Why cycling commutes need to become the norm
There are some places in the UK where cyclists seem to congregate – being based at Somerset House, I can tell you that Waterloo Bridge is one of these places. In my daily attempt to cross the road, they are lined up at the lights in their tens, watching and waiting for the red dot to disappear and be replaced by a great big ‘Go! Go! Go!’ signal. Every day I wonder why I’m not on a bike doing the same thing, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.
It is partly to do with the sheer amount of spandex involved. I’ve never been informed this is compulsory, but it almost looks that way. Rarely do I see someone on their bike in the morning who looks like they don’t care if they’re not in front of the crowd, a la Tour de Waterloo.
Cycling culture in Britain is not really embraced by the masses. It’s seen less as a fun, healthy and green way to get to work, and more of a competition if you’re a speedy pro or a sweaty burden if you’re the typical office worker. Our nation is incredibly successful at cycling – the GB cycling team win gold, silver and bronze medals every year in lots of different sports competitions, including the Olympics, the World Track and Road Championships and the World BMX Championships.
So why can I barely make it up a small hill?
The average Briton should really start thinking more positively about cycling and embrace all of its benefits. You save calories, money and CO2, and the health benefits, according to Cambridge University, include prevention of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. I can’t help but feel we’re all missing a very easy way to get fitter.
Trying to fit 3 sets of 30 minute-exercise per week can be challenging for someone working 9 to 5. But merging exercise into your commute is essentially killing two metaphorical birds with one environmentally-friendly stone.
The impact on the environment if more Britons turned to cycling would be huge. The National Geographic reported that cycling just 5 miles every day instead of driving an average sized car would reduce your household emissions by 6%. In Denmark, the average person cycles 600 miles every year, while the average Briton only cycles 80. The Guardian reported in 2011 that if the whole of the EU matched the Danes in this way, we could cut the transport greenhouse gases by 25%. Current EU legislation only has a target of reducing these emissions by 10% by 2020 – it’s possible to reach and surpass this target if the public start to take greener modes of transport, and a commute to work is the perfect place to start.
Award-winning Pleasecycle is already used by many companies and organisations as a way to engage employees in being environmentally responsible. So far, they have saved 593 metric tons of CO2, which is the equivalent of 42.5 return flights from London to Tokyo. Now the Legal Sector Alliance are joining the movement in the form of a Travel Challenge, and from 20 June to 20 July many will be switching their cars and taxis to bikes and trainers!
Just a 20% increase in British cycling would save the economy £207 million from reduced traffic congestion, and £71 million from lower pollution levels.
I couldn’t think of a reason I – or the rest of us – shouldn’t be on a bike if I tried.