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But safety is still a big obstacle to bike commuting.

Research published in the American Journal of Health Behaviour and reported by the British Psychological Society found that people cycle to work often inspire their colleagues to do the same.

The study, led by Melissa Bopp, of Pennsylvania State university examined 1,234 surveys, which included questions related to how people travel to and from work.

They found that people were more likely to commute by bike or on foot, dubbed ‘active commuting’ by the researchers, if their spouses or colleagues approved of them not sitting in a car turning to lard.

The researchers also found that people who were confident of their cycling skills were more likely to ride to work, and that it helps if you believe your bike commute doesn’t take very long.

Safety first

Chartered Psychologist Dr Frank Eves from the University of Birmingham points out that many factors influence whether people choose to ride for transport. Previous research in the Netherlands showed that speed of journey, perceived skills to cope with detours, heavy bags and inclement weather were all influences, but apart from getting tired, health-related factors were not.

Dr Eves said that the finding that co-workers and partners may influence an individual’s active commuting is an interesting observation, but pointed out that safety is still a big issue.

He said: “Lack of safe cycle lanes is a particular barrier to cycling as is the volume of vehicle traffic. That is typically overcome in the Netherlands but can be an issue in the UK, as it was in the study in the US by Bopp and co-workers.

“Active commuting can be positively associated with fitness and inversely associated with body mass, obesity, triglycerides, blood pressure and insulin, so it is an attractive public health option, and removal of potential barriers would be a good idea. 

“One simple technique I have noticed in Barcelona is a separation of bicycles from cars on existing roads by attaching hard rubber, raised diagonals to the road surface at intervals such that any car wheel straying onto them would result in high levels of vibration within the car to warn the driver."

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.