Why cycling from A to B is easier than you think
While we at Cycling UK will gladly take any excuse to get out for a ride, we understand that it just isn’t possible for all journeys to be made by bike. For some people the car is the only viable option. Still, the fact is that 68% of trips in the UK are under five miles - a distance many of us could easily cycle or walk.
The threat of ever rising food and energy bills, on top of already sky high fuel prices, serves as a reminder that the cost of living crisis is far from over. If you're one of the thousands of people looking for ways to make the budget stretch further over the next few months, why not consider a more affordable alternative for local travel? There has never been a better time to give up those excuses and give cycling a go. It really is easier than you think.
1. It rains too much
Wet weather is one of the most common excuses not to ride; no one wants to arrive at their destination soaked to the skin, forced to spend the rest of the day feeling damp and uncomfortable. And while there’s no denying that rainfall in the UK is fairly frequent, it is far from the wettest place to live. Most of the time grey skies lead to little more than a light, short-lived shower - though of course there are notable exceptions.
In the Netherlands there are more cycles than residents and, in cities like Amsterdam, up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike. But if you're thinking that every day there must be glorious sunshine, think again. In London, the average level of precipitation is less than 650mm per year. In Amsterdam, it’s approximately 850mm. A foreboding Dutch forecast doesn't get in the way of a short cycle ride. With our handy guide and a little preparation - decent waterproofs and mudguards go a long way - you too can get on your bike in (almost) any weather.
2. The roads are scary
Safety concerns are often mentioned as a major reason not to cycle for transport. However, the evidence suggests that riding on the road is not the dangerous activity that many think it is. In fact, data shows that people are much more likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment for a simple trip, slip or fall than through any kind of cycle accident.
Cycling is far more likely to improve an individual’s health than damage it. What’s more, the tremendous benefits of cycling far outweigh the relatively minor risks involved (by 20:1 according to studies - that's life years gained vs life years lost).
Riding a bike or cycle for everyday journeys helps people meet recommended physical activity guidelines without the expense of hitting the gym. It is also linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
It's also worth remembering that the 'safety in numbers' effect does apply; the more of us who cycle, the safer cycling is likely to become. But if you're still feeling a little apprehensive at the thought of joining the traffic, why not ease yourself in by plotting the quietest available route using our online Journey Planner or try a traffic free trail?
You can also watch this quick video guide for our top tips on staying safe while cycling.
3. I'm not fit enough
Riding to the supermarket or school gate shouldn’t be a race. You don’t have to be super fit or love the lycra-look to give it a go; cycling is for everyone.
One of the things that makes it a fantastic form of exercise for all ages and abilities is that it’s both low-impact (there's minimal strain on the joints) and low-intensity (you can choose to go slow and steady, at a pace that works for you) - plus it is super adaptable, fitting easily into the daily routine.
Sure, hills can be a hard slog (we promise they get easier with practice!) but by cycling little and often, gradually building up the distance, you will feel stronger and fitter in no time.
And if you are needing a bit of extra assistance, then an electric bike could be the answer - they're guaranteed to flatten those ascents, helping you go further and faster, all while boosting your physical health and mental wellbeing.Check out our guide to e-bikes if this sounds like a good option for you.
4. Driving is faster
There’s one thing we can all agree on: traffic jams are not fun. Did you know that the average speed by car in cities like London and Edinburgh is 7mph? People on bikes reach around double that and will often beat the traffic in urban areas.
Moreover, as cyclists spend less time on their journey, studies show they are less exposed to air pollution on busy roads than pedestrians, bus passengers or car drivers. They’re also saved the stress of scouring the streets for a parking space when they arrive - not to mention the hefty fees for a long stay! You won't ever have to be late again.
But the reality is that UK roads are struggling to cope with more and more cars. In 2019 people lost an average of 115 hours and £894 as a result of congestion. Cycle lanes can save everyone time, moving more people in less space. That's why we are calling on local leaders to invest in high quality infrastructure. If you're not yet convinced about the benefits of bike lanes, take a read of this article where we outline six reasons why they are so needed.
5. I've got too much to carry
Let's get one thing straight: no one is saying that HGV drivers should suddenly ditch their vehicles and cross the entire length of the country by bike, heavy equipment in tow. That just wouldn't be practical. But for many people, panniers, a basket or a plain-old rucksack will suffice for a short trip to the high street or to the workplace. There are plenty of options for bulkier loads too - cargo bikes, for example, are becoming increasingly popular.
For some, it is the weekly grocery haul in particular which seems an impossible errand to run by bike. It is perfectly doable, however - in fact, you'll be surprised at just how much you can carry with the right kit. Plus shopping by cycle requires you to be more mindful about the items you purchase; it is a good way to avoid impulse buys, likely to save you money and reduce waste. If you fancy giving shopping by bike a go, our how-to guide has all the information you need.
6. I don't want to smell of sweat or look a mess
The thought of frazzled helmet hair and body odour is enough to put many people off cycling for local journeys - though cramming onto public transport during rush hour can leave you just as flustered and far less fulfilled. Still, it's important to remember that cycling doesn't have to stop you from looking smart and feeling fresh. As always, the key is to cycle a bit slower (your commute is not a spinning class) and spend a few moments preparing before setting off.
Even if your destination lacks a shower and changing facilities, that shouldn't prevent you from pedalling. It is possible to have a fairly thorough wash by standing at a sink - deodorant and dry shampoo can do wonders. Whether you take a spare change of clothes is completely up to you, though it can be reassuring to know you have a fresh look ready to go - just in case.
To learn more about staying smart when cycling, check out this article which is packed full of top tips.
So there you have it, there really is no excuse that should stop us from enjoying the amazing benefits that cycling has to offer our health, happiness and the world we live in. It's not about giving up the car completely but choosing to cycle more, when and if you can. Once you’ve discovered the freedom and fun of life on the bike, you won’t look back.
If you do cycle local journeys, we'd love you to tell us about your rides on social media to inspire others to do the same. Share your photos to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #DriveLessCycleMore.