Carvel Lonsdale is 54 and he’s cycled in the past but ‘been on holiday’ from his bikes for some years. He works for Lancashire’s Children and Families Well Being Service and his cycling goal for 2019 is to ride 2,019 miles. We’re sharing his story as a shining example of how sharing the road considerately can foster great relationships between road users. It is also a perfect way to launch our new partnership with Loffi, whose gloves (modelled by Carvel below) make positive interactions between people on bikes and other road users as easy as raising your hand…
As a new employee with Lancashire County Council’s Children and Families Wellbeing Service, it was time to lead by example – so cycling to work became my personal well-being project. I have to be honest, I was nervous about both the traffic and my ability to physically tackle the ride. This is the story of how I overcame these barriers – I hope it helps you to begin, or enhance, your ride to work.
To begin with I decided on the route. The choice was either back lanes or major roads. I chose the major roads to be safer. Riding at times when people were rushing to work on narrow twisting roads seemed more of a real problem than fast traffic with plenty of room to get past. The big roads were also flatter, 7.7 miles of rolling terrain. Major roads it was then!
Next decision: which bike? I am lucky – several to choose from! Road, Mountain or single speed?
I deliberated for some time. I wanted a bike that was simple and robust, with a predictable steady speed that wouldn’t be asking me to constantly think about how I was riding. The solution was the old steel, fixed-gear bike. On this bike I would only be able to go at the speed the gearing allowed and having chosen the main road route, it would be smooth enough for the fixie to be a practical solution.
Finally, when to set off to ensure a good experience? This took some planning to practice the ride and estimate recovery at the other end. I decided on a fixed time to set off on the fixed gear bike – a theme was developing!
With plenty of lights and reflective strips attached I began my cycle commute. My logic was simple. Car drivers are isolated from the world around them, so I wanted them to care about me on their commute to work as the rider they ‘always’ see. How do you connect with people? You make a massive effort to be nice.
Every single car that made the slightest effort to give me room on the road got a wave, not necessarily for them to see but for the driver behind who saw me waving at the car ‘making an effort’. It was a lot of waving! After a month, travelling at the same time every day the improvement in drivers’ awareness was incredible. How do I know? Massive clearance on overtakes; hazard warning light winks; not overtaking when there is slow moving traffic; cars I recognise stopping traffic to let me out and cheerful horn honking.
Some days it’s hard to keep waving, I’ve got it down to a kind of salute now, but not only is it keeping me safe I feel connected with ‘my’ car drivers. The sense of wellbeing for me is massive, I can literally see the impact of positive relationships.
What about lorries? I make a point of trying to remember the ones that go out of their way to keep me safe and ring up their companies to thank them – Hanson’s Cement, Ruttle and Covent Garden Soup Deliveries – AWESOME DRIVERS!
What to do about the close passers? Getting angry only makes it worse. Hopefully they will see my positive interactions with drivers who pass me considerately and realise their error.
Cycling to work, for wellbeing, is the art of fixing lots of stuff with one activity: physical health, green agenda, de-stressing and improving mental health. Who says I can’t multi task? Try it – I’m sure you can too.
Carvel’s story made us think of the wonderful Loffi gloves that several members of the Love to Ride team bought through their Kickstarter – these excellent cycling gloves are designed to foster friendly communication between people on bikes and other road users. We got Carvel a pair and he loved them so much that he made a fender flap to match! Join us for Ride to Work Week (you can register in one minute at lovetoride.net) and you could win a pair of Loffi’s smiling gloves or get a hefty discount – Spread the Glove!
Dan works at the University of Huddersfield and joined Love to Ride for Cycle September 2017. We’re encouraging all our members to set themselves a cycling goal for this year and Dan replied on Facebook that his is to save £1,000 by riding to work instead of driving. Here’s his cycling story:
What was the single most effective method you found to begin riding to work?
Sorry, I didn’t have a method. I tried it, hated it, stuck at it and became a convert!
Did anyone encourage you?
I had the encouragement of my wife and family. Sometimes I am tempted to drive and my wife gently reminds me that I have a bike in the shed! I also had friends that rode and they chatted to me about their love of riding. Their chats shifted my perspective from “it’s a way of getting to work” to “this is something that I could grow to like” and, actually, I have fallen in love with cycling.
What benefits have you experienced from riding to work?
I would count all of the following benefits equally because they all make a valuable contribution to my well-being in their own way. None are more important than the other, but all matter a lot!
