It’s easy, efficient, environmentally-friendly and I’ve been doing it for years. Cycling that is. Here’s why I think we should all saddle up during National Bike Week and beyond.
1. It’s great for your confidence
It can be scary cycling around the big city for the first time. Thankfully some cities have taken note and are now offering free or subsidised training for beginners – see this page for information on schemes in the London boroughs. But once you’re happy dealing with rush hour traffic, cycling can be a real boost in confidence. Think of it as a project: you have to start with a roadmap e.g. I want to get from A to B, then find the best way to do so and put your plan into action taking into account the many outside factors thrown in your way. There’s the bus that decides to cut you up on a corner, the huge roundabout or road that splits into four lanes and sometimes diversions but the fact that you could see it through and think on the spot in uncontrollable conditions can increase your self-belief.
2. It’s completed the concrete jungle jigsaw puzzle
When I first came to London, over six years ago now, I thought it was huge. I remember thinking Dalston was on the edge of nowhere and Brixton was the back of beyond. Put it simply, I couldn’t make the connections between the places overground because I was spending too much time underground. Fast-forward to now and I can join the dots between Dalston, Angel and Camden. I know the fastest way to get to Oxford Street from Camden on two pedal-powered wheels and I have an idea of the distance between say Clapham and Stoke Newington – all thanks to my trusty bike. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here (I’m not the best with maps), but if you say, “Oh, I need to get to Victoria Park from say Paddington,” I’d be able to tell you a pretty feasible route. Yup, it’s helped me put all the pieces together of what was once a jigsaw puzzle of names on an underground map.
3. It’s helps you notice things around you
Cycling increases your awareness of the big things, such as the changing landscape in the City of London, and the smaller details like a piece of street art. I know more about where I live, new restaurants, pop-up hairdressers or shops, simply because I cycle past them everyday. If I was say, to take the bus everyday, I may notice the same things, but I’d probably be more interested in the book in front of me. Not only does cycling help you get to know your city geographically but you’ll also have a sense of the smaller shifts happening around you.
4. It’s the fastest way to get from A to B (for me anyway)
Just consider your daily trek to the office. How many modes of transport do you have to use? Without my bike, I would either have to jump on a bus that goes around the house (yes, literally and very slow) , bus it to Seven Sisters, catch the tube to Camden via Kings Cross (still slow), walk to Dalston and go via the Overground to Camden (slightly quicker) or take the bus to Dalston and go via Overground to Camden (faster). As you can see, no matter which option I choose, I still have to jump on and off public transport to do what is a 25 minute journey by bike. Even if I’m heading to Oxford Street from Camden, it’s probably faster by bike. It also means I do not have to deal with the stress of the morning commute and smelly underground. Whether I’m running or cycling, I can my commute to plan and focus. Of course, not everyone can cycle but it certainly makes sense to consider it as an option, especially for shorter journeys.
5. It can be cost-effective
I say ‘can be’ because only this week my poor bike was used as a punch- or should I say kickbag by some angry tramp. I had to shell out £100 to fix both the front and back wheels. Besides this little setback, I do save my mollar by cycling or running to work. Yes, the initial cost can be quite high and you do have to buy puncture-resistant kit plus a hefty and expensive D-lock but I’ve saved the pennies in the long run. You can also buy a bike through Bike2Work schemes and even get a free service by DrBike. In fact, if you look around at the right sites BikeSoup and the Cycling experts to name a few, you’ll find that there’s plenty of ways to cut costs.
Of course, the first thing to do is actually get back on your bike and build your confidence. This is the main aim of National Bike Week but why not take advantage of the last few things around this weekend (see here) and make a real change to your life by getting back on your bike.