Hopefully you’ll be enjoying a day off work through today’s bank holiday - but Wiggle says that this week is the biggest of the year for commuting by bicycle. The AA has teamed up with the online cycling retailer to urge motorists to be vigilant for cyclists, and to give advice to people travelling to work by bike for the first time.
Wiggle’s assertion that more people take to two wheels to arrive at their workplace this week more than any other in the year is based on analysis of sales data from the past four years, which it says build up to it, the absence of school traffic, and better weather.
The latter may be hard to believe for anyone waking up to drizzle on a what is an unseasonably cool morning in London, for example, though the forecast from the Met Office following a fortnight of unseasonably poor weather is for warmer and drier conditions later in the week.
AA president Edmund King, who often commutes by bike himself and has called for an end to the “two tribes” mentality that sees cyclists and motorists pigeonholed into separate groups even though most adult bike riders are likely to own a car, welcomed the finding that more people are taking to bikes at this time of year.
However, he said: “There will be a lot of inexperienced riders among these and it can be very threatening and dangerous when a car passes too closely.
“We’re therefore asking drivers to think about the space they give and to create as much as possible. And asking new riders to think about road positioning, to make sure they are as visible as possible to the drivers behind them and in the mirrors of the drivers in front.
“This was the positioning advocated in our ‘Think Bikes’ sticker campaign which was launched earlier this year,” he added.
Chris Peck of national cyclists’ organisation CTC emphasised that while the perception of danger puts many off cycling, it is safer than many other everyday activities.
“Cycling is one of the safest activities and one of the fastest ways to commute, in fact you’re more likely to be injured while gardening than cycling,” he said.
“Its health benefits are considerable too, with cyclists living two years longer, on average, than non-cyclists and those regularly commuting by bike have a much lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.”
He went on: “Many councils provide excellent one-on-one training to help teach you how to cycle with more confidence and in ways that will keep you safer – have a look on your council’s website to find out more.”
Wiggle says that each year, the Tour de France causes more people to search online for information about bicycles, as well as a sales spike in all kinds of bicycles, not just road bikes,
While British cyclists saw slim pickings from this year’s Tour, Adam Ryan from Wiggle said that the successes of Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the previous three editions of the race had “led to a love affair with two wheels in the UK and each year there is spike in sales and searches around the Tour.
“This is for both high end racers and every-day commuters and, with the Tour starting in Yorkshire and with the likes of Laura Trott and Jo Rowsell winning gold at the Commonwealths, this spike has started early and has continued strongly,” said Adam Ryan of Wiggle.
“The highest sales of the summer typically happen in late July and early August and this, combined with the reduced school-holiday traffic levels means people make the switch to two wheels to avoid overheating while sat in a stationary car or on a packed bus or tube. And while the weather has been changeable of late, temperatures are predicted by the Met Office to rise again during this week.”
Wiggle also said that independent bike shops were also experiencing similar sales patterns, and Luke Finlay, who owns and runs Bike UK in Bristol and Ralph Colman in Taunton, said: “There has been a huge rise in cycling in recent years and these aren’t just languishing in garages. We give free servicing for life and a six week check up on bikes sold and they are, invariably, brought back having been well used and loved.”
According to Wiggle, road and utility bike sales rose by 44 per cent in July compared to the previous month, and sales for the opening six months of 2014 are up 55 per cent against the comparable period last year. It also says that Google Trends show an 11 per cnet rise in people searching for “bike review” compared to June, and a 27 per cent rise in searches for “cycling.”
Ryan added: “Even with Cavendish and Froome out of the Tour, we’ve still seen a good spike in traffic and sales, suggesting the Tour’s Yorkshire stages, as well as recent successes haven’t dimmed the enthusiasm for cycling,”
The retailer also cited cycle safety tips from behavioural psychologist Crawford Hollingworth, inventor of the Brainy Bike Light, who said that “very simple changes can significantly improve safety.”
His advice is:
1 - Change your route: this takes you off autopilot and improves rider alertness
2 - Use flashing and static lights – research shows that flashing lights improve alertness and static ones help drivers judge perspective and distance more easily
3 - Use reflective clothing on the lower legs – movement catches the eye more easily
4 - Ride defensively – drivers are also on autopilot so position yourself away from the kerb and give parked cars a door’s width of space
5 - Don’t dazzle drivers – using a light that is too powerful can dazzle drivers and make it harder for them to judge distance.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.