Active Travel the realities vs the vision
At one time cycling was never ever an option as a feasible mode of transport. Especially in business. Slow, unsafe and a lack of carrying capacity. Let’s not forget ‘sweating’, lycra and not been able to get on public transport with bikes should you need to.
And if you turned up on a bike at work you got some odd looks and were labelled that ‘eco warrior’ type. That was 20 years ago when I first started commuting by bike in Wakefield working as a mechanic. A job involving cars, amongst colleagues cycling to work was just radical!
In business I use multi-mode transport options full 40 mile work commutes (on a mountain bike in winter / road bike in summer ) and a highly versatile fold up bike for shorter commutes (Urban journeys) mixed with public transport gives me easy regional spread and National access.
Bear in mind these bikes are my choice you need not spend a lot, and if your employer has the cycle to work scheme use that for more savings if you can.
So what is the reaction now when I rock up with a bike? Very different. I purposely use the fold up bike as a prop as it can go in meetings with me and workplaces I visit and is a powerful statement.
I don’t always wear lycra or top end bike clothing I purposely wear business attire where I can. This proves you can do business whilst riding a bike.
You now find people naturally gravitate to you. Intrigue brings them to ask where you have come from, the bike, the distance you have come etc. People are interested, generally. At business networking events it can get you over that hurdle of speaking to new people.
I recently visited the Sheffield City Region Mayors dinner with Doncaster Chamber. I cycled the 12 miles there on a dark evening in full suit and took the bike into the venue. Spoke to lots of interested folk. The bus was my late transport back. The Mayor Dan Jarvis is big on active travel.
I work and manage Health and Wellbeing strategy for a private sector Organisation in North Sheffield, work on the Leeds City connect super cycle highway and work in the Public Sector in physical activity programmes. It gives me good grounding across public health, Workplace approach to health and actively travelling the regions network great insight.
I also struggle with time like everyone but have discovered the key to unlocking more time is utilising the way we travel for physical activity (walking included).
Then exercise isn’t an add on chore after a long day at work and home is beckoning. Fuel cost and of course not contributing to already high air pollution levels is, well ethically the right thing to do.
Next I want to set the scene with two statistics relating to how inactive we actually are as a nation and some very surprising bad air quality hotspots – featuring Yorkshire (particularly in Doncaster) and my top tips for cycling (forming habits). Or behaviour change as the academic world label it.
Fast forward 20 years and we have weather forecasts that feature levels of pollutions and public health warnings. UK air pollution could cause 36,000 deaths a year. A new report led by King’s and published by the government’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimates that between 28,000 and 36,000 people die as a result of air pollution every year in the UK
Leeds took the worst place outside of London and I was very surprised at Hickleton in Doncaster featuring as the third worst area for pollution – somewhere I live and commute around by bike. Sheffield also ranked highly.
Then there is inactivity with many of us sat down on average 8.9 hours a day. Throw in the mix work, family and personal time commitments exercise gets pushed down that priority list – you can see how 25% of people do less than 30 minutes a week of physical activity (11.3 million people) – source: Sport England.
A host of health repercussions and costs to the NHS – NICE (National Institute for Health and care excellence estimates 1£1 billion a year from inactivity alone.
Or according to Copenhagen, the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA), the UK ranks the highest across Europe in the inactivity states.
One of our most basic tools to be more active and fight against air pollution is altering the way we move. Of course electricity production, energy consumption for home & work environments, meat and farming all factor in to air pollution, but by moving around actively we limit our transport emission contribution.
By tackling our overuse of cars we hit two priority areas; increasing physical activity, the individual and community benefits of doing so and lessening our impact on local air quality levels.
Cycling and Walking to work / for work
Time – across urban centres cycling is often quicker. Consider Leeds (11.25 mph), Sheffield 10.44 mph and Bradford 10.08 mph). You can walk at 3.5 mph quite easily.
Cycling at 12 mph is considered fairly easy for beginners with little training – and your fitness levels soon improve.
