For years active travel campaigners have been trying to persuade us to leave the car at home. They’ve shown us how expensive it is to run a car, they’ve told us about the environmental impact of cars, they’ve asked for segregated cycle lanes, wished for us to just try something different. And suddenly, we’ve all had a taste of discovering this for ourselves through our daily exercise. There’s a good chance you’ve not put fuel in your car since March – how much has that saved you? With few activities available, and fewer cars on the road, we’ve been riding our bikes. And now, with public transport limited and the prospect of gridlock if everyone gets in the car instead, the UK Government has launched a huge push to increase walking and cycling provision.
However, it’s one thing to go and ride you bike for your allocation of daily exercise, it’s another thing to do that as lockdown eases and we have places to be besides our homes. Here are eight top tips to help you move from using a bike for daily exercise, to using a bike as a daily habit.
1. Keep Planning Daily Exercise
In lockdown, you’ve become a master of planning and logistics. You’ve been staying home, only going out occasionally – doing a big shop rather than popping to the shop every night on the way home from work. That’s got you used to planning ahead – keep doing that. When you have to ‘chain’ your journey – joining up lots of tasks into one trip – it makes it harder to ride your bike. But, chaining your journey also gets a bunch of stuff done all in one go. Keep doing your advance planning, use the car or public transport on the days you need to do all your errands at once, and then leave yourself the quieter days with fewer errands for fitting a ride in. If you’re going to ride to work, maybe plan to take a bunch of clean clothes in on one day, leaving you with a lighter load for riding in on the other days.
2. Ride To Work
The best way to ride regularly is to fit riding into the things you need to do in a day – like getting to work – rather than making it an extra ‘exercise’ activity. If you can fit a commute in on the bike, you’ll do it regularly. You don’t have to do it every day – pick a day when logistics make it easiest. Riding to work once a week might just lead to to twice a week, and every time you don’t get in the car, you’re making a positive choice. It’s about forming the habit, and sticking with it – or picking it up again when the weather, or life, get in the way.
3. Use A Bike As Transport
Just as you’ve been asking yourself ‘do I really need to leave the house?’, ask yourself ‘do I really need to get in the car?’. If car journeys had to be booked like seats on a plane, would you be happy to book that slot knowing that it would mean there wasn’t room for someone else – an essential worker maybe – to make the journey that they needed? If the answer to that is ‘no’, then maybe it’s time to hop on your bike while you grab that emergency pint of milk, or loaf of bread. Save the car journey for another day when there’s no alternative and you can run a bunch of errands all at once.
4. Work from Home
For many, the case for working from home has now been proven. At least for a few days a week, or month, you probably don’t need to be in the office. How long does your usual commute take you? If you’re lucky it might be half an hour in the morning, and another half an hour in the afternoon. That’s a whole hour you can use for going for a daily exercise bike ride. Don’t stay in bed a little longer, don’t watch Neighbours – get yourself out on the bike, and see where you end up.
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5. Dress Down
Given that you’ve been working from home in your pyjamas and pants, maybe office attire isn’t quite so important as it once seemed? One of the logistical challenges of riding to work is getting your suit or uniform to your workplace. Maybe now is a good time to ask your employer for some flexibility to ‘dress down’ a little so that you can ride to work more easily? Smart trousers and a top rolled up in your ride pack might be a practical alternative to a full suit.
6. Re-Shape Your Work Space
The more people that can get to work safely, the better it is for your employer – would you rather share an office with people who have just walked or ridden to work, or people who have been on a train? It’s likely that your employer will be considering some kind of remodelling of the workplace to enable social distances to be maintained. While they’ve got people in to move things around, it’s a good time to have some storage and showers added to help more people walk or ride into work.
7. Ride With Your Kids
If you’ve been riding as a family, try and keep that up. It’s often a lot easier to get out as a family than it is to find the time to get out on your own while someone else is looking after your children, and it will help them work on their skills for when you might be ready to ride to school. Riding (or walking) to school can make a huge difference to local congestion, and will mean your children arrive at school awake and ready to learn. With the greater government emphasis on active travel, you may find new cycle lanes opening near you. Even if they’re temporary, use them, and if there’s lots of demand for them then hopefully they’ll become permanent.
8. Be Part of The Change
The fewer cars there are, the more pleasant it is to walk or cycle. The more people there are out on the road on bikes, the safer it feels to ride there. By making that trip by bike, you’re adding to those numbers, and adding to the demand for more safe cycle space. In just a few weeks, getting within two metres of someone has become socially unacceptable. Imagine if car journeys under two miles became equally frowned upon? Aside from aiding our ability control the spread of the virus while preventing gridlock, the long term environmental impact could be huge. All you need to do, is leave the car at home.
We’re not out of lockdown yet, but all those little rides out to the shop, or to work, or for daily exercise, will add up. After lockdown, your legs and body will be ready to start adding the miles, and exploring a little further. If you’re new to riding, you might be getting on the bike out of necessity, or public duty, or social responsibility, but the road ahead promises a world of fun. And for those of us who already know what it is to weave along a trail between blooming heather, under open skies, surely the prospect of a cycling revolution is just another excuse for more rides, and maybe another bike?
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