So, I went to Cornwall for the first time in my life about two weeks ago. I had a blast, visited some amazing places, ate some amazing food, but in the process I destroyed my bank balance and my waistline! The next month is going to involve some serious recovery…
I’m pretty lucky – I don’t need to commute, because I work from home. (Or, it sometimes seems more accurate to say, I live at my work). My husband refuses to cycle to work because a) the route back is one mega hill, b) his bike is more unreliable than our car, and more importantly, c) he always has boxes of paperwork and a laptop to transport. So neither of us have much experience of commuting by bike. But, I know for some people it’s a tipping point for buying a bike, and in many cases, it can actually be faster to get to where you’re going by bike. But, is it cheaper?
There’s a handy website at http://www.cycletoworkcalculator.com/ which could help you work out how much money you can save by travelling to work by bike. It’s not perfect (and requires you to do some of the maths yourself in order work out how much your present commute costs per day), but it’s a good start to incentivizing people to cycle to work. With petrol prices going up all the time, it certainly something to consider.
I wonder, though, how many people cycle to work because they just like cycling? Shouldn’t that be your main reason? All of the cost and health benefits are really a bonus – and sort of pointless if you actually don’t enjoy the commute. Cycling is something you should do because it’s awesome, not because it’s ‘cheaper’. And, I really do wonder how much cheaper it really is – honestly, starting cycling from scratch, with a brand new bike and all the equipment, is not cheap. Yes, it pays off over time, but a bike isn’t a financial investment – it’s freedom on two wheels. Can I get a hells yeah?
But, of course, as the Cycle to Work Calculator site itself is the first to point out, sites like these are great for making you feel smug about your bike-bound commute. Saving the planet… yeah, cool. Looking stylish… great. Sailing past traffic… ha. SAVING THE MONEYS… AWESOME! May I get another hells yeah?
I’ve always enjoyed cycling, especially when I was a kid. One of my happiest memories was cycling round and round my block on my bike (pretending to be a train for some reason…), but as an adult, as I guess a lot of us do, I stopped cycling so much, and now I don’t even have a bike.
I currently work from home and so I don’t need a bike to commute. When I used to work the other side of town, I briefly flirted with the idea of cycling, because I had to catch a bus that took an hour to make what should have been a 20 minute journey. Unfortunately, I live at the top of a hill (which leads to another hill), so it’s very off-putting to think about travelling up it first thing in the morning. Also, at the time I was considering this, the weather was awful and it was really dark in the mornings. And, I was totally broke. My dad took me to the tip and we found a bike which was rideable (for £5!), and we got a helmet and some lights from the local bike shop, which cost about ten times more than the bike itself. The bike was pretty hard to ride, but to be honest, it wasn’t until I tried another friend’s bike several years later that I realised just how hard to cycle it was. Anyway, I told my boss I was cycling to work, and he was pretty keen that I didn’t, citing how dangerous it was and how tiring it would be. When I say pretty keen, what I mean was he basically said ‘No way’ and suggested one of the other guys from work give me a lift. Not wanting to make a fuss or try to circumvent him, I quietly nixed the idea, secretly glad I wouldn’t have to face that monstrous hill, and carried on commuting by bus.
Fast forward to last year, when my friend Rachel got a Trek mountain bike. It was summer, and I saw adverts for the SkyRide, which is where they shut down the roads in city centres across the country so that cyclists can take over the streets and generally have a blast. We did a couple of laps, her on her fancy bike, and me on my dump-cycle. I noticed she was having no problem tackling even slight hills, whereas for me it was like trying to pull a tractor on the back of the bike. So, we swapped bikes – what a revelation. I could actually cycle and it felt effortless. (Meanwhile, she could barely get mine going). I have to say I cycle on my exercise bike a lot – at one time, on average an hour a day at least four times a week – so I have no problem with fitness. I could have cycled around the city all day but eventually we had to go home… Even so, it was that that really made me realise that the enjoyment I got out of cycling wasn’t lost to me as an adult.
So, all it really took was another nudge to get me into the right direction…