As cycling doubles, here are 10 reasons to bike to work

Hospital theatre support worker, James O'Dea finds cycling to and from work allows him time to de-stress
Rob Kingston's picture

As cycling doubles, here are 10 reasons to bike to work

New figures show a huge increase in cycling since lockdown. Here's why we should make that change permanent

Bike Week 2020 (6-14 June) celebrates the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling.

  • Latest government figures show a 100% rise in cycling compared with pre-lockdown levels, and 200% at weekends
  • Here are 10 reasons why cycling to work makes sense

Each year, the UK holds a week-long celebration of cycling, supported by Cycling UK. This year, things are different for everybody – but while the coronavirus crisis has prevented the usual group activities from taking the place, it has also put a new focus on the way we travel.

Bike Week 2020 is therefore focusing on how cycling can improve our health and wellbeing, not just for the individuals who cycle but also in improving air quality and reducing congestion for everyone – and also providing a safe, socially distanced way to travel to work.

Throughout April and May, Cycling UK said thank you to the health and social care workers keeping Britain healthy by giving them free membership: an offer that almost 3,000 people took advantage of.

During the lockdown period, we have seen more and more people get back on their bikes. In the coronavirus briefing yesterday (4 June), Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, called for a 'green transport revolution', and said: “Despite fewer people travelling overall during this crisis, we’ve seen around a 100% increase in weekday cycling. And at weekends, that increase has been up to around 200%, compared to pre-Covid-19 levels.”

Cycling UK wants this change to become a long-term one. As the charity’s interim chief executive, Pete Fitzboydon, said this week: “The reduction in vehicle traffic, and increase in cycling during lockdown has allowed a glimpse of a different, more active future, and it would be a great shame to turn our backs on this and return to business as usual.”

Supporting the launch of Bike Week, the Cycling Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Covid-19 has made us rethink how we work, shop, and travel – and we have seen so many people over the past couple of months discovering or re-discovering a love of cycling as they look for new ways to get around.   

“Bike Week is a great opportunity for people to give cycling a go, and be inspired to choose an environmentally friendly form of travel with major health benefits – improving the quality of air that we breathe, and helping people to get fit and stay healthy. I hope that after the crisis, cycling becomes the natural choice for many more on short journeys so that we can keep these benefits for the longer term.”

As more people who have been working from home start thinking about returning to the office over the coming months, here are 10 good reasons why cycling to work makes sense:

1 It reduces coronavirus risk 

Advice from both the UK Government and the World Health Organization is to cycle or walk when you can. Being outdoors rather than sharing public transport means you are less likely to be exposed to the virus, or risk spreading infection to others.

2 It can keep you in trim

Cycling to work can be a great way to lose weight. It’s a low-impact, adaptable exercise that can burn 400-750 calories an hour, depending on your weight, speed and the type of cycling you’re doing.

3 It can save you time and money

One of the most common reasons for not exercising is “I haven’t got time”. If you can’t fit the gym around your busy work, home and social life, no problem: a 15-minute cycle to work each way would mean you meet the government recommended guidelines for exercise of 150 minutes a week – and save a fortune in gym membership fees. Not only that, but cycling is often quicker than taking public transport.

Mónica Reus Boccherini, an A&E nurse at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, recently dusted off her cobweb-covered bike and started cycling the six miles to work. “It takes me 40 minutes – on the Tube I had to change trains then walk from the station and it would take over an hour.”

4 It clears the air

Every year in the UK, about 40,000 deaths are linked to outdoor pollution, much of it emitted needlessly. In London, two-thirds of car journeys are less than 5km (3.1 miles) – a distance that can be covered in 20 minutes at gentle cycling pace. By swapping short car journeys for bike rides, you help to reduce harmful emissions, making the air healthier for everyone.

5 It’s good for your mental health

Cycling UK survey of more than 11,000 people found that 91% of participants rated off-road cycling as fairly or very important for their mental health – but whether your route to work is on or off road, it’s likely to help you clear your mind and de-stress. James O’Dea is a hospital theatre support worker living on the Isle of Wight who rides 11 miles to and from work each day and finds it vital for his mental wellbeing. “When I’m on the bike there is nothing else in my head except the road in front of me,” he says. “It helps me clear my mind and achieve separation between my home and work life, which is vital in this line of work.”

6 It’s good for your heart

As little as 20 miles a week on a bike can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by half. If that sounds a long way, consider it’s just a two-mile trip each way (assuming you work five days a week).

7 It’ll help you live longer

A 2017 study by the University of Glasgow looking at commuting found that those that cycle to work have a 41% lower risk of dying from all causes. Another study of more than 260,000 people found that those who cycled to work had a 45% lower risk of developing cancer, compared to those who commuted by car or public transport.

8 It can boost your immune system (and keep your boss happy)

On average, people who cycle to work take one less sick day per year than their non-cycling colleagues, saving the UK economy almost £83m. As well as making you fitter, being outside in the sunshine on your way to work will boost your vitamin D levels, which benefits your immune system, brain and bones.

9 It could help you sleep better

With modern-day stresses and long hours of screen time, disconnecting and falling asleep is a struggle for many people. A study of more than 8000 people by the University of Georgia found a strong correlation between cardio-respiratory fitness and sleep patterns: a lower level of fitness was linked to both an inability to fall asleep and poor sleep quality. The answer could be cycling to work: it’s regular moderate cardiovascular exercise that boosts fitness, making it more likely that you will sleep.

10 It reconnects you with nature

Travelling to work in a metal box – especially one that’s underground – means you miss what is around you. Nurse Mónica Reus Boccherini found that swapping the Tube for her bike gave her a whole new perspective on her home town. “I ride through Regents Park and see the trees and buildings I never noticed before, instead of looking at my phone screen on the train. When I get to work I feel energised instead of exhausted!”

The restrictions on group events mean that this year’s Bike Week is taking place digitally, with a programme of webinars, online workshops, Q&As (including a discussion with Dragon’s Den star Piers Linney) and fun events.

The overarching theme is Health and Wellbeing, with each day taking a different focus under the #7daysofcycling hashtag on social media.

People are encouraged to share photos and videos of their cycling activities for a chance to win prizes.

For details of the full programme, visit https://www.cyclinguk.org/bikeweek.

Contact information 

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office.

Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored.

If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please call Rob Kingston on 07880 424 912 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org

Out of hours, call 07786 320 713. 

Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. The text of Grant Shapps’ speech can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/transport-secretarys-statement-on-coronavirus-covid-19-4-june-2020.
  3. The data for cycling are at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/890213/2020-06-04_COVID-19_Press_Conference_Slides.pdf.
  4. The World Health Organization issued the following advice in April: “Whenever feasible, consider riding bicycles or walking: this provides physical distancing while helping to meet the minimum requirement for daily physical activity, which may be more difficult due to increased teleworking, and limited access to sport and other recreational activities.”
  5. The latest advice from the UK government, published on 29 May, is that “to reduce demand on the public transport network, you should walk or cycle wherever possible”. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-safe-outside-your-home/staying-safe-outside-your-home).
  6. Images of Mónica Reus Boccherini and Bike Week logos are available on request.
  7. Follow us on www.facebook.com/CyclingUK, Instagram www.instagram.com/wearecyclinguk and www.twitter.com/WeAreCyclingUK using the hashtag #BikeWeekUK and #7daysofcycling.
  8. Bike Week 2020 is delivered by Cycling UK and supported in Scotland by Cycling Scotland.
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