Can't Decide Whether or Not to Cycle to Work?

by Michael Carlisle

It's not that long ago you'd get funny looks if you cycled to work. Everyone who drove or got the bus would have something to say. Especially on wet days. Times do change, though. My office installed a cycle rack outside a couple of years ago, and now there are three. Some days there still isn't any space left by 8:30, and any latecomers end up chaining their bike to a tree. It's great to see so many people waking up to all the advantages of getting to work by bike. Just in case anyone's not convinced yet I thought I'd take a little time to go through what those advantages are.

Cycling to work is cheap. Once you have a bike the only costs you have are for maintenance. If you've been getting the bus there and back every day you'll soon notice the difference – those fares add up pretty fast. If you're more of a driver you'll be saving fuel costs, which are always high around town, plus taking a serious chunk out of your weekly mileage. That means your car will hold its value longer and won't need to be serviced as often. Making the commute by bike will pay for itself in a few months at most, and that's without considering what it's doing for your fitness. It won't cost you a cent either, unlike joining a gym.

I know one bloke who says he has to drive to work because he needs the car to get to the gym after he's done for the day. He doesn't look like much of a weightlifter so one day I asked him what he does when he gets there. The cycling machine, mostly. I would have said something else but there didn't seem like much point. The fact is, cycling's not just a cheap way of getting about – it's also great exercise. If you cycle to work and back five days a week the chances are you won't need to go to the gym; so you'll save money as well as have more free time. As for exercise bikes I've tried them and right now I can't think of a more boring way to spend 45 minutes. On a proper bike you need to stay alert, so half the time you don't even notice how much effort you're putting in. Even on a quiet path there's scenery to look at. Sitting in the same place, counting the minutes left on the little clock and looking at someone else's too-big backside in a pair of too-small shorts just isn't the same somehow.

Driving causes pollution, whether you're in your own car or on a bus. Any engine with a catalytic converter releases carbon dioxide, which is the greenhouse gas scientists are most worried about, and that's bad for the whole planet. On a more local note, diesel engines – like the bus – create a lot of Particulates. Diesel particulate isn't great stuff to be inhaling and anything that keeps levels down will do a lot for public health. Cycling is completely non-polluting, so as well as all the personal benefits it's one of the easiest things you can do for the environmental cause.

If you live in the city cycling can even save you time. A car's much faster than a bike, but that doesn't always come into play when you're driving in busy streets. Just drive through a town at rush hour sometime and see how much time you spend stuck at lights, waiting for a gap in traffic or crawling along behind a bus. It all adds up. If you're on your bike you can nip round a lot of those obstructions or use short cuts, and cycle lanes can cut even more minutes off your trip. You won't have to worry about parking when you arrive either. A lot of businesses don't have an employee car park and even if they do it can fill up quickly. Sometimes finding a space can take as long as driving to work in the first place. With a bike it's no problem – even if there isn't a bike rack there's always something to chain it to.

Look back at the 1940s or 50s and you'll find a lot of people cycled to work. It fell out of fashion when cars became cheaper, but it's definitely back in the mainstream now. That's great for me personally because I don't get to hear so many bad jokes about rain, and it has real practical benefits too. I save money, I stay healthy and when people start talking about exhaust fumes causing pollution I can relax – they're not talking about me.

Michael Carlisle
Michael Carlisle understands the intricate detail of what a bike needs to ride at it's optimum. He heads up the Technology & Marketing Media at Pushys Online. The online bike store with everything you need from tubes, pedals road bikes and electric bikes.

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