New cyclists start here...

According to the Bicycle Association, the organisation which represents Britain's cycle suppliers, there are 20 million cycles in ownership in the UK. If you've just bought number 20 million and one, you're on the right track, and here's how and why to ride your new bike

Cycling is a whole tub full of new experiences. Addictive too. Regular exercise stimulates the pleasure centres of your brain so the more you cycle, the more you'll want to cycle.

Using a bike is easy, cheap, green, independent, quiet, fast, convenient, door-to-door, healthy, and fun.

Half of all the journeys undertaken in the UK are under two miles long and nearly threequarters are under five miles. Most people get in their cars for these short journeys yet these are easy cycling distances and you'll hardly raise a sweat.

So, if cycling is so perfect how come only 2 percent of all journeys are made by bike? Two reasons, really: attitude and infrastructure.

The second reason affects the first one. When more facilities for cyclists are put in place, more people become cyclists to use them. When more people use them, other people start noticing how fast and safely the cyclists are getting about. Their attitide to cycling changes and more converts to cycling are created.

In cities where cycling is encouraged and where facilities have been built, the percentage of cycle journeys increases. In York, for instance, 20 percent of all journeys are cycle journeys. In the Dutch city of Groningen the local politicians made themselves very unpopular twenty years ago by restricting car usage in the city centre, providing instead good cycle
facilities and better bus services. Now there are no more complaints as up to 50 percent of all journeys are undertaken by cycle.

Groningen city centre is now a busy but peaceful, people-centred city. It was clogged with traffic in the mid-1970s.

In the UK, moves are afoot to make our towns and cities better places to live and work in. Cycling is part of the civilising process.

OK, that's ten years hence, what about right now? Is it safe to cycle? Why should I get on my bike? Below we blow away the myths about cycling.

MYTH: I have an elderly relative who needs to be driven to the doctors, I can't give the car up.
ANSWER: You don't have to. There's no hair-shirt rule that says you must use a bike for every single journey. Using a bike should be pleasurable, not a chore.

There will always be times when other forms of transport beat using a bike. Just try to use the bike more of the times when you don't really need to use a car.

MYTH: Cycling is for people who can't afford a car
ANSWER: In 1994 the AA found that nearly a third of their members were 'cycling motorists' so using a car for some journeys and a bike for others is perfectly normal.

Bicycles started out in the Edwardian era as rich people's toys and only became 'poor man's transport' after the 1930s. Now cycling crosses every social divide: rock star Eric Clapton rides an Italian racing bike, as does Paul Smith, the trendy suit designer. Robson Green has a posh mountain bike stashed in the back of his jeep. The architect Lord Rogers rides a bike around London and the head of American Express in Britain rides a top-of-the-range Trek mountain bike in Hyde Park every day to keep himself mentally and physically fit. Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow gets to interviews at No. 10 far quicker on his bike!

MYTH: Won't I get all sweaty?
ANSWER: For most people it probably takes a good 15-20 minutes to build up a sweat.

If you don't want to arrive at your destination all hot and flustered, don't pedal so hard. For when you want to cycle fast, and your journey is 20 minutes or over, wearing the right clothing can increase your comfort no end ie 'wickable'
synthetic underwear, thin fleece mid layers and a windproof jacket made from a lightweight, breathable fabric such as Pertex

MYTH: Yeh, but what about the rain, I hate getting wet
ANSWER: It doesn't actually rain that much. No, really. Research has shown that, on average, in the UK it only rains hard on 12 commuting days per year. And anyway, by wearing the right kind of weather protective clothing you won't arrive at your destination dripping wet. Damp, yes, but even if you travelled by car you'd have to go outside at some point, risking a soaking.

MYTH: My workmates will laugh at me
ANSWER: Chances are, you get into work quicker than them, are fitter than them, have more zest for life for them, and are more open minded than them. The day will come when they will be forced to either cycle or take public transport because driving to work in the city will be heavily taxed and highly restricted. You're a trend setter, so let them laugh, you'll have the last one.

MYTH: Isn't cycling really, really dangerous?
ANSWER: Yes. If you do it wrong. But do it right andyou'll find cycling is as safe as other forms of transport.

According to the British Medical Association the health benefits of cycling heavily outweigh the small risks. You probably won't be able to follow cyclepaths all the time so journeying on the roads will sometimes be necessary. Don't be frightened by this. In city centres during rush hour, cars and lorries chug along at a snail's pace because they're gummed up in
jams. It's a joy - and quite safe - to pass stationary traffic as you speed into work, school, the shops or wherever.

