Travelling is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions and climate change, but unfortunately for most of us travelling and commuting is an integral part of our daily lives. But just because we need to get from A to B every day doesn’t mean we can’t do our bit to cut on these emissions and travel more sustainably. How would we do this you ask? By choosing to get on our bicycles for our daily commute.
I’ll be honest I wasn’t the biggest fan of cycling to start out with. When I started my cycle commute a few weeks ago I hadn’t cycled properly in almost 20 years, and even as a kid I was never the best at cycling. But living in London and having to commute from my house to the train station and then from the train station in a different city to work, I realised that cycling was the best option when it comes to time (cycling is way quicker than the underground or the bus), money saving (the Underground is more than £5 a day round trip), my personal health (once again the Underground is a cesspool of germs and after using it for 2 weeks I became extremely ill, AND cycling is amazing exercise) and the environment (no emissions, no brainer).
Why Choose Cycling
I grew up in South Africa where everyone drove a car, even just to go pick up some bread and milk around the corner. For most of my life, this seemed normal, until we moved to the UK and didn’t own a car and I realised that walking short distances is actually so much nicer than travelling by car. Now, full disclosure I am aware of the safety issues in countries such as South Africa, however, I also do believe that we became very comfortable with the idea of every person owning a car. My husband cycled to work in Johannesburg for a long time and the only hindrance he had was that there weren’t any cycle lanes, which is a project the Joburg municipality should never have scrapped.
That being said, once you get over the initial fear of cycling, learn the right hand signals, and realise that you can actually get your grocery shop done quicker on the bike than with the car, I can guarantee that you will love cycling. There are so many perks to cycling, both for the environment and for your mental state. So, here are a few reasons why I’d choose cycling over any other form of transport any day:
Choose Cycling for the Environment
Probably the most important reason why I chose cycling is because it lowers my impact on the environment. As June drew to a close it was announced that it was the hottest June on the planet, ever! According to UN reports the earth temperature will rise by 1.5 degrees by 2030. Personally, I cannot imagine an even warmer summer than we’ve already been having lately, but global heating is a reality. Naturally, there are different accounts of whether biking is really better for the environment than for example driving an electric car, but cutting carbon emissions is definitely one of the reasons why cycling is better. A study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found in 2015, if 20% more people in the world replace their commutes with cycling we can cut carbon emissions by 11% by 2050. In Barcelona, they found that their bike share program lowered the carbon emissions in the city in 2012 by 9 000 metric tons! That’s not a small amount.
Other reasons why cycling is good for the environment include:
- Bicycles taking up less space than cars, which means more space on the roads in general and more space for people to walk (which is a big advantage for cities like London that have a large number of walking tourists every year).
- A reduction in noise pollution. Bicycles don’t make that terrible revving noise that cars do outside in the street on when you’re trying to catch some sleep.
- Bicycles do not pollute buildings and streets in the same way as cars, which in turn makes for a cleaner environment, but also saves city councils and metros money as they do not have to constantly be cleaning the black off buildings.
Choose Cycling for your Mental Health
Part of living sustainably is also taking care of your mental health. I get anxious very quickly and although I love that I can use public transport in the UK cause it saves on my personal emissions, not being in control of my mode of transport (aka delays) really stress me out. No one wants to get to work super stressed out because you had to run from or to a late train or bus. At the same time, I’ve found that cycling is teaching me to be more mindful as well. You have to be very aware of your surroundings and focus only on your cycling (which is something I love about exercise in general if you do it right). Being that aware and in the moment while cycling has proven to be one of the best ways to unwind (literally) after a long day at work. So in short, cycling makes you free and mindful at the same time, great mental health boosters.
Choose Cycling for your Physical Health
We all know cycling is good exercise but I never realised how amazing it can be for your body until I started cycling daily. It is the one exercise that works every muscle in your body. Looking for nice calves, cycling, thighs, cycling, abs, cycling. It’s even a bicep workout. It’s exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. We can only take care of this planet if we also have healthy bodies and cycling is the perfect answer.
Choose Cycling for More Time
One of the biggest reasons why people list as not wanting to cycle is because their commute it too far and would take them longer cycling than taking the bus or driving would. Really though this is a false idea of time saving. Ask someone why they don’t exercise, and they will most likely say because they don’t have time. So, what if you use your commuting time as exercise time… By cycling, which is also exercising (as mentioned above) you ultimately save time which you can then spend on something else.
Choose Cycling for your Pocket
Whether you drive your own car or take public transport you are most probably shelling out at least a quarter, if not more, of your monthly salary to travel to and from work. I don’t know about you, but that thought used to make me feel very negative about going to work every day (that on top of the traffic). I could have been spending that money on something else, something that made me happy. At the same time, your salary doesn’t always increase with the travel costs so it can sometimes mean you end up with less money each year than before. Making the decision to invest in a bike (and for me specifically a folding bike) and spend some money initially to save money in the long run, has changed my whole relationship with work. On days when I now need to take the tube I don’t mind as much because I’m saving in the long run. I now have that extra bit at the end of each month to spend on things that make me happy or to save to travel.
Choose Cycling for Safety
This might seem like a strange one, but have you ever thought about the fact that more people die in car accidents than bicycle accidents. A 2018 report by the World Health Organisation names South Africa as the country in the world with the worst road safety. During the 2018 festive season alone (1 December 2017 – 9 January 2018) 767 people died in car accidents on South African roads and approximately 1 million road accidents are reported each year in South Africa. Yes, there are definitely cycling accidents, but nowhere near as many as car accidents. The initial fear of not having a hunk of metal around you to protect you from the road soon wears off and you realise that you’re much more nibble and ultimately safer on your bike than the people in cars who could get trapped in those hunks of metal in a crash. Many cities across the world today have cycling lanes, which is something South Africa definitely needs to catch up on, but if people decided to take back the streets with their bikes like the residents of Amsterdam did in the 1970’s, it is possible to drastically increase the safety of the roads.
My initial decision to start cycling was 100% motivated by an environmental decision, however, since embracing the cycling life I’m happy to say that there are ONLY positives connected to it. I am convinced that cycling has given me a healthier, happier and more relaxed lifestyle which is something that’s not easy to come by when living in a big city. It requires a mind shift (like so much of sustainable living does), but it is a decision you will make with longstanding benefits for yourself, your family and this planet.