Time – I only ride a 4-mile commute to work and then back again in the evening but even in that short distance the ride is around 10 minutes quicker in the morning than driving. Every morning I ride past queues of traffic at several junctions on one of the main routes into the town. It’s around 30 minutes quicker than the bus/walking to work.
Money – I estimate that between parking and fuel I would spend £6 a day on driving to work. Every day I ride to work that’s £6 to spend on bike gear! Winning! The truth of it though, is that my wife monitors my bike purchases, so it is a literal saving… Last year I rode to work enough to save £750.
Fitness – The increased fitness that comes from riding to work is a real benefit and allied to the other benefits I mentioned. My mental health is better when I am fitter, I don’t have to take time away from work and family to go to the gym and don’t have to pay for memberships. In addition to the commutes, I also ride for pleasure including non-competitive events and a yearly trip to Europe. In the lighter evenings I take the long way home (20-50 miles) incorporating training with the commute. I see some beautiful places that genuinely make me grateful to be out on the road.
Mental Health – The time on the bike gives me the opportunity to drop the stresses of the day. It’s subtle, imperceptible and not consciously worked at but somehow, along the way, anything that has made me tense or anxious softens and often melts away altogether.
How did you calculate your saving from riding your bike instead of driving?
The car park that I would use costs £4/day to use. I added in a guesstimate on fuel (diesel!) plus wear and tear of £2/day. If I was being absolutely honest that cost would actually increase because I eat a bigger lunch when I drive so, on a driving day, I spend more on food.
So, circa 125 days commuting last year x £6/day on fuel and wear and tear = £750
How many days do you have to ride to save £1,000 in 2019 and what’s your plan for achieving this goal?
167 – those 125(ish) days last year were all achieved between May and December. Simply start earlier in the year (I have started already, of course). The winter equipment (bike and clothing) has been the real difference this year.
What advice would you give to someone considering riding to work?
The right equipment. If you’re working to a budget, definitely budget for good waterproofs, warm clothing (especially gloves and overshoes) and (it seems obvious) mudguards for the bike. These elements have made the single biggest contribution to increasing my ride commuting this year. Until I got winter kit I would stop riding in early winter. With the right kit, I have felt no need to stop (see pictures of Dan modelling his Proviz gear below!).
And Cycle To Work Schemes! This was the single biggest factor in starting commuting by bike. The value offered by these schemes is outstanding and, for me, has paid for itself very quickly.
We’re very grateful to Dan for sharing his story – if you’re inspired to start riding to work, join us at lovetoride.net or if you have an inspiring cycling story please send it to email@example.com
The University of Sheffield is a leader in promoting sustainable transport and has been one of the most successful Love to Ride workplaces over recent years, winning Cycle September in 2017 and topping the student leaderboard in the inaugural UniCycle Challenge in 2018. David Bocking has the scoop on how the University has helped thousands to ditch their cars and spearheaded the ongoing transformation of Sheffield into a cycling city.
From his office high in the University’s Arts Tower, Darren Hardwick gets to look down at central Sheffield, reflect on visits to Denmark and the Netherlands and wonder how the Outdoor City could do better.
“Sometimes I can see how bad the air pollution is, with a yellow hue across the city, and think that’s what we’re breathing in – you can actually see it!”
In his case, however, he can close the window, take a deep breath and know he’s actively doing something to help. The University recently contributed the bulk of the cost for a set of Dutch style cycle and walking routes linking the University to the city, for example.
Sheffield University’s ‘Integrated Transport Policy’ came of age this year. 21 years ago, when almost two thirds of staff drove to work, the University decided to take local pollution and congestion seriously, and only allocate a staff car parking place according to need (via a points systems).
A small fee for the privilege of parking at work raises around half a million pounds a year for initiatives to help staff travel on foot, by bike or by public transport.
“We say to people they’re not paying for a car parking space, they’re actually paying for someone else to not drive to work,” Darren said.
Now, nearly 70% of the University’s 8,500 staff have forgone ‘travelling stuck in single boxes’ as he puts it, with over a third commuting ‘actively’ which means they walk, cycle, or in some cases, run to work.
The key is to ask staff why they drive, and what could be put in place to help them walk or cycle instead, Darren says, such as the University’s 170 place secure cycle parking hub, along with a cycling security team patrolling the campus.
As City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis plans his active travel strategy, and Sheffield Council prepares for a ‘clean air zone’ in the city centre, Darren reckons the University’s experience can help other organisations adapt to the coming changes in how we get about.