So even at 12 mph you could be ahead of every car in the 10 cities listed below. That’s not taking into account getting to the car park and getting out of the car park – all time consuming we fail to factor in when using the car.
So if you are going to commute by bike here is some sensible things to think about
- Pack everything the night before (you may be up earlier and faffing about looking for things which will only create a bad experience) You will get quicker at this.
- When you arrive at work / destination feel proud. And the endorphins from the exercise will help you feel energised.
- If Night cycling take 2 light batteries (factor in winter they drain power quicker when it is cold). Make sure the second battery is accessible so you can change quickly. Use phone light to do this.
- If you can’t shower and you are sweating arrive 10 mins early and cool off outside before you enter a static building that will aid sweating. Hydrate obviously.
- Spare shirt if you are conscious about sweat patches – or cycle in a breathable top.
- Wet wipes for a quick once over (these are realities).
- Oil chain on bike frequently / check tightness of nuts and bolts.
- Locally there will be lots of initiatives on routes / cycle training etc. Sustran’s are a good starting point initially.
- 9. Spread the word let your social media contacts know.
Cyclists are the least exposed to air pollution on daily commutes into a congested city centre, research has shown. People in cars and buses spent longer in toxic air, as did walkers unless they made detours to avoid main roads. Source: James Tate, University of Leeds. Walkers use green routes where possible to reduce air pollution exposure.
The work, conducted in Leeds, supports the investment in cycle lanes to both reduce air pollution by cutting vehicle journeys and improve citizens’ health. It also found that air pollution reached relatively high levels inside cars, echoing a recent warning that cars are “boxes collecting toxic gases”.
My Cycle Commute videos
Green route examples are Trans Pennine trail see South Yorkshire trail here – Night cycling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iicci5RiYVA – NORTH SHEFFIELD SECTION
Day cycling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3ee7hPWIno&feature=youtu.be – HIHG MELTON DONCASTER
Cycle check lists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvYTSE8sUw0 – DONCASTER GREENWAY
Bike beats car North Bridge Doncaster congestion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iv9EKKctmk8&feature=youtu.be
City connect super cycle Highway Leeds – Bradford https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZsfPC8BbGU&feature=youtu.be
And now the benefits of physical activity / cycling
- Improved cardiovascular function. …
- Muscle strength and tone. …
- Increased mental wellbeing. …
- Increased energy. …
- Weight loss. …
- Reduced stress. …
- A fresh perspective. …
- Family fun.
- Cycling improves mental well-being. Cycling makes you happy: fact.
- Cycling builds muscle. Build muscle on the bike
- Better lung health. …
- Cuts heart diseaseand cancer …
- Cycling is low …
- Cycling saves time. …
- Cycling improves navigational skills.
Already the Sheffield City region Mayor is on the case focusing on active travel as is the Doncaster get moving project (looking at physical activity culture) and Leeds have a dedicated active travel team (walking / cycling).
Local initiatives such as Travel South Yorkshire Travel Team (SYT) work with business on active travel in Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. The Canal River trust promote their Canal into Sheffield as an active travel route (green lined perfect away from pollution for walking)
B.Braun Medical have included offering e – bikes to employees through SYT, have a cycle roadshow in March and guest speaker Deborah Cundy talking about her journey in cycling as a total beginner. Walking also features in their Health and wellbeing programme for employees.
I also sit on the Sheffield Chamber Health and wellbeing Forum as vice chair with Westfield Health for business where Peter Kennan has presented on his work on the Sheffield City Region transport strategy which features active travel.
And to conclude as if we didn’t need any more evidence to use the car less and transform our travel habits consider the graphic below.
Member of the Royal Society for Public Health
Vice Chair of Sheffield chamber of commerce Health and wellbeing group
Workplace Health Lead National centre for sports and exercise medicine
Health and wellbeing Adviser to;
Living streets (city connect walking) associate
Follow me and my active commute journeys