Cyclists across the UK – whether seasoned commuters, or those travelling to work on two wheels for the first time – are gearing up for today’s national Cycle to Work Day, with thousands pledging to do their bit.
There’s a host of activities taking place across the country to coincide with it, and some of those who have previously switched to commuting on two wheels have been sharing their stories. Meanwhile, electric bikes are being touted as a way into cycling for some who are perhaps worried about their fitness.
In Manchester, besides encouraging people to ditch other modes of transport in favour of bicycles tomorrow, a cycling challenge lasting until the end of September has been launched with prizes on offer for workplaces logging the most journeys during the month.
Councillor Chris Paul, City of Manchester Council’s cycling champion and a committee member of Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “Cycling is a healthy, affordable and sustainable travel choice for everyone, so whether it’s taking your bike to work for a day, or taking part in the month-long Better By Cycle Challenge, we want people to give it a go.
“We’re aiming to change Greater Manchester’s travel culture and increase cycling from two per cent to 10 per cent of all journeys made over the next ten years. Initiatives like these are a great way to help us move closer to that target and get people on their bikes in a healthier, greener region.”
In Bristol, employers including Nokia, the NHS and law firm Osborne Clarke will be providing free breakfasts for staff who arrive at work by bike.
Among those getting in the saddle tomorrow will be the city’s mayor, George Ferguson, who said: "Commuting to work by bike is a great way to keep fit. It naturally incorporates exercise into daily life and certainly helps me feel more alert.
"I will be cycling to City Hall on September 4 for Cycle to Work Day," he added.
So far almost 16,000 cyclists have pledged to ride to work tomorrow via the Cycling to Work website, and together they will be riding an aggregate of almost a quarter of a million miles.
Training provider Cycle Experience, which works alongside local councils to help get job seekers mobile, has highlighted the stories of some people whose lives have changed after they started commuting by bike,.
They include storeman Craig Burns of Maltby, who shed two stones and saves £560 a year on travel after taking up his local council’s offer of a free electric bike, under a Try Cycling and Job Assist scheme run by the company. He said: “I've saved money, lost weight and done my bit for the environment.”
Another person to benefit from the company’s work is Rebecca Ardern from Rotherham, who enquired about getting a bike through her local Job Centre and now rides it to her job as a teaching assistant.
She said: "I saw the bike advert in the Job Centre when I was signing on looking for work and used it to ride to my new job. It's a brilliant scheme and got me back into cycling, something I haven't done since I was a teenager."
Bitten by the cycling bug, she now attends cycling festivals with her husband, also a convert to two wheels, with their toddler coming along in a child seat.
Paul Gibson from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council said using electric bikes was "almost as convenient" as owning a car.
He added: "Job Assist is completely free and open to Rotherham residents or people who commute into the Borough. Full support is given and we offer one to one cycle training for riders who want to brush up their riding skills."
Nick Moon from Cycle Experience, which has now helped around 500 people in the area to get cycling and which also provides Bikeability training, said: "Many have gone on to buy their own bike and are continuing to commute to work by bicycle."
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.