“It’s easy to see things like a congestion charge as a threat, but we should see it as an opportunity to do things better and smarter. A lot of people only drive out of habit or convenience, and might well be looking at different options.”
The University recently won first place in the South Yorkshire Love to Ride cycling scheme, and Darren is happy to offer advice to other organisations.
A project to offer a free regular bike service on site by Heeley social enterprise ReCycle Bikes keeps people cycling who might give up otherwise, he says. “We have some wonderful academics here, but ask them to fix a bike and they often haven’t a clue.”
“Working with the University has been brilliant for us,” said Angela Walker of ReCycle Bikes. “Over our 10 year partnership we’ve helped students and staff keep their bikes on the road and refurbished over 1000 bikes for students to get around the city.”
All University departments have showers and washing facilities, and recent additions include a small e-bike pool for staff, and e-cargo bikes to transport catering and engineering equipment, which helps keep the campus almost car free and actually saves money.
“One of our lecturers switched to an e-bike to get around the campus more quickly and we worked out the bike paid for itself in nine months due to the time saving,” said Darren.
The costs of electric rather than diesel power for some vehicles are already similar, he says, and a daily city centre charge for diesel vehicles will stack up the electric arguments even more.
The University’s 21 year old transport strategy means many former car parks now host buildings where people are busy teaching and researching. That is, being a lot more productive than the old car parks, Darren notes.
Thinking of that view from the arts tower, he said: “Something’s got to happen, there needs to be some kind of change in Sheffield. For the economy and the air quality, we can’t continue as we are.”
The month of September 2018 was a career highlight for me as we brought the inaugural Love to Ride challenge to Brisbane, my birth town. I had no doubt that a city as progressive as Brisbane (no bias here!) would embrace the challenge and do me proud. Of course, I was right! (When am I not?)
A roaring success, this workplace based cycling challenge saw 2,327 participants take part from over 220 organisations. One of the key features of the Love to Ride platform is the ability for our partners to access crucial data which helps them understand the drivers and barriers of people living in their city, ultimately culminating in better planning and communications.
Let’s jump in and take a look at some of the key results for Brisbane:
% trips for transport purposes
CO2 saved (kg)
Great to see over 49% of people logging using their bikes for commuting!
A MAFIL* if you will?
We often hear about the MAMIL* but the data consistently shows us that increasingly women love to be on their bikes too. Over 40% of registrants in Brisbane were female.
A closer look as to how that breaks down into rider level…
Public transport was the most frequent method of travel amongst new riders (43%) followed closely by driving alone (36%). The opposite was true for occasional riders, with driving alone at 38% and public transport close behind at 34%.
3 WEEK SURVEY FINDINGS
After we run a challenge, we look at how people’s attitudes and behaviours have shifted when compared to the baseline survey they completed at sign up.
72% of new riders and 46% of occasional riders reported an intention to increase how often they ride compared to 12 months before the challenge. These ‘interested by concerned’ people had experienced a definite shift in behaviour.
85% of new riders and 66% of occasional riders noted that the Love to Ride Brisbane challenge encouraged them to ride more often.
WHAT MOTIVATES BRISBANE FOLKS TO RIDE? Is it the Jacarandas?
Not just the Jacarandas! Those Brisbanites sure are a healthy bunch!
WHAT ABOUT THE BARRIERS PEOPLE FACE? Does it differ by city?
Giving new riders the confidence and knowledge they need to get out on a bike is crucial and universal to Aussie cities.
Certainly the type of rider influences the perceived barriers, however, weather is consistently the biggest factor for regular riders.
DO BARRIERS DIFFER GLOBALLY?
In fact, regardless of rider type, weather is a huge factor right across the globe too. Just check it out!
Our partners can access all this information and communicate with both existing and new riders in their area. Targeting in this way ensures the message is specific and relevant. So, all the good stuff our partners are doing to get more people riding… bike courses, infrastructure building, route planning services… is being received by the right audience segment making it more useful and effective to recipients.
Want to take the temperature of your city and get more people on bikes? Send me a message and let’s chat.
– Christina Sorbello
Love to Ride, Australia Country Manager
Love to Ride works in 13 countries around the world to get more people cycling, more often. If you’re interested in finding out how you can encourage cycling and collect useful data on cycling in your area, then please get in touch. We’re always happy to hear from people like yourself. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org