Cycling is a fantastic way of reducing air pollution, congestion and carbon emissions. So how do we encourage more people to ditch their cars and jump on their bikes?

Cycle to Work Day aims to do just this, so last September we decided to take part. This involved getting as many people at Bioregional as possible to cycle to work – either their full journey or part of it. Altogether, eight of us pledged to cycle a total of 84 miles to work and back on one September day.

I’d been contemplating buying a bicycle for ages so, for me, it was the nudge I needed.

A year on, I haven’t looked back…

Finding a new gear and overcoming the fear

In my former, bike-less London life, my fitness levels used to swing between low and non-existent.

After cycling to work regularly for nearly a year I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve reached Olympian standards, but my regular cycle to work helps me keep up a base level of fitness. Now, if I go on a jog having not run for a few weeks, my lungs don’t feel a need to re-enact the Alien chestburster scene.

Cycling is also a good way to reset my brain after work – it forces me into a different mindset as soon as I start pedalling. There’s plenty of research that provides evidence of the mental health benefits of exercising.

I know what you non-cyclists are thinking: cycling is too dangerous. And yes, that is an understandable fear. I still get a fright when a car drives past just a hair's breadth away. But overall, I’m much more confident on the road.

There’s help available too. Transport for London offers free training courses to improve your confidence, and Cycle Scheme and a book called Cyclecraft have lots of good advice. For instance, Cycle Scheme offers advice on how to plan your route to avoid busy roads.

Don’t just take my word for it

But don’t just take my word for it about the benefits of cycling, and how to get started. Here’s what some of Bioregional’s other cycling converts say:

Suzannah Gore

“Perception is powerful - once I'd tried it I realised it wasn't as far or as difficult as I'd made myself believe. And it’s OK to be realistic and flexible. I don't cycle every single day because it doesn't always fit with my other plans, but cycling some days is better than none.

It’s helped me add exercise into my busy schedule without noticing it and I usually get an endorphin kick even when I don't initially feel like cycling. And I enjoy the thinking time!”

Tom Schuurman

“It’s been a great way to unwind from a day in the office. Not having to use unreliable public transport has also been a big advantage – saving loads of time not hanging around stations or bus stops.”

Marina Goodyear, who rides an e-bike

“It’s made me realise how much difference ‘free range’ exercise makes to my mood, outlook and ability to concentrate. There is also SO much money to be saved – I can charge my e-bike for pennies, vs £10 return rail tickets. Oh, and I can charge it anywhere I can use a normal plug socket.”

Just do it

My final thoughts? Just get stuck in. Starting to cycle is the best way of getting over any mental barriers or misconceptions you may have about it. The more you do it, the more confident you get.

Sure, there will always be the odd hairy moment. But as long as you keep your wits about you, you’ll soon realise it’s not that scary. And both you and the planet will be happier.

Read Marina’s blog about the benefits of e-biking on Medium.

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