Earlier this summer we launched our Get Britain Riding campaign (in conjunction with B’Twin and Decathlon), with the aim of getting more people on bikes. The idea is that if you’re already a rider you persuade a friend(s) to join you on a bike ride(s) or, if you want to start riding, you pledge to ride as many miles as you can. If you’ve not signed up yet, then make sure that you click here – you’ll be entered into a draw to win a brand new B’Twin bike!
That’s a tasty incentive of course, but nothing should hit the spot quite like a promise of a longer life and a much reduced chance of cancer and heart disease. These were the big findings of a recent study at the University of Glasgow that found cycling to work cut the risk of death from any cause by 41 per cent, cancer by 45 per cent and heart disease by 46 per cent when compared with those people who didn’t have an active commute. This was the biggest-ever study of its kind, too, five years in the making and involving 250,000 UK commuters. In the words of Donald Trump this is really, really great stuff.
It does, however, merely crystallise what you already knew as a cyclist – to go any further would be preaching to the choir. What it needs is for us, as cyclists, to ensure that this message not only gets to a wider audience, but it stays with them long enough to make a meaningful impact. Given that I first saw this report on BBC Breakfast, the first part isn’t so much of a problem. It’s the second part that’s trickier, making sure it hasn’t been forgotten before the first coffee of the day’s been quaffed. That’s where you come in, hammering home the idea to your friends and family that cycling to work, one of the best and most popular routes into the sport of cycling, is almost without downsides. For a lot of people exercise is about willpower, or lack thereof. However, unlike going to the gym, where you’re in danger of sloping round a room lifting things up before putting them back down in the same place, cycling to work is multi-functional. As Dr Jason Gill, who worked on the Glasgow study, says, “you need to get to work every day so if you built cycling into the day it essentially takes willpower out of the equation.”
For many, the issue of safety puts would-be commuters off. Again, you can help. Forget car sharing, why not try the cycling equivalent (and I don’t mean riding a tandem – though please, by all means, do). Accompanying your friend in the early stages of their rides to work, or weekend leisure rides, as I’m doing with my better half at the moment, is the best way to show them the ropes and the dos and don’ts, and help them feel comfortable on the roads. Learner drivers get instructors, why shouldn’t novice cyclists get the same? You could both lobby your workplace for better facilities, like showers and secure lock-ups, too, and encourage them to make the most of a Cycle to Work scheme. With the days long and warm, this is the best time of year to bring them into the church. Be sure to make it count.