An encouragement for the person with lots of excuses
Transport makes up over 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, over 90% of which is generated by road transport, and 61% of that relates to emissions from cars and taxis. Plus, an astonishing 70-80% of employees travel to work by car (and don’t car share). From my professional experience, I also know that commuter mileage is a huge area of impact – but one that people find really hard to tackle in our busy lives.
How I got into cycling to work
Back when the PECT offices were based in the city centre, lift-sharing was the only option to travel to work with a lower carbon footprint for me. Then just before lockdown, we moved offices to a location where I would finally have a safe cycle route to work. I now had one less excuse to avoid riding my bike to work. My other excuses were as good as they were common. I worried about making the nursery pick up, children getting sick in the middle of the day and needing immediate collection and afterschool clubs. I also worried about the length of time to get in – over an hour vs 20 minutes driving.
But I also know that to tackle any kind of big change, sometimes we just need to test the waters and see if our worries are actually without solutions. I could also see around me that people were doing it and making it work – colleagues and neighbours who had the same challenges but still managed to figure it out.
The first step was really doing a trial run. So, I organised to meet a colleague and have lunch at Ferry Meadows (it was lockdown, not much else to do!). I packed a big rucksack with extra clothes, lots of high calorie snacks, a tyre pump, emergency flares… basically the biggest, heaviest mental security blanket I could think of so I knew that if I got stranded on the longest 13-mile journey ever, I would be safe.
I mainly needed to know how long it would it take, and would it be too challenging to be a regular habit? Would I arrive exhausted and drenched in sweat? Would those three long hills past Elton do me in? Would I be able to navigate Orton’s end of the Green Wheel cycleway and not get lost? Could cycling work for me? The answer to all of these questions was strongly, YES.
I did arrive sweaty, a bit shaky, and totally got lost in town. But I also felt really good, and the journey was lovely. And because I did all of my exercise at the beginning and end of the workday, I could completely skip my other exercise routines, which meant time spent cycling was gained back by not spending an hour at the gym. I knew I could figure the rest out if I could remove the other issues that made it hard. I settled on converting my bike to an eBike.
Despite all my really good excuses, I found a way to make cycling to work easier, by managing my schedule, getting the right kit, and getting handy with a few tools.
Why I chose an eBike conversion kit
eBikes are generally made with the motor and kit fully integrated. Bought new, these bikes cost upwards of £1,500-2,000 for the features I was looking for. eBike kits will enable you to take your existing bike and simply add a motor and battery, at half the cost or more. Once I knew what I wanted to spend, I took advantage of a pre-payment deal that got me a 50% discount. Given that my bike was bought second-hand cheaply, the whole package was a really good deal for me, amounting to about a third of what I was expecting to pay. As I trialled a friend’s eBike and enjoyed it, I went with the brand Swytch. At the time of writing, I have travelled about 300 miles or so, and I have liked the product so far.
How to install the eBike kit
- Swap the front wheel for the kit’s motorised wheel with connectors.
- Then install the battery mount on the handle-bars.
- Install the pedal sensor.
- Connect it all up, and you’re ready to fly!
From start to finish, it took me and a friend 2+ hours to install. Like someone cooking a complex recipe for the first time – or putting together flatpack furniture – we were very thorough. We installed the wheel the wrong way round at first go. If you’re more handy, it would maybe take you 30 minutes.
Useful cycling tips
These are my personal tips that took away almost all of my excuses. If your commute isn’t as long as mine, you can probably cut this list in half.
Myth-bust and test your expectations.
- Try an eBike out if you can. I visited a couple of cycle shops and tried a friend’s converted eBike before making my choice
- Know exactly how long you’ll need so you know when you need to leave to be on time.
Get the right kit.
- A mini-hand pump and tyre patch kit are essential. If you don’t know how to change a tyre, YouTube will show you in less than 3 minutes!
- Get a lightweight, packable set of waterproofs – bottoms and top, plus good eyewear to keep the bugs and drizzle out of your eyes
- Install panniers. You’ll need a frame plus the bag. This is essential so that I don’t have to wear a heavy rucksack. I keep my laptop, spare clothes, and lunch in mine.
- Consider a weatherproof phone holder that allows you to see your phone easily and safely. I need this for when I’m taking new routes so I can map it out
Make it easy.
- Set everything up the night before so you don’t talk yourself out of it in the morning.
- Start at an easy time of year when the weather isn’t horrible, and see how you get on. Starting a habit like this in mid-winter might be setting yourself up for failure.
- Flexible working. If we didn’t have a flexible working policy, travel in this way would be harder. Ask your employer to support you to travel in actively by adopting an inclusive travel plan.
- Have a person on call as a backup if it takes away the worry.
Cycling to work – A future habit
It’s still the beginning of forming what I hope to be a long-term habit. But overall, reducing the mental and physical effort it was taking me to cycle to work, coordinating my diary with set days not needing to travel to meetings, and cutting the cycling time were the right steps for me. And even if I’m not able to cycle in as often as I would like to, each journey prevents air pollution and saves kilos of carbon that would linger in the atmosphere for decades.
Want to get out and about around Peterborough?
Our On Ya Bike campaign aims to highlight all the bike related activities and offers on this summer to get you out cycling. Find out more here: https://www.pect.org.uk/projects/on-ya-bike/
Want to implement more cycling to work at your company? Our Investors in the Environment scheme can help!
- Watch this great webinar iiE ran with Sustrans and Investors in the Environment to learn about how to encourage your local authority to make cycle routes that are safe and inclusive From encouragement to advocacy – what can workplaces do to get more people travelling sustainably? – YouTube
- Check out this article and get our guidance on creating a workplace travel plan
- Learn about what the UK government are planning How we travel for a low carbon future | Investors In The Environment (iie.uk.com) and
- Get your organisation signed up to the Cycle to Work scheme – a salary sacrifice scheme to enable people to affordable buy a new bike
- I got a Swytch kit and have found it easy to install and it makes me go as fast as I like Make The Swytch – Swytch Bike