Getting back into cycling as an adult after a long break can feel a little like riding a dodgem on a tightrope (oh go on - over the Grand Canyon. Never let it be said I shy away from hyperbole). But fear not friends, in the 21st century we at least have e-bikes to help with our oafish balance and woeful stamina. Those of you who are dyed-in-the-wool triathletes will likely scoff with visceral disdain at the need for any sort of motorised assistance, but listen, if you want to get to work without looking like a red sweaty heap on the verge of needing a defibrillator, the e-bike may be for you. And let’s face it, many small businesses don’t have shower facilities or a place to store your neatly pressed clothes (which reminds me of another lockdown silver lining - no ironing for the last 100 days!).
If we’re being picky, the e-bike‘s rechargeable battery makes it not quite the solar-panel-clad wind turbine mounted micro vehicle that I dream of (*shrugs hopelessly*), but if it helps people ditch their car, then take a place on planet point podium. Admittedly the cost of a new bike (of any sort) may be impossibly off-putting, but your employer can help here through the well-established 'Cycle To Work Scheme', whereby you save up to 40% on anything from bike to accessories (so perhaps those frilly neon waterproof trousers are finally within grasp!) and employers save too - they can recover the full cost of the bike as well as generating a NI saving up to 13.8% of the bike's value. Win win right? Read more here.
York has always been big on bikes but lockdown has stepped this up a gear. Not only has biking been a great form of daily exercise, but it’s been a social lifeline for many as it’s natural to keep 2m away from the cyclist in front of you, unless you want to risk an accident, repair bill and string of expletives. And a spokesperson (sorry) from the council states they are planning some “bold interventions”, not to get our clothes whiter than white, but to increase walking and cycling. They're spending a juicy £173k on pimping the existing cycleways, for instance at the park & ride sites, city centre, and some completely new routes as well. If, like mine, every nook and cranny of your home is stuffed with maps, you'll enjoy tinkering around here where 2 clicks will plan a route for you and your two-wheeled companion. Magic, right?!
All of this will please your friendly GPs who are keen for everyone to do more exercise anyway. 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, to be precise. I'm talking about reducing stress and anxiety, improving concentration, and reducing your risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer. Boom. And not forgetting the climate crisis we are currently freewheeling towards, transport is the third largest source of CO2. Yuck. So by increasing cycling in towns and cities, we could cut emissions (great news for anyone with asthma or COPD), reduce congestion, slash road deaths by 30%, free up parking spaces, and potentially save £17bn for the NHS within 20 years. Put that on the side of a red bus. Hmph.
If you're considering heading out this summer, remember to stay safe. Bikes and helmets go together like a horse and carriage in my humble yet very unquestionably sensible medical opinion. Please please wear a helmet. Check your lights (Dynamo lights are super eco friendly with no batteries or USB cable required), remember water and a snack and a first aid kit. Take it from someone who puts Steri-strips on her Christmas list, and has a stash of first aid bits and bob in every bag in the house (grievous pity welcomed below) - a few plasters, a small cloth/flannel (to pour water onto), some savlon, a tube of hydrocortisone, and a Crunchie tend to treat all minor accidents. And if you're wondering how to attach the picnic hamper, jug of Pimms and gazebo, and fit the kids on the back of your bike, contact York Bike Belles who are offering FREE Bike loans and child carrying equipment for key workers. Other local shops like CycleStreet, Halfords, and Poetry in Motion are currently registered for the government's £50 bike repair scheme, which you can read more about here. Plus we have York Cycleworks, Cycle Heaven, and Liv York - my personal favourite.
Well it's been wheelie fun writing this post, and I hope it inspires you to get out and enjoy a cycle-ride. Just don't overdo it and end up two-tyred...