Don't be timid when riding city streets, don't be squeezed into the gutter, claim your roadspace, you've as much right to be there as cars, lorries and buses. Buy the book Cyclecraft by John Franklin, a guide to riding in the city, or get yourself on an adult cycle proficiency course, or get a confident city cyclist to show you the ropes (cycle campaign groups often have members who help out in this respect).

MYTH: What about car fumes, don't cyclists breathe in all that rubbish?
ANSWER: Funnily enough, research has proven that motorists breathe in more pollution than cyclists, who sit high above the fumes. Cyclists who are breathing hard are rapidly clearing their lungs out as they exercise. And, remember, if you are currently a car commuter, when you start cycling you're part of the solution to pollution.

MYTH: I would cycle, but my town is really hilly
ANSWER: Modern day bikes have ultra low gears so you could pedal up vertical slopes.

Remember, it's not a race, just pedal at your own pace up the hills. It's not as hard as you would imagine.
And if you've got hills to go up, you've got hills to come down: a free ride at least half of the time! If hills realy do put you off, why not invest in an electric motor for your bike, see electric bikes. And think about this: Switzerland is also, er, hilly yet cycle use is twenty times greater over there!

MYTH: Won't my bike get stolen?
ANSWER: It's a possibility. 595 000 bicycles were stolen in 1993 in the UK, half from the street, half from the home. Mind you, in the same year, 541 000 cars were stolen. Crime is a problem for every form of transport: you may get mugged on the tube, for instance.

As with every walk of life, there are precautions you can take which minimise the risks. Always lock your bike in a well-lit public place with a high-quality u-shaped shackle lock. Always attach the bike to an immovable object where the bike and lock can't be lifted off and away. Position the lock so that it cannot be hammered against the ground or levered apart, and always have the keyhole facing downward. A new security standard is about to be applied to all cycle locks: the security working group on the National Cycling Forum are to recommend manufacturers place 'star ratings' on their locks to show how long a thief will take to break in to that particular product. Locks with higher star ratings will be more effective but also more expensive.

If possible, wheel the bike into your place of work, or the shops or wherever. Keeping an eye on it at all times is the safest form of protection. If this is impossible with a full-sized bike, get a folding one, these really can go everywhere with you.

MYTH: Cars are so convenient for carrying stuff, bikes aren't are they?
ANSWER: As a matter of fact, they're very convenient. A bicycle is a brilliant load-carrying platform. People cycle the world with huge amounts of gear stuffed into their pannier bags so you'd be amazed how much stuff you can carry on a bike. For really heavy loads you could even invest in a cycle trailer. These can carry as much as a small family hatchback car.

MYTH: I can't ferry my three kids about on a bike, though can I?
ANSWER: If they're little kids, yes you can. Fit a child carrier and hook up a trailer.

In the developing world it's not unusual to see fathers carrying mum, four kids, the shopping, a pig and a couple of fluster hens on a single bike. That's not be recommended here but it shows that portering children around on two wheels is both possible and safe. As kids get older they love being towed behind on a trailer cycle, an attachment to the adult cycle enabling the child to pedal in tandem fashion.

MYTH: OK, I'm conviced, where do I go from here?
ANSWER: Just get out there and cycle. Make it part of your daily routine. Invest in the right kit. Join the Cyclists' Touring Club (tel: 01483 417217) for advice and third party insurance. Become a member of the Environmental Transport Association (tel: 01932 828882) who offer breakdown services for cyclists, as well as the normal motoring package. Start buying an enthusiast magazine like Cycling Plus. Join your local cycle campaign group.

