In April, I became the first person to take advantage of the company’s Cycle to Work scheme. Biking has truly improved my quality of life. It sounds trite, but I’m serious. Here’s the story and how you can make use of your Cycle to Work scheme:
Why I Decided to Cycle to Work
The thought of cycling in London scared me. Six months into living in London, I still wasn’t sure what direction to look when I crossed the road, much less the direction to ride down! Not to mention the constant barrage of cyclist deaths in the news.When I was living in Holloway, I started walking to work. It took about 45 minutes, it was winter and was longer than taking the Tube. But within the first few weeks, I felt like a much happier person. I was getting an hour and a half of exercise every day. I was outdoors. I wasn’t cramped between hundreds of smelly, germy people every day and I didn’t get black snot. I started my morning before work refreshed instead of repressed. I wasn’t stressed about missing the train or having it wait at Angel (one stop away from where I got off) to “regulate the service” – I had complete control over when I was getting to work.
I would be moving and I wouldn’t be able to walk to work anymore – not without sacrificing sleep that is. Since I had passed my probation, I was eligible for the Cycle to Work scheme. I signed up immediately.
How to Get Your Bike
We registered with Evans Cycles. First, you go to the website and put the amount that you would like to spend. The Ride to Work scheme covers bicycles and accessories, including lights, helmets, locks and so on. Your company then pays that amount to Evans Cycles, essentially paying for your voucher. You sign a contract allowing your company to take it out of your pay in installments for 6-18 months until you have repaid the full amount. Until then, the company technically owns the bike and you are renting it from them.
You pay less taxes. The installments come out of your gross pay, which means you have less income to pay taxes on. This is the government’s incentive to Cycle to Work Schemes.
You get more for your money. You get a discount on your bike and because the company pays for it, you get a VAT exemption. On top of that, with Evans Cycles, they give you a £25 gift certificate to spend in store when you redeem your Ride to Work certificate.
With my voucher I was able to get a brand new bike that was on sale, a helmet, lights, and a lock and I probably saved myself £100 than if I had bought everything myself.
Lower carbon footprint. Save the Planet, people.
Choosing Your Bike
I went to Evans Cycles to test ride some bikes. I tried a cruiser (which is what I really wanted) but realized wasn’t very practical, a road bike (which I found too fast and scary) and a folding bike. In the end, I chose the Tern Link C7 – a folding bike.
It’s not a Brompton, which is only annoying when I have to fold it. It doesn’t have the innovative folding mechanism that the Brompton has and it isn’t as small when it’s folded. However, it’s a much more robust bike and great value for money.
The Tern is a bit heavy and you can feel that when going up hills or when trying to take it up the stairs, but for a simple commute it’s sturdy and reliable thanks to its bigger tires and more speeds compared to other folding varieties. Tom also seems to think that it doesn’t give the same momentum as a road bike would, but you can’t quite expect that from a small bike.
I chose a folding bike mostly because I was concerned about theft. I can bring it into the office and into the pub when I have to, or put it under a table during dance class. If I don’t feel like riding home I can take it on the bus with me. I went for convenience over performance.
I’m actually happy when I get to work:
I mean…there’s nothing like testing your will to live every morning!
I save money on taking the Tube. I don’t buy travel cards and I only spend about £10 on public transport every week. That’s if I go out on the weekends and take the bus or once during the week.
I exercise every day. I don’t feel pressured to go to the gym because I know that I’m active on a daily basis – I cycle 8 miles (~13km) 5 days a week. Sometimes, I take the scenic route home, which is a bit longer but takes me through Finsbury Park where there’s a lake and such.
I save the stress and disease of taking the Tube. I would get sick regularly when I was taking public transport. A recent study by the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University found that seats on the London Underground were found to have 170 times the amount of bacteria on them than a toilet seat.
A separate test by experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine even found that a quarter of commuters have traces of fecal bacteria on their hands while travelling to work.*
I am able to sleep more. I wake up at 8am, do yoga, watch the news, read the Guardian, take a shower and leave my house at 9am or 9:10am. If I really need the shut eye, I can push it until 8:30. I get to work in about 20-25 minutes. I’m home by 6:30 or so and I have more time to relax at the end of the day.
Wear a helmet. Safety first. I’ve had a couple of close calls, mostly from people not checking their blind spots and such. Personally, I pretend I’m a car and that other drivers can’t see me (which they usually can’t). If I wouldn’t make the manoeuvre in a car, then I don’t do it on my bike.
If you’re really nervous see if your local Council has a bike safety course. I’m in Haringey Council and they have awesome resources for cyclists, including free cycle training and free bicycle maintenance courses. I recently went to the Festival of Cycling in Finsbury Park where they had a truck to help you see what truck drivers see. Just so you know: they generally can’t see you!
Don’t you think it’s time you started cycling to work?
Have you considered a healthier way to commute? How has it changed your day? Feel free to brag in the comments!
*Thanks to Aquaint for sending me the report with these studies.