Happier, healthier, wealthier: as easy as riding a bike

Image by Dodo on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Photo by Dodo on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons licence.

If you cycle occasionally for fun or fitness, then this post is to help you to take the next step and get happier, healthier and wealthier by commuting to work by bike. It will help you to identify the barriers to cycling to work and give you some basic, practical steps towards overcoming them. But let’s start by looking at the benefits.

Why cycle?

You’ll be happier. Cycling is proven to improve emotional health, having a positive effect on wellbeing, self-confidence and resistance to stress. It also helps to reduce tiredness and difficulties sleeping.* People who have switched to commuting by bike consistently remark on how much less stressful it is than other forms of transport and how cycling improves their sense of happiness and wellbeing.

You’ll be healthier. Cycling is fantastic exercise. It helps you to lose weight and build muscle without putting too much strain on your joints. A recent study found people who cycle to work have a 39% lower mortality rate than those who do not and argued that cycling to work ‘can yield much the same health benefits as doing a specific training programme’.*

You’ll be wealthier. Savings website Pound a Day says the average commute in the UK is an 8.7 mile car journey, costing £2,250 a year or £6.16 every day. The combined cost of a very good bicycle, Gold Secure standard lock, waterproof panniers and two full services (regular cycle commuters should service their bikes at least once a year) comes to just under £850: even if you bought a brand new bike every year, cycling to work would still represent a substantial saving on the average car commute or many rail season tickets. Even with top-notch wheels and accessories, cycling to work will make you wealthier in the long run.

Know Your Route

Whether you currently drive, walk, or use public transport to get to work, the chances are the best route to take by bike won’t be the one you take now. There are fantastic online resources for sniffing out two-wheeled tricks to avoid traffic and get you to work as fresh and stress-free as possible. Cyclestreets (which also has an excellent app), Google Maps and Transport Direct (which also has a CO2 calculator so you can feel even better about your two-wheeled self) all have cycle route planners. There’s no substitute, though, for first-hand knowledge and experience: talk to regular cycle commuters, ask them for tips on where to go and tricks to avoid the worst traffic black spots.

Once you’ve got a good idea of the best route to take, do as much of a recce as you can, preferably when there’s not too much traffic around. If you know the road layout ahead, it’s easier to stay safe in heavy traffic or bad weather when you’re on your way to work.

Confidence

Even the most meticulous route planning often can’t entirely avoid busy rush-hour traffic and for many people the greatest obstacle to commuting by bike is an entirely understandable reluctance to mix it with buses, cars and lorries. Here are two straightforward steps to help boost your cycling confidence and equip you with the necessary skills to deal with busy sections of your commute:

Find out about expert training in your area. You wouldn’t drive a car to work before your first driving lesson and unless you’re a confident and experienced road user you shouldn’t cycle to work without some basic training either. The Department for Transport’s Bikeability programme provides adult cycle training and many local authorities and employers offer it for free or at heavily subsidised rates. You can book a session to ride to work with your instructor and talk over any difficult junctions or traffic black spots so you have specific guidance tailored to your own commute.

Team up with a colleague or a neighbour. If you know someone who works with or near you and cycles to work, ask if you can meet them and ride in together for a week or two. Even the busiest and most daunting commute will feel much more achievable if you can tuck in behind an experienced cyclist, follow their line and learn their tricks for dealing with busy junctions or confusing roundabouts. Most cycle commuters are enthusiastic about cycling and will be glad to help someone make the transition to commuting by bike.

Equipment

Unless your commute is a substantial distance or over tricky terrain, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a high-end bike and fancy clothing and accessories. However, if you are going to ride to work every day it is worth making sure you can commute comfortably and carry the necessary luggage. If you don’t have a bike or there’s only a rusting death-trap in the garden shed, then consider borrowing or hiring one for a week to see how you find it. If you live near a Brompton Dock you can try cycling to work a few times for less than £20 and increasingly bike shops are offering good, well-equipped bikes for short-term hire at reasonable prices. If you decide cycling to work is for you, it is well worth looking into Cyclescheme: if your employer is signed up you can make substantial savings on new bikes and equipment.

