How many ways can you save time and money by cycling?

It may be stating the obvious but using a bike as your means of transport really can give your finances a boost. What’s perhaps less obvious, but actually no less accurate, is how much time you can save

Save money on transport

Cycling is by far the most efficient way to get around for the majority of city dwellers in terms of time and cost. Every time you choose your bike over public transport or your car, you are saving money.  For ease of comparison, we’ve done some educated estimates to compare the cost of using the tube and cycling to travel to work in London.

An annual travelcard for zones 1 to 2 is currently going for £1,320. Swapping for a bike equates to about 15 km round trip each day for most people (estimation aided by TfL’s geographically accurate map of of the London Tube and rail lines).

Assuming you are cycling into work 15 km each day, 5 days a week, all year round, you are looking at around £100 bike maintenance cost at most. For that amount of cycling, you will probably get yourself a quality bike along with accessories all for under £400. So for your first year of cycling into work in zones 1 to 2, it’s fair to say you can be looking at a saving of £820! And of course it only gets better from hereon in as you don’t have to buy a brand new bike every year.

If you are travelling between zones 3 and 4 or 2 and 3 instead, your annual travelcard for the tube is cheaper at £988. The practical distance you cover in these zones is around 10 km round trip each day. The bike maintenance cost for the year will be proportionally lower at around £66. Let’s make the (possibly sweeping) assumption that you are less keen on spending as much money on bikes and accessories as well, so might spend £300 altogether. In this scenario, you are still saving a whooping £622 in the first year!

Time is money
By: cea +

Time is money, so save time with cycling

Beat the traffic jam with cycling. Depending on where you live (and this is mostly true in cities), cycling can often get you to places much faster than motorised vehicles can. You don’t even need Bradley Wiggins’ legs or lungs! You can often access shortcuts not open to motorised traffic for an even more tranquil journey.

How about all that time you spend waiting for a train or bus? Without a doubt, using that time getting physical exercise on your bike is of much more benefit. The added bonus is that you are more in control of your journey; you can start your journey whenever you feel like it, know how long it’s going to take and no one will go on strike on you.

Give your health a boost

All the evidence shows that consistent, weekly exercise benefits the health of both body and mind. It’s a great option to combine your commute with exercise, thereby killing two birds with one stone, or you might just want to soak up the endless scenery as you zip along a country road.

Cycling is also a particular favourite for those looking for low impact exercise to limit aggravating overuse injuries from running and squash, for example.

Low cost hobby

You can spend as little or as much money as you want on your bike and cycling specific clothes and accessories. However, going out for a cycle ride costs you nothing other than your own energy! There’s no monthly membership, entry fee or any obligation to use any consumables.

Cycle to Work scheme

Who would have thought you can get tax free transport every day? Your employer just needs to have signed up with the Cycle to Work Scheme. You will then have a budget to purchase your bike and necessary accessories such as lights, locks, helmet, etc which will all be tax free! For exact details and eligibility, visit their website.

What to do with the saved money?Current Logo Blue

What you do with the money you’ve saved is up to you, obviously. You could buy more bike stuff or you could sponsor a bike with the charity we are supporting: The Bike Project. They fix up second-hand bikes and donate them to refugees and asylum seekers. Some of the bikes that they receive go on to be sold through The Bike Shop to ensure long-term sustainability. A bike is also donated to a refugee or asylum seeker for each bike sold. Pass on the cycling love, people!

Are London cyclists really six times healthier?

A recent press release from Brunel University contained the startling claim that London cyclists are 6 times healthier than those who use other means of transport for their commute. Unsurprisingly such an eye-catching claim generated plenty of press coverage as the story was picked up by the Evening Standard among others.

The most obvious question raised by the headline is what measure of health is being used, and what does it mean for one person to be six times healthier than another. Is their resting heart rate six times lower? Is their aerobic capacity six times higher? Will they live six times longer?

Brunel University Cycling ResearchThe answer is contained in the full report, which can be found in the Journal of Public Health here. By analysing Sport England’s Active People Survey the author discovered that ‘utility cyclists’ (more on this term later) were 4 times more likely than others to meet UK guidelines on amounts of physical activity. For those living in inner London the figure rises to 6 times, which leads us (sort of) to that press-friendly headline.

Of course, undertaking a certain minimum recommended amount of physical activity will not make somebody 6 times fitter than a person who does not. Indeed, someone who just exceeds the threshold may well be only marginally more healthy than somebody who falls just short, or indeed may be less fit once other dietary and lifestyle factors have been accounted for.

