This Thursday was Cycle to Work Day, so we’re giving some thought to some of the great cycling schemes around!
One of the best ways to get to know your neighbourhood is by bike. Cycling to work, school or on days out can be quicker, more flexible and healthier – not to mention better for the environment! Councils and urban planners are increasingly encouraging cycling and building in cycleways to make it easier and safer to get around. But how can you get involved?
Cycling is a really fun way to get about, and if you are willing to wear waterproofs, it’s an activity for all weather! As a form of transport, bicycles can be used by people of all ages, from all walks of life, in the city and in the country, and there are also lots of different options available to those with disabilities.
The NHS recommends getting on a bike as a low-impact way of doing exercise that can also improve your mental health… And you won’t even need a new bike to get started. If you’ve got an old bike lying around then great! But you can also buy cheap second-hand bikes on sites like Gumtree or Shpock – it doesn’t need to be expensive, fancy or new to make a real impact on your lifestyle. Just make sure that it is roadworthy – a local bike shop will be able to give it a check over.
After the first bit of spending on bikes and helmets, cycling is also a great way to save some money on transport costs! We’re going to use transport in the city of Manchester as an example… If you use the bus as your main way of getting around, a month’s bus pass in Manchester costs £68. Over the course of a year that can really add up: to £816!
Choosing to cycle is also a way of saving time. Even in parts of the country that are well connected by public transport, there are often routes that could be quicker by bike because you can take a more direct route. If you would like some help figuring out the quickest and safest routes there are journey planning websites like Cycle Streets and Sustrans.
If you are new to cycling or need to get comfortable with it again after a long break from it, try getting to grips with the basics in your local park, an empty car park or an area with very little traffic. You’ll be up and running in no time!
Cycle to work schemes
You may be able to get some support from your employer to get you started on your cycling journey. Some companies may have a ‘cycle to work’ scheme or be signed up to a company who do. Most schemes offer loans for bikes and safety equipment, which help spread out those upfront costs. Normally the loan gets repaid by a small amount being taken out of your salary each month… but the amount you’ll start saving on transport costs will soon balance this out! What’s great is that you have the bike the rest of the time to run errands and to go on adventures outside of your neighbourhood!
Cycling with disabilities
Bikes can be adapted to suit all abilities. For some it can be an easier, quicker way to get about than walking, not to mention all the overall physical and mental health benefits. There are three main organisations in the UK that provide adapted two, three and four-wheel bicycles:
Cycling training and ‘try before you buy’
Most councils and counties have cycling proficiency training that they offer to people of all ages, either for free or for a small fee. A quick search online will help you find schemes like Kent County Council’s training courses that provide bikes and helmets, or ‘Cycle with confidence’ from Southwark Council. Some local authorities also allow you to borrow a bike for a month so you can see whether it’s a change that could fit into your lifestyle: Lewisham Council allow you to do that for just £10!
Integrating some cycling into your weekly routine can really improve your health, wealth and knowledge of the place that you live in. With wider benefits for the planet as well, two wheels really can be better than four!