Utility cycling encompasses any cycling not done primarily for fitness, recreation (bicycle touring,...) or sport (bicycle racing,...), but simply as a means of transportation. It includes commuting, going to school, high school or college, making errands, and delivering goods or services. Generally, therefore, it involves travelling small and medium distances (several kilometres).
A cyclist's equipment and the bicycle
The ideal utility bicycle is designed and built for durability, dependability, reliability, ease of maintenance, and usefulness. Some cyclists use hybrid bicycles for this purpose. Some utility bicycles, are converted from racing or mountain bikes, using spare parts to fix the increasingly malfunctioning bike. In many parts of the world, these bicycles are the only bicycle types around. Here, the ingenuity of making a workable bicycle from spare parts is enchanting. In the cities, freight bicycles are capable of competing with trucks, in the same manner as velotaxis compete with other public transportation like buses, and taxicabs.
The bicycle must also have a light, as well as a hand-bell. A fluorescent or reflective vest or armbands can also be very useful for night-time journeys, although it cannot replace having a lighting system.
Factors that influence levels of utility cycling
Many different factors combine to influence levels of utility cycling. In developing economies large numbers of utility cyclists may be seen simply because the bicycle represents the most affordable form of transport available to many people. In richer countries, where people can afford to avail of a mixture of transport types, a complex interplay of other factors influences the level of bicycle use. In developed countries cycling has to compete with, and work with, alternative transport modes: walking, public transport and private car use. Thus cycling levels are not just about what makes cycling more or less attractive but also what makes the competing modes more or less attractive.