Nevertheless, we should be willing to forgive the misleading reporting as long as the overall effect is to communicate the important underlying message. Which is that an individual’s choice of transport can have a dramatic effect on their health. Or more succinctly: cycling to work will make you fitter.  All the evidence suggests that it can also improve your psychological well being, as well as your bank balance.

Build exercise into your daily routine

So how much physical activity should you be doing? Government guidelines suggest that adults (19-64) should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. One way of doing this would be to cycle a 15 minute journey each way, 5 times a week. When you consider that the average cycle commute in London is 9.3 miles, and so more likely to be around 45 minutes in each direction, it becomes clear that the majority of London cycle commuters will comfortably exceed the recommendation.

The great thing about choosing what are known as active travel options (walking or cycling) is that they incorporate exercise into your daily routine, increasing health using only time that would otherwise be spent sitting in a car or bus, or squashed into a tube carriage.

What is utility cycling?

Shopping by bike: Kamyar Adl

Interestingly the report only accounts for activity classed as ‘utility cycling’. This is defined as ‘cycling for purposes other than…health, recreation, training or competition’.  Riding a bike as a means of transport is the original and still the most common form of cycling, but this captures an important point – that to reap the health benefits offered by cycling you don’t need to don full lycra and head for the Alps, or spin a stationary bike in the gym, or ride endless laps of the velodrome. You can simply choose a bicycle as your everyday way to get around.

Wider implications

This basic insight has important implications for wider society, and for policy makers. It demonstrates that promoting cycling as a transport option has massive potential for improving public health. It also suggests that putting money into making utility cycling a more attractive option, for example through better cycle infrastructure, offers a fantastic return on investment.

Getting started

If you are considering commuting by bike in London but need a little help and advice to get started, a 1-2-1 training session can be a great way to overcome any doubts or fears you may have. It’s not guaranteed to make you six times fitter, but it will be several steps (or turns of the pedals) towards a healthier lifestyle.

The new battle for funding: How to win your share

George Osborne’s promise at the end of last year to stick with the government’s £300 million commitment to cycling will have been a huge relief to training managers, safety campaigners and environmentalists across the UK. But how should local authority road safety officers and transport managers view the news?

Well, the Chancellor’s Spending Review pledge doesn’t represent a windfall because there’s no new money on top. Neither is it the policy back-pedal that some feared. Instead, it buys ‘breathing space’ for the cycle training sector … time that must be used wisely.

Concerns over cuts to funding should be viewed as a warning shot across the back wheels. Even though funding may be generally secure for now, who knows when cuts may come – or when pressures from other services could eat into cycle training budgets at local authorities? In that scenario, pitching for funding could become intense as competition for cash gets tougher and the qualifications more stringent.

As any ambitious cyclist knows, the key to success (and avoiding pain later) is to get into training. And – with future budgets in mind – that’s also true for anyone at a local authority involved in delivering cycle training.

Level 2 Bikeability Training
School Bikeability training

Now’s the time to sharpen up

The best response from council cycle training teams is to use early 2016 to strengthen their programmes by embedding industry best practice. As part of this, they should sharpen their ability to pitch for funds, whenever any opportunity arises. This is a priority.

So how can council teams build a stronger business case – turning an ‘average’ funding application into a compelling one? Here are a set of actions that can make the difference.


Five ways to win more funding

#1 Build your submission with rock-solid data

Qualitative data is helpful but the economics tend to get decided on numbers. It’s important you’ve kept records of previous sessions – and can prove you did exactly what was asked, such as the numbers trained and how you delivered excellent value for money at your local authority. Also show that, going forward, your whole strategy is based on hard data and key performance indicators, such as low drop-out levels, costs staying within budget and successful outcomes.

#2 Demonstrate that demand for cycle training is growing

If the public demands more training, then decision-makers will often be swayed. Public surveys are influential – like this one from Manchester which reports on most people’s wish that cycling spending would quadruple. At a simpler level, can you show how quickly your training places are filled in your borough? Do you have any feedback results showing customer satisfaction and how many trainees are willing to recommend your sessions to their friends? Are there ways you can prove demand for what you want to offer?

#3 Show your training is ‘inclusive’, reaching every demographic

Again, data helps here – if you can show that your local authority training attracts people from every gender, age range and background. You can also demonstrate your plans for widening the appeal of training, perhaps showing flexibility and innovation in terms of times, locations and themed activities.

