Today, June 3rd, is World Bicycle Day, a day that celebrates the unique experience that is riding a bike, and the durability and longevity of the bicycle both for leisure and as a means of transport. The United Nations established World Bicycle Day in 2018 to draw attention to the many benefits of cycling. They describe it as, ‘a simple, affordable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation’. Travelling by bicycle contributes to cleaner air and less congestion and makes important aspects of our lives, such as education, health care and other social services, more accessible to the most vulnerable populations. It is a sustainable transport system that promotes economic growth and reduces inequalities all while helping in the fight against climate change. Plus cycling is just plain good for us, both physically and mentally.
So, for anyone who remains unconvinced, in honour of World Bicycle Day, here are 10 reasons you should clean up that old bicycle at the back of the shed, sign up to your local bike scheme, book that cycling holiday, or simply borrow or rent one for the day to remind yourself of that exhilarating feeling only cycling can provide!
1. A fun way to exercise
Let’s start with an obvious one, cycling is a fun way to exercise! Many of us learn to cycle as children, so those fond memories of zipping around on your bike, filled with that energy that only children seem to have, are easily brought back once we’re back in the saddle, even as adults. At the same time, there are so many health benefits to cycling; sport in the fresh air is great for your lungs, and the exercise builds up both muscle and stamina, as well as burning plenty of calories. This can help you sleep deeper, and of course there’s the endorphins, or happiness hormones, that are released when exercising.
2. It’s accessible on a budget
No fuel is needed, only you! Bikes can be bought and maintained on a low budget, and provide cheap entertainment and transport. Second hand and even free bikes are readily available thanks to the internet and apps which help buyers find what they’re looking for in their area. You can also sometimes find free bike workshops where they teach you and help you maintain your bike for free/little cost, or you can sign up to local bike schemes and borrow bikes rather than buy your own, avoiding maintenance altogether.
3. It’s ecologically
Of course another huge bonus to bicycles not needing fuel is that they do not pollute. They are a key tool in the effort to reduce emissions and tackle climate change, whether by choosing a cycling holiday opting to do your commute by bike, or just heading off for a day out on your bike rather than driving somewhere first, all of these help to save our precious environment.
4. Increased flexibility
On your bike, you’re not dependent on another form of transport, you won’t spend ages waiting for that train or bus, or stuck in your car in heavy traffic, or even waste time looking for a parking space.You can decide for yourself when and where to go, and at what pace you get there. You can improvise as you go along, and although for long distances it is always advisable to bring a map, you are more flexible in altering your journey, or taking a stop off on route, and when you are ready to go again you can simply hop back on your bike.
5. Get out into nature
Out in nature, you can experience it in a whole new way by bicycle. Travelling further than you would on foot, you are much more immersed in your environment than you would be in a car or bus, and even in the city this is true as you are more aware of the noises of the neighbourhood when on your bike. You can also explore places that may not be so accessible to larger vehicles, quaint villages or tiny road tracks, or take shortcuts down a small side street.
6. Travel slow and with a new perspective
Nowadays there is increasing awareness around the need to travel slowly and responsibly, and bicycles are the perfect way to do this. Whilst using your bike for a local journey you usually do by car, bus or train offers you a new perspective on a route you may think you already know back to front, exploring new areas on days out or on holiday is ideal done by bike. You get to see places at a slower pace, to really experience them, to get an authentic version of the area not just the tourist one. You learn about the destination, its people and its culture. It is not just about where you go, it’s about how you get there, and cycling certainly reminds us of this.
7. Make memories and stories
Cycling adventures make for great memories and stories. A day out with friends or family, or a trip done alone which you remember with a smile. There are also some great experiences designed especially for cyclists nowadays, and all of these enrich our lives and memories.
8. You can finally seize that photo opportunity
There’s always those places you pass by in the car or bus, looking out the window but before you can even see properly, let alone snap a picture, you’re moving past and its gone. Cycling means you can finally get that perfect picture, stop to appreciate those places and moments and capture it on camera to save for another day.
9. Join a community
Cycling is different to driving or being a passenger, cyclists are a community. You smile at someone nearby also putting their bike in the same bike rack, or wave as you pass a fellow cyclist struggling on a quiet road, even chat as you wait at a traffic light alongside a stranger, also on their bike. It’s a whole collection of people of which you can’t be part of from behind the steering wheel of your car or from your seat at the back of the bus.
10. Sense of achievement
When was the last time you parked your car after a journey and congratulated yourself? Or smiled with a sense of achievement as you walked out the metro station? Cycling is of course hard work, but it pays off. The thrill of the challenges you overcome provide you with the joy of having achieved something, of having got through a physical hurdle, or completed a zero-emission journey, or simply had an enjoyable, healthy day out. It’s unique and worthwhile, so why not give it a go? And there’s no better time than World Bicycle Day!