So why don’t more people bike to work?
A survey run by American psychologists in March looked into the psychological barriers to bike commuting. I’ve taken it as my responsibility as a keen cycle-commuter to prove these excuses are just that: excuses.
BUSTED! Reason no.1
Potential riders perceived bicycle commuters as young, energetic and physically fit people, with special clothes or gear.
Age is nothing but a number. Nuff said. Some people laughed when I said I gave my 80 year old grandma a webcam for her birthday but she’s one of millions of silver surfers now. Biking, like an internet connection is good for all ages, with as much exercise and challenge as you want to do.
BUSTED! Reason no.2
Potential riders are worried about how to maintain a professional image if they cycle to work.
Simple solution: take a change of clothes. I don’t shower when I get to work (due to my relatively short commute), but I make sure I wear an outfit with tights and skirt/shorts comb, or a leggings/skinny trousers based outfit so I don’t get caught up in baggy hems and bulky outfits. I wear a sports bra when I can get away with it (more comfy – still a tomboy at heart! ***link***), and I swap over my top when I arrive. It’s a bit of fiddling around when I arrive, but leaving for home I cycle in what I wore at work. No one cares what I look like when I get home and jump straight in the shower! Your office may have shower facilities you don’t know about; might be worth asking the office manager.
Bad case of helmet hair? Don’t do your hair before you leave home, ladies – just take your products with you. Travel-sized ones will limit the weight gain in your bags.
What’s more professional than someone taking care of their body? You’ll live longer, feel happier, and work more productively, I guarantee, and your boss will love that!
BUSTED! Reason no.3
Potential riders felt they couldn’t commute because they have to have a car available for running errands, carrying bulk items and childcare responsibilities.
I shop more in a ‘little and often’ way now, so this helps a lot when I make a run for the groceries. I have a set of panniers which I am happy to fill. I have been known to have two bottles of squash, a laptop, a bag of rice, a lunchbox and my handbag in them on a normal work day, so I know it’s possible to carry a load. Kiddies wise, you can get some brilliant kid-cargo trailers. I saw a few from £60 at the weekend, and I look forward to the day I have a little one behind me. I imagine us singing (maybe just me!) as we pedal along. Again, just me! Biking as a family won’t stop as we grow into a family with kids.
BUSTED! Reason no.4
Potential riders are worried about safety – cycling in the dark and other road users a particular concern.
Biking can be dangerous, but not if you’re careful. Where I live there’s lots of dedicated bike paths. These are perfect for traffic-free travel and often go through some gorgeous countryside views.
“Be safe, be seen” is the old phrase I was taught at school. Throw on a hi-vis jacket, make sure your lights work if you’re cycling into the evening, and try to stick to well-lit routes.
It goes without saying, but I’m saying it again. Always wear a helmet, folks! They’re called ‘crash cups’ and ‘brain buckets’ for a reason – people crash and the brain is protected by the helmet. "American Family Physician" reports that head injuries cause the most fatalities and long-term disabilities when it comes to cycling accidents, with approximately 22-47% of injured cyclists experiencing head injuries. .Need another reason? I think not, but here’s 10 Reasons To Wear A Bike Helmet from @bicyclehabitat to make sure you’ve got the message.
So, really, the dangerous sides to cycling can be managed to a large degree. Arguably, NOT cycling could be worse for your health than jumping on your two-wheeler.
This wasn’t a result of the American survey but I can envisage this is a problem for some wannabe riders too…
BUSTED! Reason no.5
Potential riders don’t have a bike and/or are worried about maintaining it.
Don’t own a bike in the first place? Jump on your choice of eBay, Gum Tree, Craigslist for very reasonable prices on second hand bikes… Wait for the holiday sales in the big stores… Check to see if your company does a cycle to work scheme (UK version gives you a tax free bike)... Get down the local re-furbishers… Ask around - you might even get a free one if you work your sales pitch!
There are more and more cycle maintenance shops and services popping up – four in my local area alone! – but you don’t always have to pay. Most basic maintenance is just that: basic. Oil the chain, adjust the brakes, keep it clean – even I can handle that. However, consider if there is a future mechanic or engineer teen living next door? They may enjoy fiddling with your bike and improving it. Have you seen the latest Royal Navy recruitment advert on TV? “If I can fix a bike, I can fix a car. If I can fix a car, I can fix a military helicopter.” [abridged] You could inspire a young mind – and get yourself a free servicing too!
BUSTED! Reason no.6
Potential riders are worried for the safety of their bike while at work.
This is pure fluff. There is nearly always somewhere safe to store your bike, and if in the unlikely event there isn’t, request it! I would avoid chaining your bike to private fences or railings, but there should be somewhere near to your work you can lock it up. Make sure you have a good lock (or two, if you have concerns about your wheels ‘walking off’). Remember to take anything you keep in your panniers with you – the scruffiest hoodie might join your wheels in disappearing, so don’t leave anything behind. I recommend a lock on a chain form, not a D-lock, as they’re lighter to carry and more flexible when you need to chain your bike to an awkward signpost or fence post.
The survey did have some positive results…
The consensus seems to be that if your co-workers ride, there’s a morale boost right there with chat about your journey, how fast you were today, comradery around the wet weather experiences etc. It was also seen that cycling was a good was to de-stress after a day at work. And boy, are they right there. My 10-15 minute ride home works wonders – and I beat the traffic jams.
Would you consider it and join me in cycling to work?
See what Treehugger has to say about how we can get more people on bikes.
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Born to be a Tourist