Do You Want to Save Money, Have Better Health and Experience More Joy? Here Are 5 Benefits of Cycling That Will Help You Achieve That!
When I graduated from university, I immediately bought a car to go to work. At the time, I never really considered cycling as a viable option. When someone told me I should try cycling to work, I started thinking about all the negatives. How can I cycle in the rain or snow? What about arriving at work drenched in sweat? Isn’t cycling very dangerous? I made excuses because I was lazy and I didn’t know the benefits of cycling.
How I Started Cycling to Work
A couple of years ago I met a couple who cycled everywhere. I am not talking about cycling only on the weekends or to work. I mean they cycled everywhere, including longer distances outside of the city and they brought their kids with them. Cycling was their hobby as well as their main mode of transportation. I thought that this is crazy and impractical. It certainly didn’t seem like something I would like to try any time soon.
When I decided to travel to London a year later, I remembered the enthusiastic cycling couple and how they cycled during their trips. Inspired by their stories, my friends and I rented bicycles to explore the city. We cycled for the whole day and I quite enjoyed the experience. When I got home from the trip, I bought a cheap second-hand bicycle with an intention to use it on the weekends. But when I changed my job that was closer to my home, I started cycling to work every day.
I have been cycling to work for about a year now. The daily distance that I cover to work is about 7 km (4.3 mi). Some days I ride much more if I have to go shopping or visit my friends on the other side of town. Overall, cycling feels great!
Below, I will outline the key benefits of cycling based on my experience over the past 12 months. In the end, I will answer the question – “Is cycling dangerous”?
The Benefits of Cycling
The Benefit of Cycling #1 – Exercising Without Going to the GYM
One of the reasons why I picked up cycling was to get more exercise. I have a monthly GYM membership, but often due to working late or being tired after work, I skipped my workouts. Since I work in finance, skipping GYM became a regular habit. I was out of shape and started feeling quite sad and lazy.
Cycling, on the other hand, seemed like a very good option to add exercise to my daily routine. Even if I am not cycling to work very fast (I don’t want to arrive at work drenched in sweat), it’s still much better than sitting in a car or public transport. Every day I sit at the computer for 8 hours or more, so I want to avoid sitting during the rest of the day as much as I can.
The Benefit of Cycling #2 – Saving Money
Parking, maintenance, fuel, insurance, large purchasing cost, depreciation – that’s how you typically spend money on your car. I still own my car (mainly for long trips outside of the city) so I can’t avoid all of these costs, but I managed to save $435.52 on fuel by cycling to work in 2019. If you live in the city, then cycling is a good way to save money.
Below I have summarized cycling costs in 2019 and added my car costs for comparison. Keep in mind that I have a fairly cheap car and for most people, their car costs would be much higher. If you have a chance to cycle for a couple of years while you work in the city and live without a car (especially at the beginning of your career or when paying down debt), then you can save a significant amount of money. If I sold my cheap VW Polo, I would save $2,656.26 per year (and be healthier).
Keep in mind that a cheap bike is ideal when cycling in the city. You don’t want to leave an expensive bike on the streets so someone is tempted to steal it!
Cycling has also changed my perspective on cars. It’s easier to keep my lifestyle inflation in check since I enjoy cycling for most of the time and my cheap car just sits in the parking lot. For this reason, I don’t feel the need to have a cool or expensive car any time soon (except, maybe, for an electric car when it’s more feasible in a few years). Even though the amount of money that I save is not “life-changing” it still feels good to exercise every day and count the cents that I save each kilometre.
The Benefit of Cycling #3 – Better Health
In 1885, when Karl Benz built his first automobile, he began the time of rapid mechanization, which effectively engineered most of the physical activity out of our lives. Changes in mode of transportation have been quite dramatic since then and cars have replaced walking and cycling in most of the developed and developing countries. As a result, many people exercise less than ever before.
To avoid the inactivity trap, one option is to cycle to work. This will allow you to incorporate exercise into your daily routine (even if you are super busy). Only 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day would be enough to maintain good health (it can be broken down into 10-minute bursts if you wish).