Bedford Cycling Campaign, 5 York Street, Bedford, Bedfordshire, MK40 3RJ.
Binfield Bikers, 26 Hamlet Street, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 6EF.
Bradford Cycling Action Group, c/o Bradford Resources Centre, 17-21 Chapel
Street, , Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 5DT.
Brighton Cycling Opportunities Group, PO Box 2502, King's House, Grand
Avenue, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 2ST. Tel: 01273 292722
Bristol Cycling Campaign, 13 Alpha Road, Bristol, BS3 1DH.
Calderdale Cycle Promotion Group, 26 Carr Field Drive, Luddenden, Halifax,
West Yorkshire, HX2 6RJ. Tel: 0113 205 3308
Cam Valley Cycleway Campaign, 13 Jubilee Road, Kingshill, Dursley,
Gloucestershire, GL11 4ES. Tel: 01453 548920
Cambridge Cycling Campaign, PO Box 204, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB4 3FN.
Tel: 01223 504095
CAPSIA (Cyclist & Pedestrian Safety in Abingdon), 20 Morton Close, Abingdon,
Oxfordshire, . Tel: 01235 526636
Cardiff Cycling Campaign, 24 Taff Embankment, Grangetown, Cardiff, CF1 7BE.
Carlisle Cycling Campaign, 16 Kells Place, Stanwix, , Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3
9DT. Tel: 01228 43839
Chelmsford Cycling Action Group, 75 Tabors Avenue, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2
7EL. Tel: 01245 472437
Cheltenham Cycle Campaign, 89 Rowanfield Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire,
GL51 8AF.
Cleveland Cycling Campaign, 14 Limes Road, Linthorpe, Middlesbrough,
Cleveland, TS5 6RQ. Tel: 01642 814232
COGS - Salisbury Cycling Campaign, 196 Coombe Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire,
SP2 8PB.
Colchester Cycling Campaign, 15 Scarlett Road, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1EZ.
Cycel - Cycling Campaign for East Lancashire, 100 Livingstone Road,
Blackburn, Lancashire, BB2 6NE. Tel: 01254 51072
Cycle 2000, 15 King's Avenue, Wolstanton, , Newcastle-under-Lyme,
Staffordshire, ST5 8DA.
Cycle Action in Sandwell, 8 Grange Road, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B70
CycleBath, 2 St. James Street, Bath, BA1 2TR.
Cyclefolk, Temple Lane South, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland
Cyclewight, 28 Sea Street, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 5BW.
Cyclic - Coventry Cycling Campaign, 44 Bolingbroke Road, Coventry, West
Midlands, CV3 1AQ. Tel: 01203 443398
Cycling Campaign for Bedfordshire, 20 Haylards Way, Bedford, Bedfordshire,
MK41 9BU. Tel: 01234 353272
Cyclox - Oxford Cycling Campaign, East Oxford Community Centre, Princes
Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4 1DD. Tel: 01865 794577
Derby Cycling Group, 15 Loyne Close, Sinfin, , Derby, Derbyshire, DE24 3HN.
Doncaster Cycling Promotion Group, 9 Larch Drive, Armthorpe, Doncaster,
South Yorkshire, DN3 3DJ.
Dorset Cyclists' Network, Farrs Coach House, Cowgrove Road, Wimbourne,
Dorset, BH21 4EL. Tel: 01202 880966
Dynamo - Lancaster & District Cycle Campaign, 123 Scotforth Road, Lancaster,
Lancashire, LA1 4SD.
East Kent Spokes, 2 Great Pett Ost, Pett Hill Bridge, Canterbury, Kent, CN4.
Fylde Coast Cycling Action Group, c/c Health Promotion Unit, 145-147 Newton
Drive, , Blackpool, Lancashire, FY3 8LZ.
Glasgow Cycling Campaign, 53 Cochrane Street, Glasgow, , G1 1HL.
Goldalming Cycle Campaign, c/o/ The Annexe, The Old Coach House, Petworth
Road, Godalming, Surrey, GU8 5QW.
Guernsey Cycle Campaign Group, Les Villets, Forest, Guernsey, GY8 0HR.
Hereford Cycle Users' Group, 72 Park Street, Hereford, Herefordshire, HR1
2RE. Tel: 01432 268177
Highland Cycle Campaign, Windyridge, Caaggach, Kirkhill, Inverness,
Invernesshire, IV5 7PW. Tel: 01463 831600
Hull Cycling Campaign, 21 Conway Close, Hessle Road, Kingston upon Hull,
East Yorkshire, HU3 3NR.
Ipswich Cycle Campaign, 23 Galway Avenue, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 5JW.
Kirklees Cycling Forum, PO Box 333, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
Knowsley Cycling Campaign, 83 Oak Towers, Roughwood Drive, Kirkby,
Merseyside, L33 8XW.
Leamington Cycleways, 24 Henry Street, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2HJ.
