Information to assist Open University staff (or anybody else) that is thinking of commuting by bicycle.
Nearly three quarters of all journeys are under five miles - ideal for cycling. A recent traffic survey here at The Open University in Milton Keynes showed that 55% of staff live within 6 miles of the campus. So there must be some potential cycle commuters out there!
If you live less than five miles away, bicycle commuting will be easy for you, and will take no more than 30 minutes.
It's good for you....
Only 30% of men and 20% of women are as fit as they should be for their age.British Medical Association, 1992
The cyclist benefits from exercise, even moderate cycling every week can improve your health and fitness. You'll get in shape really fast, ditch that exercise bike and get out in the fresh air. Cycling is also low impact, unlike exercises like jogging.
A 35 year-old taking up cycle commuting is likely to extend his/her life by as much as two years.British Medical Association
Traffic polluted air aggravates respiratory and cardiovascular illness, damages the lungs, adds stress to the cardiovascular system and may contribute to the development of such diseases as bronchitis, emphysema and cancer.Air Quality and Health, FoE, 1991
Cars are as big a threat to people's health as cigarettes. The most significant cause of accident and emergency admissions is cars. In childrens' wards, asthma is the single biggest cause of admission.Association for Public Health, Healthlines, June 1995
The times it actually rains at commuting times is relatively small, in Milton Keynes (UK) during the period March to September 1995 taking weekdays at 8-30am, it rained on less than a dozen occasions, and 1996 was even drier! Modern rainproof clothing will also keep out all but the worst weather.
Hills aren't a great problem in Milton Keynes, and easy-to-use multiple gears are a standard fitting on most modern bikes. Just pick the right gear and a pace that's comfortable for you.
A bicycle fitted with a pannier rack and panniers can carry clothes, papers and documents quite easily.
Do a trial ride at the weekend, test ride your intended route. Start out by cycling to work once or twice a week. When you've met that goal, try to do it three days a week.
Don't make it hard for yourself, if you hate riding in the rain, don't ride in the rain!
On mornings when you intend to ride to work, get dressed for cycling, this way it helps you not to change your mind!
IMPORTANT HEALTH WARNING: Cycling is addictive!
Regular exercise stimulates the pleasure centres of the brain. The more you do it, the more you'll want to do it!
External site with impartial advice about cycling and buying a bike;
what to wear, conspicuity, carrying things, etc.
Keep your cycle in a safe condition. If you've not ridden your bike for a while, get it out of the garage and try it on some quiet streets. If there is anything wrong that you don't know how to fix yourself, take it along to a local bike shop. Most bike shops will check your bike over and service it for relatively little money.
- Re-adjust or replace brake blocks when they start to loose effectiveness. DON'T FORGET cycle brakes are much less effective in the wet, especially on bikes with steel rims.
- Keep well inflated, buy a gauge to check that you are actually achieving the tyres stated inflation pressure. You will use less effort when cycling and get less punctures this way.
- Investigate any unusual noise it could be indicating something needing repair, or worse, something loose that could get caught in a wheel.
It is very important to be seen by other road users, especially at dusk and at night. Wearing specialist cycling clothing that is fluorescent (for day use) or has reflective parts (for night time) will get the attention of other road users and aid visibility. Reflectors on pedals, wheels, etc. help visibility at night, but most importantly get some lights (See below). A bell is useful on the Milton Keynes Redway system or on any cyclepath system when approaching blind junctions and for letting pedestrians know of your presence.
Lots of people commute in ordinary outdoor clothing but once you have caught the cycling bug there is clothing available that will make commuting more comfortable in all weather conditions.
Despite this country's reputation for wet weather the occasions you will get wet at commuting times is relatively small. Lightweight rain tops and trousers can be purchased from most cycle and outdoor shops, just remember for bike use there is the need for a different 'cut' to give a better fit when riding, i.e. a longer top and sleeves to the jacket are needed, and a tighter fit on the trouser legs so they don't flap and get caught in the chain.
For cold conditions various thermal jackets are available, these need to be windproof and easily vented, as if the temperature improves you will get very hot! Tracksuit bottoms are generally OK for normal riding conditions, but for cold mornings specialist bottoms made out of 'Roubaix' type material will give that extra warmth.
For hands, fingerless mitts in various designs are available for general riding, but for colder or wet weather a full glove would be better. Again these can be padded, thermal or neoprene types for wet conditions. Thin silk inner gloves are also available if your hands really feel the cold. For the feet there are various neoprene overshoes to keep out the rain and keep your feet warm.
When commuting between sunset and sunrise, your cycle will need lights.This is for three reasons, the first most importantly is to be legal, the second is to see where we are going, and the third so we can be seen by others.
The legal aspect applies to the Milton Keynes Redway sytem but is not relevent off-road, but when off-road you are more likely to need a bright light to see by.
There are many kinds of cycle lights available but they can roughly be split into four groups;
The more common type cycle lamps powered by dry cell batteries that need replacing at intervals according to length of use, spare batteries need to be carried to avoid being stranded without lights.
Many lamps are now USB rechargeable or powered by Ni-Cad battery packs. Generally more powerful lights than dry cell types but batteries will need charging possibly after each journey, depending on length of use.
Lamps powered by a generator (a dynamo) driven off the cycle tyre. This system only generates when the cycle is moving, so you could have a situation where when you stop, i.e. in the middle of the road if you are turning right, you have no lights visable. But this can be rectified by having a top-up LED lamp (see below) fitted as well.
These are small, brght, lightweight, battery powered lamps, with very low current consumption, therefore long battery life. Some of these lamps are strictly not legal for use as a single source as they do not comply with the British Standard on cycle lights. But they can be used effectively in conjunction with other lighting systems.
Some of these lights also have a flashing mode which again is not legal BUT does give increased conspicuity on the road and are worth using even during daylight..
Ther are various ways of carrying articles on your bike depending on their size. Some people just use a rucksack or shoulder bag, but for comfort get the bike to carry the load. Here are a few solutions:
Or for just a spare tube and some tools, a seat pack that fastens under the saddle would do.