Commuting on a regular basis?
So if like my wife and myself you commute on a regular basis. Wether it's work, school, college or any other form of commuting. If you're one of the growing masses jumping astride your bike to make that short journey, you've already made a conscious decision to make a difference. The difference could be environmental, physical, fitness or any other reason, the one thing is you've made your choice.
With so many changes currently happening around the country aimed at making cycling more of an acceptable every day option, cycle commuting has never been as attractive. There are transport interchanges offering bike storage facilities amongst many of the changes, it's now becoming so much easier and more possible to make that journey by bike, bus or train. Leave the car at home, give it a try, just one day a week can make a difference.
In light of recent cycling accidents that have cost lives is it any wonder cyclists are choosing to leave the bike in the garage and go back to tried and trusted methods of commuting.
Read further and let's try and dispel any fears you may have about commuting and convince you that overall it can be a safe way to get to your destination, I've been commuting for more years now than I care to recall. Following a few basic safety principles I see no reason why we can't cycle on a daily basis in relative safety, every form of transport carries it's own risks, identifying those risks can help in reducing our exposure to danger spots.
What can we do to help ourselves?
- Be seen - Bright lights, bright clothing, reflective strips, anything that gets you noticed is doing exactly what it says on the tin.....it gets you noticed
- Know your route - Just as it says, by knowing where you're going and not looking for signs and other things you can focus all your attention on the more important safety things.
- Have the right gear - Doesn't have to be expensive gear, but just a few simple things like a helmet, lights, a bag to carry your gear in, all these things make sure your attention is where it needs to be.
- Obey the rules of the road - You're cycling on the road, not a mix of road and pavement, obey the rules of the road and together we can raise the respectability of cyclists. If the lights are red, stop and wait, you've chosen to use the road so stick to the road and the rules that go with it. Mobile phones, motorists can't use them whilst driving and neither should cyclists. Headphones just mask everything around you and hearing after all is one of your best early warnings of approaching vehicles. I just think that if I won't do it whilst driving a car, I Won't do it whilst riding my bike.
- Look at a cycle training course - Bikeability or a similar course can show you simple things of what you may be doing wrong and in turn make your cycle journey that much safer. Most of us learned to cycle as kids, but how many of us have had any formal training? How scary a thought of allowing someone to drive on our roads just because they can drive, motorists go through an awful lot of training, if you're new or coming back to cycling after a lay off, think about a few hours with a professional, it may save your life
- Be aware of everything around you - In a busy street I constantly scan front, side and rear views. Just a quick glance over my shoulder but to the front and side, I want to know who's there and try anticipate what they intend to do. In particular I'm looking for pedestrians stepping out in front of me, I'm silent on my bike so I want to be a step ahead
- Sit up tall - Down on the bars doesn't belong in city streets, sit up tall and be seen. I took my motorbike test a few years ago and the instructor gave me a really good tip, when you're in slower moving traffic, make yourself as tall as possible, done by simply raising your head and shoulders.
- Stay out of the gutter - The gutter really isn't a pleasant place to be... Riding in the gutter may encourage a motorist to pass you when there may not be enough room to do so safely. You also have nowhere to go if you encounter any obstacle in your way, apart from out into the road. If that car is passing when there isn't really enough room to do so, you may be forced out into their path..RECIPE FOR DISASTER. We're not saying cycle in the middle of the road, but I generally say at least a grates width away.
- Don't weave through standing traffic - There's so much danger with this it really isn't worth doing. If there's a clear cycle lane down the inside of a queue of traffic, you should still proceed with great care, watching all the time for signs of a vehicle making a left turn. I make a point of never undertaking a moving vehicle near to a junction on the left.
- Make eye contact - A couple of danger hot-spots that I can think of is passing a junction on my left and roundabouts, passing an entrance to the roundabout. These are more dangerous because as a motorist approaches a junction either normal road or roundabouts it's very easy for the driver to look beyond and straight through you. If ever I'm in doubt that I've been seen I will stop until I know they've seen me or they move on.
- Making a change in direction? Do your lifesaver - Check over your shoulder before altering direction, just a quick glance can save you moving into a space that's already or about to be occupied
What are the benefits of regular cycling?
It's a proven fact that regular exercise has enormous benefits, below are a few of those benefits
- Aerobic workout - Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness notably. Some experts say cycling can cut your risk of coronary heart disease in half
- Daily workout X 2 - If you cycle to work, you've got to cycle home, you therfore get 2 workouts each day
- Stress reduction - Commuting by car can be a major stress point of each day, on the other hand cycling to work can allow you to arrive for work more relaxed than any car journey
- Improves co-ordination & balance - Co-ordination comes as second nature, you need skills to co-ordinate all your doing and make it all work. Cycling, observing, exercise getting the right gear - all requires co-ordination, the balance is all part of cycling
- Burns calories & builds stamina - This is a win win for all concerned. Burning those calories to keep us in shape is what most of us strive for. Building stamina can allow you to go further at the weekends
These are just a few of the benefits of commuting, your a little less tired when around loved ones, more energy in general. Go on, give it a go, one day a week to begin