Bicycle commuting is the act of commuting to work or school by bicycle. It is thought that, worldwide, more people commute by bicycle than by any other vehicle: it is the dominant mode of commuting in countries such as India and China and is also common in many European countries (though rare in the United States).In the West it is common to combine bicycle commuting with other means of public transportation (also known as mixed-mode commuting). Folding bicycles are used if space, fees or restrictions interfere with taking fullsize bicycles along. Another alternative is to have a bicycle parked at a station.
Worldwide the bicycle is probably the most common commuter vehicle, and the second most common form of commuting after walking. In most countries any bicycle that will move is considered suitable for commuting, while in the West you are more likely to find a commuter bike is fitted with most or all of the following: rear rack, light system, fenders (also called mudguards), panniers, and a chain guard. Hub gears (or no gears at all) are also common.
Studies have shown that integrating moderate cardiovascular exercise into daily routines is highly beneficial to health, protecting against coronary heart disease, some cancers and of course reducing incidence of obesity. At least one study has shown that transportational cycling confers additional benefit even among those who are otherwise fit. Commuting by bicycle is often a good way to improve your health in time you would otherwise spend sitting in traffic.
In some Countries health insurers actively support bicycle commuting. In Germany the campain Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit – which started in 2001 as a regional pilot project – has become a success in 15 of 16 states with more than 7000 companies and more than 60000 people participating.
I would commute by bike, but...
If you are considering commuting by bicycle these are some of the concerns you might have:
- Safety. Concerns over safety are exaggerated. This study from 1988 shows that you're at more risk walking than you are cycling. While there is some risk (although ironically it comes mostly from those who choose not to cycle, rather than from cycling itself), the benefits have been calculated to outweigh the risks by around 20:1 (Hillman). It is also the case that those places where cycle commuting is most common tend to be the places where the casualty rate is lowest, probably due to the well-documented safety in numbers effect (cyclist casualty rates vary with approximately the inverse square of numbers cycling). But if you are a new or returning cyclist, or if you have fears over safety, an accredited adult cycling course would be a wise investment. These are often branded Effective Cycling in the US. Other countries' cycling organsiations (eg CTC in the UK) or local authorities may be able to advise on local providers.
- Load carrying. Many commuter cyclists carry paperwork, laptops, business suits and other paraphernalia. Enterprising cycle luggage companies make bags specially designed for the commuter, particularly panniers to carry laptops and business suits. The traditional wicker basket is also a surprisingly adaptable load carrier, and some in the teaching profession have been known to use trailers to transport exercise books.
- Security. Locking a bike at the station is a risk, a recent study showed that a bike is stolen in the UK every 90 seconds. Some commuters overcome this by brush-painting the bike or buying tatty second-hand machines; others use high quality locks; others again will use folding bikes and take them on the train. In big towns and cities it's best if you can find secure parking at your destination - this is much easier with folding bikes, but the best employers now also provide secure covered bike parking. In Victoria it is a requirement to provide showers and bicycle parking for all new developments and large scale re-developments.
- Sweat. There is no rule which says you have to ride flat out. You can commute in normal working clothes and trundle along at a stately pace on a bike with full mudguards and chaincase. Or you can dress in cycling gear and change at the other end. Or something in between. Absence of showers and dedicated changing facilities is not really a problem, if you shower before riding out in the morning and keep a washcloth and handtowel at work, the loos are all the facilties you need. And the fitter you get, the less you sweat anyway.
- Speed. In most congested towns and cities the bike is far and away the fastest mode of transport. Regular commuter challenges in cities such as London almost always have the cyclist winning. But even if it takes somewhat longer, consider this: your commute is keeping you fit. Your commute is effectively time spent at the gym - and time that you no longer need to take out of your day to exercise. As Congressman Earl Blumenauer once said: "Let's have a minute's silence for all those Americans who are currently sitting in traffic on the way to the gym to ride a stationary bicycle."
- Pollution. Once again this is blaming the bicycle for the effects of those who choose not to cycle, but in as this study showsit has been found that those in cars breathe up to twice the level of pollution that cyclists do - and cycling also stimulates the immune system, making it easier to resist the effects of pollution.
Your first commute
The key to successful commuting by bicycle, like most things in life, is good planning.
For many people commuting by bicycle is the most efficient and enjoyable means of getting to work.
This is especially true for city workers who live close to work. Studies have shown that for journeys of less than five kilometers cycling is often faster than driving, taking in to account the time required to find a car park and peak hour congestion. Cycling is also much more enjoyable than driving in congested streets. Sounds incredible? Check out Melbourne's very own commuter race as reported on the Yarra Bug site.
There are many people who would like to take up cycling to work but are not sure how to start. Planning is the key ingredient to making your first commute a successful one.
As well as keeping you fit, cycling to work stimulates your circulation and gets you ready for work. Many studies have shown that physical exercise improves mental agility, and children who walk or cycle to school have been found to achieve higher than comparable children who are driven.
- Bicycling Life section on practical cycling
- Bike Forums web forum, with commuting section
- Ken Kifer's commuting pages
- London Cycling Campaign - not just for Londoners, the Guidance section includes good practical advice for all urban cyclists
- Template:De icon Campain Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit