6 reasons to make cycling to work your New Year’s resolution

Cycling rates are increasing year on year in Bristol. However, the motor car is still the dominant transport mode for commuting in the UK. So why not make your New Year’s resolution to leave the car at home and get on your bike to and from the office. Here are 6 good reasons why it makes sense:

  1. Weight loss. Potentially the most common resolution, but how many people actually stick out the tedium of the gym? A comprehensive study carried out by the University of East Anglia found that switching from a car to walking, cycling, or public transport was associated with a statistically significant average weight loss of around 1 kg a person, on average. The longer the commute, the stronger was the association, with a weight loss of around 2 kg associated with journeys of more than 10 minutes, and 7 kg associated with journeys of more than 30 minutes [1]. And, whilst an electric bike (e-bike) won’t give you the same workout as a purely pedal powered bicycle, studies found weight loss amongst non-cyclists to be greater when they used an e-bike over a normal bike [2]. E-bikes still require more movement for passengers than being completely stationary in a motor vehicle, yet they help overcome perceived barriers to cycling, such as hills, distance to destination and worry about arriving sweaty. Cycle commuting is also associated with a lower risk of Cardiovascular Disease, cancer, and generally mortality [3].
  2. Work Less. The average UK worker earns £27,200 annually [4]. It is estimated that owning a car costs on average £5,814 a year [5]. That’s 21% of an average annual salary or 1 hour 43 minutes of every typical 8 hour day spent on owning a car. Commuting by bicycle is estimated to cost £275 per year [6], which, by the same calculation equates to 5 minutes of every working day. Add to this the improvements in concentration and associated performance [18] and forget about having to work overtime.
  3. Breath Cleaner Air. It is estimated that if the UK hit its walking and cycling targets over 13,000 lives would be saved every year [7]. But whilst it is obvious that bicycles emit fewer emissions than cars, it’s less well known that cyclists are exposed to far less pollution in cities than car drivers [8].
  4. More free time. Average journey speeds in cities at rush hour are often painfully slow. In Bristol it is estimated to be just over 7mph [9] (note: this doesn’t mean car drivers move at a steady 7mph around the city), well below the speed any level of ability and fitness can ride a bicycle, often mooted as 12mph (try it, simply sit on a bike on a flat road and turn the pedals and you’ll be travelling at 12mph). Not only will a bicycle get you more reliably to your destination, but it will also give you a workout, meaning less time needed to attend fitness classes or the gym. When cycling it is also much easier to park up and drop into shops that otherwise would have warranted a dedicated journey.
  5. Get Fewer Colds. It might seem logical that being outside in all weathers would punish your body, but on the contrary, cycling has been repeatedly linked with increased “T-Cells” which boost immune function and lower the risk of virus’s taking hold [10][11].
  6. Pay less tax. Not because cyclists (like everyone else) “don’t pay road tax”, but because the damage motor vehicles cause, costs taxpayers dear. An average weight car (1384kg) with an average UK person (76.9kg) does 53,643 times the damage of the same person on a (very heavy) 20kg bicycle, rolling over the surface of the road [12]  majority of the estimated £14 billion repair bill footed by taxpayers. Air pollution is estimated to cost the UK as much as £54 billion every year [14], with each car in London costing the taxpayer £8,000 [15]. Collisions caused by motor vehicles £35 billion [16] and noise pollution from traffic as much as £10 billion [17].


[1] Martin APanter JSuhrcke M, et al, Impact of changes in mode of travel to work on changes in body mass index: evidence from the British Household Panel Survey, https://jech.bmj.com/content/69/8/753

[2] Sundfør HB, Fyhri A. A push for public health: the effect of e-bikes on physical activity levels. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):809. Published 2017 Oct 16. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4817-3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5644161/

[3]  Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study, 19 April 2017, BMJ 2017;357:j1456 https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1456

[4] Earnings and working hours, Office for National Statistics (ONS), https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours

[5] New INRIX Study Finds Parking is the Largest Cost of Driving, April 8, 2018, http://inrix.com/press-releases/cod-us/

[6] Americans Work 3.84 Minutes Each Day To Pay For Their Bicycles 59, http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/05/americans-work-384-minutes-each-day-to.html

[7] Death from air pollution would be cut if UK hits walking and cycling targets, December 4th 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/04/death-air-pollution-cut-if-uk-hits-walking-and-cycling-targets

[8] Cyclists ‘exposed to less air pollution than drivers’ on busy routes, 13th December 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/13/cyclists-exposed-to-less-air-pollution-than-drivers-on-congested-routes-study

[9]  Average speeds for drivers are dropping around Bristol city centre, 5th September 2017, https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/average-speeds-drivers-dropping-around-424651

[10] Duggal NA, Pollock RD, Lazarus NR, Harridge S, Lord JM. Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthoodAging Cell2018;17:e12750  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acel.12750

[11] Get on your bike to beat the common cold, say researchers, 2nd November 2010, https://road.cc/content/news/26654-get-your-bike-beat-common-cold-say-researchers

[12] 7 reasons einstein would support 20mph https://bristolcycling.org.uk/7-reasons-einstein-would-support-20-mph/

[13] Potholes repair bill ‘to reach £14bn by 2020’, amid warnings this year will be ‘tipping point’, 7 January 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/potholes-repair-bill-14-billion-tipping-point-2017-a7513586.html

[14] Royal College of Physicians. Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution. Report of a working party. London: RCP, 2016, https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution

[15] Each car in London costs NHS and society £8,000 due to air pollution, report finds, 6 June 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/cars-air-pollution-cost-nhs-vans-vehicles-health-bills-lung-disease-a8384806.html

[16] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/555484/ras60004.ods

[17] Noise pollution: economic analysis, 19th December 2014, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/noise-pollution-economic-analysis

[18] Walking or cycling to work improves wellbeing, 15th September 2014, https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/media-room/press-release-archive/-/asset_publisher/a2jEGMiFHPhv/content/walking-or-cycling-to-work-improves-wellbeing-university-of-east-anglia-researchers-find