Other than a bike, you don’t need to worry too much: the majority of people who cycle to work do so in their work clothes. If you want to ride to work whatever the weather or if you have a demanding route, water-proof panniers and/or a change of clothes at work might help: through trial and error you’ll quickly work out the routine and equipment that suit you best. (There is also a substantial corner of the internet dedicated to information about cycling gear if you need guidance). The only ‘must’ is to make sure you have a good lock: the police recommend spending at least a tenth of the value of your bike on a lock.

Bike storage. Photo by Malcolm K on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Bike storage. Photo by Malcolm K on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons licence.

Your Employer

Your workplace might already have secure bike storage, cycle showers and lockers: sometimes facilities for people who ride to work are tucked away and not very well advertised, so it’s worth asking around to see what’s available. If there aren’t any facilities for cycle commuters, persuade them that there should be. They might not be aware of the benefits of a two-wheeled workforce: research suggests that cycling to work can halve sick days and happier and healthier employees are more productive and highly motivated.** Plus encouraging cycling is a must for any organisation – and it should be every one – that cares about the environment and its green credentials. So if there are no facilities ask your employer why and persuade them that installing a shower and some secure bike storage will be worth their while.

Enjoy!

If you follow these simple suggestions, overcoming the barriers you face to cycling to work won’t be a big deal. Once you’ve got hold of a bike, worked out your route and got expert advice you can take the plunge and cycle into work a few times. You’ll quickly start to enjoy it and feel the benefits and hopefully you’ll stick at it and in a year or two you’ll struggle to remember how – or why – you ever travelled to work any other way. Surely there’s no better way to get happier, healthier and wealthier than simply by changing your traveling routine: it’s as easy as riding a bike.

 

* Cycling & Health: What’s the Evidence – a report by the Public Health advisors to Cycling England

** Sustrans report based on Office of National Statistics evidence

 

Thomas speaks at TEDx Atlanta

Watch Love to Ride Founder – Thomas Stokell – speak at TEDx Atlanta.

Thomas shares his thoughts and experience on how it is entirely possible to get more people enjoying cycling.

If there is anyone who you work with who doesn’t think that…

investing in cycling infrastructure & behaviour change programmes
=
more people cycling

…then send them a link to this short 5 minute video.

1 Million More People Riding

1 Million More People Riding

We’ve recently set ourselves a target of getting 1 million new people to take up riding.

Doing the maths

We’ve estimated that if we spread Love to Ride to 26 Countries and get similar results to those which we’ve achieved in the England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Australia, then we can get 2 million new people riding over 10 years.  This analysis has given us the confidence that we can achieve our 1 million new riders target.

Getting to scale

We’ve spent the last 8 years and more than £3,000,000 developing, trialling and enhancing our (now rather sophisticated) approach to influencing people’s behaviour and encouraging more people to enjoy cycling.  We’ve nailed it – now it’s time to scale it!

To achieve this we will work in thousands of towns and cities around the world, partnering with with councils, local advocacy groups and millions of existing riders. We’ve got a plan and we’ll keep you posted with developments.

How many people can we get cycling in your city?

Typically a Workplace Cycle Challenge involves between 600 to 3,000 people (largely dependant on population size).  On average, 30% of participation is from non-cyclists and 82% of non-cyclists continue riding after the Challenge (54% take up riding weekly!).  So about 25% of participants in a Challenge will become new riders in your city each year!

You can read more about the typical behaviour change outcomes that we achieve here.

Love to Ride 2013 – results speak volumes

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.47.51With the latest round of 44 LSTF(2) awards now confirmed across England, we take a look at last year’s LSTF-funded programme outcomes to see how our mix of technology, creativity, and good old human interaction is working better than ever at getting more people enjoying cycling.

