CityConnect’s ultimate guide on switching to cycling in 2019

With Christmas over for another year everyone’s attention is quickly turning to the New Year: an opportunity to do things differently and to break out of old routines.

January can even be a good time to consider shaking up your commute. Don’t know where to start or worried about the shorter days and bad weather?

The team behind West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s £60m CityConnect programme, aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bike or on foot, has compiled the ultimate guide to switching to cycling this winter and beyond.

CityConnect’s top reasons to switch to two wheels in 2019

1. It saves you money

From the cost of running a car and paying for parking to buying a bus or train ticket – however you currently travel one thing is certain: going by bike is cheaper even when you take into account the initial outlay in sourcing a roadworthy bike. What’s more you won’t need to fork out for expensive gym classes. Research by Sustrans Scotland found that if people made journeys of under five miles by bike instead of car, the average person could save nearly £2,000 a year – that’s the equivalent of a 9% pay rise.

2. Cycling can be quicker than travelling by car

Drivers in UK cities spend on average more than a day (31 hours) each year stuck in rush hour traffic, according to data published by Inrix earlier this year. The Department for Transport’s latest Journey Time Statistics show people travelling by car are only 1.7mph quicker than those travelling by bike on urban streets. Cycling can often be the quickest option, especially for shorter journeys, and it means you can avoid all the frustration of being stuck in traffic.

3. Switching to cycling for short, local journeys is an easy way to make sure you get enough exercise

According to government guidelines, we need at least 150 minutes exercise a week but many of us struggle to build this level of physical activity into our busy lives – 39% of us don’t, according to the British Heart Foundation. Cycling short, local journeys is often an easy solution. What’s more an average commute to work can burn about 400 calories (that’s enough to justify a slice of cake). Research has also shown people who travel by bike regularly can have fitness levels of someone up to 10 years younger.

4. It could help you live longer

You’ll have heard health pundits talk about cycling as a “miracle pill” - and for good reason. There is a well-established body of research highlighting the physical benefits of cycling. Last year, a major study by the University of Glasgow published in the British Medical Journal found people who commuted by bike nearly halved their risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

5. Cycling’s good for your mental health too

Ask anyone who rides a bike and they’ll tell you it makes them feel good, not just in body but in mind too. Physical activity has been shown to increase positive mood and self-esteem, as well as reducing anxiety and stress, according to the Mental Health Foundation. Whether it’s clearing your mind after a busy day at work or heading out just for the sake of it; making time for yourself or catching up with loved ones; the chances are if you head out on your bike you’ll return home feeling better.

6. Still not convinced? Cycling is the perfect opportunity to inject more play time into your life.

Think back to how much fun you used to have on your bike as a child - the wind in your hair, all the freedom and the adventure, those long summer days out exploring. From exploring new places to noticing the change in the seasons and wildlife spotting, two wheels are better than four when it comes to connecting with the world around you. Who knows, you might like it so much you’ll get your family and friends involved too.

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said: “We know encouraging more of us to travel by bike or on foot not only boosts people’s health and saves individuals money, it also brings wider environmental and economic benefits, which is why we want to make cycling and walking a natural choice for short, everyday journeys.”

CityConnect’s top tips for winter cycling

Shorter days and a change in the weather can seem like an easy excuse to put your bike away until spring, but following just a few simple tips will make staying in the saddle this winter as easy as riding a bike.

Remember you don’t have to cycle the whole way. There’s always the option of riding part of your journey and then catching a train or bus.

Don’t let the weather get the better of you. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, so the saying goes. Keeping dry and warm will make a huge difference so wear lots of thin layers, and pack some waterproofs, a decent pair of gloves and a warm hat or headband. Longer-term you might want to consider investing in some waterproof shoes (or overshoes), but in the meantime packing a spare pair of socks and shoes to change into will do the trick.

Be seen. It might sound like an obvious one but make sure you always have a working set of lights to hand. There are plenty of options to choose from including USB rechargeable lights. It’s also worth carrying a spare set of lights or batteries so you don’t get caught short. Many people choose to wear reflective clothing, belts and strips. If you cycle in everyday clothes try and choose a light colour to increase your visibility.

Plan your route. Cycling need not involve tackling busy roads but your route choice may vary between the seasons, from a more scenic route in the summer months to, for example, a well-lit, gritted route, such as the Bradford Leeds Cycle Superhighway, during winter. Plan your route with our handy online map.

Recruit a bike buddy. If someone you know already cycles ask them which routes they use or even better ask them to ride with you as a bike buddy. Cycling with others can provide some extra motivation during the winter months.

Make sure your bike’s in good health. Make sure everything is in working order and well lubricated. The salt contained in road grit can damage bikes so think about using mudguards and rinse your bike regularly to prevent any build-up. Consider switching to tyres with more tread. Letting some air out of larger tyres increases their grip too. Sustrans 11-step M-Check is a good place to start or if in doubt take your bike for a once over at your local cycle shop.

Last but not least, enjoy it! Cycling to work can save you time and money, and it has been proven to boost health and happiness. What’s not to love?