New cyclists start
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Binfield Bikers, 26 Hamlet Street, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 6EF.
Bradford Cycling Action Group, c/o Bradford Resources Centre, 17-21
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,
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,
Tel: 01223 504095
CAPSIA (Cyclist & Pedestrian Safety in Abingdon), 20 Morton Close,
Oxfordshire, . Tel: 01235 526636
Cardiff Cycling Campaign, 24 Taff Embankment, Grangetown, Cardiff,
Carlisle Cycling Campaign, 16 Kells Place, Stanwix, , Carlisle, Cumbria,
9DT. Tel: 01228 43839
Chelmsford Cycling Action Group, 75 Tabors Avenue, Chelmsford, Essex,
7EL. Tel: 01245 472437
Cheltenham Cycle Campaign, 89 Rowanfield Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire,
Cleveland Cycling Campaign, 14 Limes Road, Linthorpe, Middlesbrough,
Cleveland, TS5 6RQ. Tel: 01642 814232
COGS - Salisbury Cycling Campaign, 196 Coombe Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire,
Colchester Cycling Campaign, 15 Scarlett Road, Colchester, Essex,
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,
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,
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,
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,
Lancashire, LA1 4SD.
East Kent Spokes, 2 Great Pett Ost, Pett Hill Bridge, Canterbury,
Fylde Coast Cycling Action Group, c/c Health Promotion Unit, 145-147
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
Hereford Cycle Users' Group, 72 Park Street, Hereford, Herefordshire,
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
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
Leeds Cycle Action Group, 14 Oatland Green, Little London, Leeds,
Yorkshire, LS7 1SN.
LEGS - Mid Somerset Cycle Group, St. Edmunds Lodge, Glastonbury, Somerset,
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,
8HN. Loughborough & District Cycle Users' Campaign, 32 Bramcote
Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 2SA.
Medway Cycle Network, 14 St. Andrews Road, Gillingham , Kent, ME7
Merseyside Cycling Campaign, 20 Hilbre Road, West Kirby, Merseyside,
3HH. Mid Sussex Cycling Campaign, 7 South Lodge Close, Burgess Hill,
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
Thornhill, Cwmbran, Newport, NP44 5TZ.
Newton Abbot & Torbay Cycle Users' Group, 81 Twickenham Road,
Devon, TQ12 4JG.
North Eastern Derbyshire Cycling Campaign, Centre for Urban Studies,
Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 1AR.
Northern Ireland Cycling Initiative, 13 Belvoir Close, Belfast, Co.
BT8 4PL. Tel: 01232 645909
Norwich Cyling Campaign, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2
Tel: 01603 664364
Pedal Power: Borders Cycle Campaign Group, Sunnyside, No. 2 Milne
Coldstream, Berwickshire, TD12 4HE.
Pedal Pushers - Sheffield Cycling Campaign, 11 Kenbourne Road, Nether
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,
Lincolnshire, PE11 2PB.
Pushbikes: The Birmingham & West Midlands Cycling Campaign, 20
Court, Moore Green Lane, Moseley, Birmingham, West Midlands, B13 8MB.
0121 632 6753
Reading Cycle Campaign, 84 Kidmore Road, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire,
Richmond Cycling Campaign. Tel: 0181 948 3932
Rochdale Cyclist Action, 27 Medley Street, Rochdale, Lancashire, OL12
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,
Southampton Cycling Campaign, 60 Gordon Avenue, Portswood, Southampton,
Southend & Surrounds Cycle Campaign, 750 London Road, Leigh-on-Sea,
Spokes: The Lothian Cycle Campaign, St. Martins Church Hall, 232 Dalry
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,
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,
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
0191 284 3781
Waveney Cycling Campaign, 136 Dell Road, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft,
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,
5RD. Tel: 0151 652 3166
Woking Cycle Users' Group, 6 Heathside Gardens, Woking, Surrey, GU22
Wycombe Cycling Campaign, 54 Rupert Avenue, High Wycolme, Buckinghamshire,
York Cycle Campaign, c/o York Cycleworks, 14-16 Lawrence Street, York,
Yorkshire, YO1 3BN. Tel: 01904 626664