In 2013, Challenge for Change fully rolled out the new Love to Ride platform, delivering Cycle Challenge programmes in towns and cities across Britain. As far apart in the UK as Jersey, York, Swansea and Belfast, Love to Ride criss-crossed the country on a mission to get as many people as possible in the saddle and enjoying cycling.

Our 2013 LSTF programme results include:

  • 16,591 participants from 1,069 organisations
  • 113,591 trips were logged, altogether cycling a staggering 1,120,620 miles – that’s almost 5 times the distance from Earth to the moon!

These numbers show that Love to Ride’s Cycle Challenges in 2013 got a lot of pedals turning, but in order to measure their success in changing behaviour, it is necessary to look at the data in more detail.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.42.07

Data Collection Method

Participants complete a short but crucial baseline survey when they registered on Love to Ride. By measuring this data against the results of follow-up surveys conducted at key intervals after each Challenge, we can analyse how each Challenge led to positive changes in behaviour, encouraging people to take up cycling as both a leisure activity and for transport.

The analysis shows: more people cycling, more often

Here’s what the Challenge programmes achieved in 2013:

  • 54% of non-cyclists now cycle at least once a week (up from 40% in 2012)
  • 35% of non-cyclists now cycle to work at least once a week (up from 31% in 2012)
  • 42% occasional cyclists now cycle regularly (down from 43% in 2012)

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.43.27

Love to Ride’s Cycle Challenges also proved effective in encouraging participants to cycle to work.

  • 24% ‘occasional’ cycle commuters now commute by bike regularly (increased from 1-4 times a month to 2-5 days a week)
  • 28% of driving commuters now drive to work at least two days fewer per week

An average of 8% of those who tend to drive to work said that three months after their Challenge, they cycled to work more than they commuted by car: in some locations this figure was as high as 17%.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.46.10

Therefore, Love to Ride’s Challenges were not only successful in getting people on to bicycles, they were effective in getting people out of cars.

We work with local authorities across the UK and create programmes to match every budget. To discuss how Love to Ride can work in your area, please call Sam on +44 (0)7734 833451, or drop an email to sam@lovetoride.net.

 

Introducing… Love to Ride 2.0

Earlier this year we publicly released our new Behaviour Change framework, the new Love to Ride brand and our new lovetoride.org partner-facing site.

We are now proud to announce that our new Love to Ride 2.0 web platform and Smartphone app 2.0.1 are now available to over 250 towns and cities across the UK and overseas.

Love to Ride Lancashire

Drawing on 8+ years of Workplace Cycle Challenge data, behaviour change theory, and the latest thinking in using technology to influence behaviour, we’ve further enhanced our web platform and app.

The new site design and functionality are clean, crisp and easy to navigate.  Early feedback from our partners and participants has been very positive.  The site looks great!

Here are a few features that are part of Love to Ride 2.0.

Targeted announcements

Screenshot 2014-06-20 12.25.00    Screenshot 2014-06-20 12.22.07

A key element of our behaviour change framework is ensuring that relevant information is delivered to the right audience – this makes our approach much more effective than a one size fits all communication from another website.

Announcements are now set to target different types groups of people, e.g.

  • Non-cyclists who lack confidence see announcements about cycle training and tips and tricks, guided rides, etc.
  • Regular recreational riders see messages about cycling to work and encouraging more people to try riding.

Smartphone app

Having launched our first version last year with much success, we are now onto v2.0.1, which has our new design and a few new functions and improvements.  Download it here.

Smart Phone AppSmart Phone App

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Social

We’ve added new social features to the site including commenting on photos, sharing content on other social media and giving ‘high fives’ (similar to the ‘Like’ button on Facebook) which will allow you to give other people a high five for various activity on the site (e.g. a friend of yours logs a 12 mile ride to work and you give them a high five for their efforts!)

High Fives

We’re always working to improve the Love to Ride web platform to make sure it’s the best online tool out there for encouraging more people to taking up riding. We’ve exciting new developments planned for the next phase and to take us through into 2015 and beyond.

If you’ve got any suggestions or ideas, we’d love to hear them, so do get in touch.