You might try cycling for fun or exercise on weekends or holidays. But have you thought about cycling to work or school?
Studies show that if you swap your gas-guzzling car for a two-wheeled bike, you might break a sweat during your commute. This will not only help you avoid traffic jams, but you will also experience benefits for your physical and mental health. It’s good for your pocket and for the environment too.
If you’re new to the concept of bicycling to work but ready to take a ride, here’s a quick rundown of how to get started, health benefits, and safety tips to get you started.
Health Benefits of Cycling
Cycling to work or school is a great way to improve your overall health. In fact, research shows that those who cycle to work tend to stay leaner and healthier than those who drive. This is because they are able to increase their regular physical activity.
It helps you maintain a healthy weight. Riding a bicycle forces you to use stored energy. It burns calories. You can do this even if you’re pedaling on a flat surface at a slow, easy pace. For example, a 180 pound person riding a bicycle at 10-12 miles per hour for 30 minutes burns up to 240 calories.
It’s good for your heart and lungs. Regular cycling has been found to strengthen the heart muscles, improve blood flow to the heart and lungs, lower resting pulse, and reduce blood fat levels. This lowers your overall risk of cardiovascular disease.
Also, if you cycle to work, your exposure to air pollution is two to three times lower than that of people who drive to work. It improves your long-term lung health.
You will need to do this while sitting up straight and maintaining your balance. This engages multiple muscles in your body in your lower, upper body, and core. This helps you lean and build muscle over time.
Cycling improves balance and proprioception. When riding a bike, you need to sit up straight and engage your core to prevent yourself from falling sideways. This helps improve your ability to maintain balance.
Additionally, cycling helps improve your ability to understand where your body is in relation to space, the action around you, location and movement. This is called proprioception.
As we age, balance and proprioception may decline. But cycling helps you stay active and reduces your risk of falling as you get older.
It can improve mental health and relieve stress. Cycling releases feel-good chemicals into your brain called endorphins. It can help you feel better, especially if you’re stressed. Regular physical activity from cycling also positively improves your overall mental health.
- Improve your mood
- Boost your self-esteem
- Less depression and anxiety
- Help you sleep better
- Improve cognitive brain function
- Improve your memory skills
- Promote new thought patterns that can improve calm and well-being
Cycling to work can require upfront costs, especially if you need to purchase a basic bike and accessories. But compared to driving a car to work, the cost of owning a bike is around $350. Cycling to work can therefore save you money.
It can reduce gas expenses, car payments, monthly car insurance, parking, and car repair or maintenance costs.
Some companies also offer commuter tax breaks if you choose to cycle to work. But your employer will have to participate in a commuter benefits program. Check with your company to see if you qualify for these benefits.
Cycling to work is also good for the environment. When you cycle to work, it can help you:
- Reduce harmful chemicals and pollutants like antifreeze and engine oil.
- Less gas consumption. This then reduces harmful emissions like CO2 that pollute the air and contribute to climate change.
- Reduce noise pollution from horns.
Fewer cars on the roads also means less need to build more roads to accommodate them. This reduces runoff that typically pollutes groundwater.
How to start?
First, if you don’t already have one, you’ll need to make an upfront investment to get a bike with all the standard accessories. As:
- Good brakes
- bike lock
- Basket to carry your belongings if needed
- Headlight, especially if you plan to ride after dark
- Puncture kit
To prepare for your trip to work, you should:
Find the right bike. The bikes are available in several types and versions. For example, a road bike is more suitable for riding on smooth surfaces. While a hybrid bike is good if you plan to use it for work and go off-road for fun. If you’re not sure, ask an expert at a bike shop for recommendations tailored to your commuting needs.
Map your cycling route. Not all roads have cycle lanes. Try to choose a route where you have a bike lane option. Otherwise, opt for wider roads. Try not to ride on sidewalks or narrow roads. Avoid busy streets and major intersections. This way you are less likely to hit pedestrians or be hit by motorists.
Test it out before you cycle to work. This way you have a clear idea of the routes and what to expect. Do not rush. It is best to take your time and arrive at your destination safely.
Hand signals for bicycle travel
You will need to use your left hand to signal your direction of rotation and to stop.
Left turn. Extend your left arm to signal that you are about to turn left.
Right turn. Stick your left arm out and bend it up to signal a right turn. You can also extend your right hand.
Stop. Extend your left arm and bend it at your elbow to signal that you are stopping.
If you are about to meet cyclists or people on the sidewalk or in the street, shout “on your left” clearly and ahead of time so they can get out of the way for you.
Safety tips when cycling to work
If you plan to cycle to work, here are some safety guidelines tips to keep in mind:
- Wear a helmet at all times to protect your head and neck in a crash or injury. Also, make sure it fits snugly.
- Make sure your bike is in good working order. For example, do your breaks work for both tires? Does your bell or light work? Are your tires sufficiently inflated? Make sure everything is screwed on tight and doesn’t wobble. If you’re worried, have it checked at a bike shop.
- Choose a wide bike path or a quiet street or route to get to work.
- Find the seat and handlebar height that’s right for you. This will make driving comfortable.
- Check both sides of the road before crossing.
- Do not cycle next to parked cars in case someone suddenly opens the door.
- Wear reflective stickers on your helmet or put them on your bike. You can also wear a reflective vest to alert drivers when riding in the dark.
- Check and oil the chain regularly.
- Always ride in the same direction as traffic. Do not ride in the opposite direction.
If you’re just starting out or returning to cycling after a long time, make sure you take it easy and don’t rush. Enjoy the scenery as you cycle to work, follow the rules of the road and stay safe.