for smartphones. The Bike Hub satnav app for iPhones and Android phones is free and also locates nearest bike shops.
WILL I GET WET?
Britain is not as damp as you’d expect.
When you cycle a daily ten mile round-trip, statistics say you will only have rain once in every one hundred trips. That is three to four trips a year on a daily basis.
Anyway, with modern waterproof and breathable fabrics, it’s possible to arrive at your destination in comfort.
DO I HAVE TO BE SUPER-FIT?
You don’t have to be super-fit to start cycling. Start slowly, progressively increase your exertion levels, and your fitness will grow along with your skills and expertise. Naturally, if you’re starting from zero and have any existing health conditions, seek advice from your doctor about the levels of recommended initial exertion.
WILL I GET LOTS OF PUNCTURES?
Hardly ever. There are now many products available – puncture-proof tubes and tyres, and puncture sealants for inner tubes – that mean punctures are a thing of the past.
BUT I DON’T HAVE THE TIME
Cycling is truly door to door. No searching for a car park, an empty space or a parking meter. No getting stuck in traffic jams. Motorists tend to over-estimate the actual times car journeys take, door-to-door. On a bike you can estimate your journey time to the minute and can take short-cuts not available to motorists.
Cycling is super fast in towns and cities. Test after test has shown that for short urban journeys, there is nothing but nothing to beat a cyclist. A four mile journey in the centre of London takes 22 minutes by bike, half an hour by tube, 40 minutes by car (even in a Ferrari…), 62 minutes on a bus, and an hour and a half on shanks’ pony. Jon Snow, the Channel 4 newsreader, whizzes from TV interview to TV interview by bicycle, knowing that there’s no fast way to travel in London.
BUT WHAT ABOUT CITY-TO-CITY JOURNEYS? BIKES CAN’T BEAT CARS THEN, CAN THEY?
Yes they can! Hire a folding bike, book a train ticket from big city to big city, travel in speed and comfort, read a book, watch a movie on your iPhone, arrive in style. Now, do the same journey in your car. Which was fastest and most pleasurable?
Factor in the convenience, too. You don’t pay through the nose for parking a bike: it’s free. And no congestion charges, either.
DO I NEED TO BUY A REALLY EXPENSIVE BIKE?
It’s not necessary to buy top-notch machines straight away (unless you really, really want to). An entry-level mountain bike or hybrid-style city bike will be strong, stable and safe to ride. £250 is a good starting price but spending more will always be worth it in the long run.
Once you develop fitness and bike handling skills you can upgrade to more expensive machines. The more you spend the more you get. High specification bikes are a joy to ride and will last a long time in good order if treated with respect.
To check out which bike, at whatever pricepoint, is suitable for you, go to your local bike shop. Try some machines out and maybe even hire one for a few days.
When you consider the enjoyment and the transport potential you’ll get from your bike you’ll soon understand why many people spend as much money on a new bicycle and all that goes with it, as on a quality used car, and a £3000 bicycle will give you a lot more pleasure than a £3000 car…