Leeds Cycle Action Group, 14 Oatland Green, Little London, Leeds, West
Yorkshire, LS7 1SN.
LEGS - Mid Somerset Cycle Group, St. Edmunds Lodge, Glastonbury, Somerset,
BA6 8HJ.
Leicester Spokes, PO Box 30, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 7OD.
London Cycling Campaign, 228 Great Guildford Business Square, 30 Great
Guildford Street, London, SE1 0HS. Tel: 0171 928 7220
Long Eaton Bicycle Users' Group, 14 Granby Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7
8HN. Loughborough & District Cycle Users' Campaign, 32 Bramcote Road,
Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 2SA.
Medway Cycle Network, 14 St. Andrews Road, Gillingham , Kent, ME7 1QR.
Merseyside Cycling Campaign, 20 Hilbre Road, West Kirby, Merseyside, L48
3HH. Mid Sussex Cycling Campaign, 7 South Lodge Close, Burgess Hill, West
Sussex, RH15 8LQ.
Milton Keynes Cycle Users' Group, 15 The Oval, Oldbrook, Milton Keynes,
Buckinghamshire, MK6 2TW. Tel: 01908 674812
Newbury Cycle Campaign, 92 Newport Road, Newbury, Berkshire.
Newport Cycling Campaign, Newport Friends of the Earth, 13 Leadon Court,
Thornhill, Cwmbran, Newport, NP44 5TZ.
Newton Abbot & Torbay Cycle Users' Group, 81 Twickenham Road, Newton Abbot,
Devon, TQ12 4JG.
North Eastern Derbyshire Cycling Campaign, Centre for Urban Studies, Market
Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 1AR.
Northern Ireland Cycling Initiative, 13 Belvoir Close, Belfast, Co. Antrim,
BT8 4PL. Tel: 01232 645909
Norwich Cyling Campaign, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1NR.
Tel: 01603 664364
Pedal Power: Borders Cycle Campaign Group, Sunnyside, No. 2 Milne Graden, ,
Coldstream, Berwickshire, TD12 4HE.
Pedal Pushers - Sheffield Cycling Campaign, 11 Kenbourne Road, Nether Edge,
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S7 1NJ. Tel: 0114 258 1605
Pedals - Nottingham Cycling Campaign, 3 Ryder Street, Basford, , Nottingham,
Nottinghamshire, NG6 0BL.
Pedals - Spalding Cycling Campaign, The Chantry, 7 Church Street, Spalding,
Lincolnshire, PE11 2PB.
Pushbikes: The Birmingham & West Midlands Cycling Campaign, 20 Conifer
Court, Moore Green Lane, Moseley, Birmingham, West Midlands, B13 8MB. Tel:
0121 632 6753
Reading Cycle Campaign, 84 Kidmore Road, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire, RG4
Richmond Cycling Campaign. Tel: 0181 948 3932
Rochdale Cyclist Action, 27 Medley Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, OL12 0RQ.
Solihull Cycle Campaign, 1 Thornton Road, Monkspath, Solihull, Birmingham,
West Midlands, B90 4TF. Tel: 0121 704 4412
South Bedfordshire Cycle Campaign, 25 Northfields, Dunstable, Bedfordshire,
LU5 5AJ.
Southampton Cycling Campaign, 60 Gordon Avenue, Portswood, Southampton,
Southend & Surrounds Cycle Campaign, 750 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Spokes: The Lothian Cycle Campaign, St. Martins Church Hall, 232 Dalry Road,
Edinburgh, Mid Lothian, EH11 2JG. Tel: 0131 313 2114
Sprocket - Manchester Cycling Campaign, c/o One World Centre, 6 Mount
Street, Manchester, M2 5NS. Tel: 0161 224 6450
St. Albans Cycle Users, 35 Ramsbury Road, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1
1SN. Tel: 01727 860705
Stratford Cycle Campaign, 4 Bridge Street, Butler's Marston, Warwick,
Warwickshire, CV35 0NE. Tel: 01926 641560
Stroud Cycling Campaign, 45 Bisley Old Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5
1LU. Tel: 01453 762233
Tring Cycling Campaign, The Grove House, 63 Grove Road, Tring,
Hertfordshire, HP23 5PB.
Tynebikes, 22 Linden Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE3 4EY. Tel:
0191 284 3781
Waveney Cycling Campaign, 136 Dell Road, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk,
NR33 9NT.
Wheel-Rights 2000 (Swansea Bay Cycling Campaign), 4 The Glebe, Bishopton, ,
Swansea, West Glamorgan, SA3 3JP.
Wirral Cycle Campaign, 12 James Street, Oxton, Birkenhead, Merseyside, L43
5RD. Tel: 0151 652 3166
Woking Cycle Users' Group, 6 Heathside Gardens, Woking, Surrey, GU22 7HR.
Wycombe Cycling Campaign, 54 Rupert Avenue, High Wycolme, Buckinghamshire,
HP12 3NF.
York Cycle Campaign, c/o York Cycleworks, 14-16 Lawrence Street, York, North
Yorkshire, YO1 3BN. Tel: 01904 626664