#4 Have your submissions on stand-by

Don’t simply work towards the big opportunities. Have projects and submissions lined up already in case internal funds become available suddenly – for example, at the end of the financial year where under-spends can be addressed.

#5 Think long term

Having a long-term strategy is vital to avoid a ‘boom and bust’ approach to cycle training. Relationships with funding organisations and a clear understanding of how you’re meeting underlying changes in demand will give you a greater sense of purpose and authority. You want your expertise, confidence and sense of mission to shine through in your submissions.

Funding is never guaranteed but these five tactics will help, especially if your council  has a knowledgeable cycle training partner at your side. The best partners will already have the processes in place to capture and use data effectively – and even help you to craft your funding submissions, based on their industry-wide experience of ‘what works’.

Get further help – and download the free eBook today

If you work for a local authority, then it’s worth downloading your free copy of the e-book Cycle training: Switching into top gear. Funding is one of many areas touched upon in the guide, which includes a checklist as to whether you’re following best practice in every area of cycle training. It’s ideal if you want to use today’s ‘breathing space’ to improve everything you do, so you’re ready for anything.

Could 2016 be the ‘Year of the bike’?

What do we want out of 2016? How about getting fitter, saving money, spending less time stuck in traffic jams and reducing our carbon footprint? With cycling, it’s all possible … you could call it the grand slam of New Year’s resolutions! 
But what’s stopping thousands of people from leaving their homes on a shiny new bike … perhaps for the first time in years?

London bikesIf you’re a local authority road safety officer or transport manager, then you may be concerned about why cycling hasn’t already taken off the way it might have done. After all, you’ve got the wind behind you, in terms of economic, health and environmental plus points.

So what’s going on – and how can your efforts coax more cyclists to pedal confidently onto their local streets?

A while back, the government’s British Social Attitudes survey discovered that 67% of non-cyclists thought that cycling was too dangerous. Even 18-24 year olds – the adults with the most energy allegedly – were highly cautious, with almost half expressing major concern.

Fewer injuries than gardening

Those emotions can be pretty entrenched, even when the facts say something different. 
CTC, the national cycling charity, believes that traffic volumes, speeds and other factors can make cycling feel and look more dangerous than it actually is. In fact, CTC reports that people are more likely to be injured playing tennis, using a rowing machine … or gardening.

So how can individuals get past their fears – and what can council teams do to help them on their way?

London has been leading by example. More people are now riding bikes than at any point since records began – with numbers growing at 5% in a year. Over 600,000 cycle journeys are made every day. Behind these impressive figures is an exciting story that’s continuing in many London boroughs.

Confidence-building is key

Many of these London councils are focusing on training for everyday bike owners of all ages – to build each person’s confidence, ability and road sense, so they overcome their fears and have a great cycling experience.
 And when you look closely, you can see a correlation between the heartening upsurge in cycling in the capital and the behind-the-scenes training that’s been gathering pace. In 2010/11, fewer than 500 adults and children received training across half a dozen or so London boroughs. Roll on to 2015/16 and that number is on course to hit 18,000 people being trained per year.

Every tiny details matters

But these forward-looking boroughs don’t simply stick up the posters and then put out the cones. Successful cycle training doesn’t work like that. It’s about all the tiny details that make every training session exceptional. This takes energy, planning, saddlebags of imagination – and usually some outside expertise and resources from a thoughtful cycle training partner.

The London experience shows that attention to detail really matters, from how to target specific groups and come up with fresh ideas, to making it easy for people to find out about sessions – and place a booking. If people enjoy the end-to-end experience, they won’t just be cycling regularly – they’ll encourage their friends and family. Used wisely, social media can play a part in that too.

Contact us for your free eBook today

Practical policies, ongoing funding, quality of service, innovative ideas and giving great value can all be achieved when local authorities apply best practice consistently. But what does best practice look like?
 Road Safety Officers can get the answers by contacting us for a free copy of Cycle Training: Switching into Top Gear, the best practice guide. As well as touching on the highly positive UK cycling scene, the eBook charts the phenomenal success of London and provides a checklist so UK local authorities can rate themselves and work towards best practice.

The start of a new year is a great time to review the cycle training provision in your area. The eBook helps you to identify the gaps in the cycle training provision in your local authority area – and suggests how you can have your best year yet.