There is also evidence that cycling results in increased cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular fitness, and reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity. On top of that, you lower your chances of other health risks that you might face if you keep being inactive.
One other reason why I chose cycling was because of having knee problems. I injured my knees several years ago but still wanted to stay active. Many sports are not great on knees, but cycling can be a good option since it’s a low-impact exercise. For me, it was better than running or walking long distances and was approved by my doctors (might not be the same case for you).
The Benefit of Cycling #4 – Help the Environment
Cycling is a pollution-free mode of transportation and it reduces the need to use cars. Here are some very strong environmental benefits why you should consider cycling, especially when commuting shorter distances in the city:
- Much lower CO2 emissions: According to The European Cyclists Federation, on average, cycling produces 16g of CO2 per 1 kilometre. As a comparison, my VW Polo produces 119g of CO2 per 1 kilometre (which is still quite low). This presents a clear picture: commuting with a bike reduces an individual’s carbon footprint significantly. So, if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, reducing your car travel is a great way to start!
- Reduce smog: Cars are among the largest contributors to air pollution because they emit not only CO2 but also pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate soot. Cycling doesn’t produce any of these pollutants and can help to keep city air clean.
- Use less space: (driving and parking) – more space for green parks rather than grey parking lots.
- Lower noise pollution: Compared to cars, bikes are basically silent. Reducing noise pollution, especially in crowded cities, makes the city environment more pleasant.
- Save the trees, oceans and lives of animals: One of the key components for cars are tires. Some of the key ingredients for producing tires are natural rubber (19%) and synthetic rubber (24%), which is a plastic polymer. Natural rubber typically comes from rubber plantations planted over rain forests that have been clear-cut or burned. This has many detrimental effects – valuable rainforests are destroyed and many animal species are cooked alive! In addition, car tires wear off and tiny plastic polymers separate and often end up as pollutants in oceans and waterways, creating the microplastic problem that we have right now. The benefit of cycling is that a bicycle tire uses far less rubber than a car tire, which helps to reduce demand for rubber and can save rainforests from being converted into plantations. If you are interested, here is a documentary on this topic – “Rubber tires – a dirty business?” and an article by National Geographic.
I have not listed all the environmental benefits of cycling, but these are the important ones in my opinion.
The Benefit of Cycling #5 – Improve Your Mental Well Being
Every morning, I am actually looking forward to my commute to work with my bicycle (even on Mondays). I never experienced the same feeling when driving my car (except for the first 3 months when I bought my first car). I hated the traffic jams, removing snow from my car during the winters and often, my back started to hurt from sitting too long.
When cycling, I can explore the city, take different routes to work, feel good about exercising every day and even try to encourage others to cycle more. When you try it, the negative aspects of cycling, such as, sweating, riding in bad weather or risk of crashing become secondary and you focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
Also, one of the benefits of cycling is that it can improve your overall outlook on life. Many cyclists find inner peace when they get on the road. Cycling can also give you a chance to represent your personal style or promote a cause (e.g. saving the environment or showing how to resist the lifestyle inflation) for which you have passion. In general, people who cycle regularly tend to be more adventurous, more self-sufficient and many would never miss out on a chance to ride.
Is Cycling to Work Dangerous?
One of the main arguments why non-cyclists don’t want to try cycling is because they think cycling is too dangerous. But does the perception match the data? I have often wondered myself, how the risks compare between walking, cycling and driving a car.
Well, there is no simple answer to this question. Comparing different modes of transportation is not easy.
Luckily, we don’t have to do the research ourselves. Momentummag.com has summarized data from four countries. They found that motorcycling is the most dangerous mode of transport (I assume we all knew that). It has more than 1000 times the death rate of the safest mode – bus travel. In comparison, cycling is fairly similar in safety to driving and walking. If you are someone who wants to maximize safety based on statistics, transit is definitely the right choice!
Below, you can see an excerpt from the Momentummag.com data for the US and the Netherlands. It turns out that cycling is slightly more dangerous than walking or driving (based on 1 death per X trips highlighted in grey).
There is one cycling death in the Netherlands per 18,181,818 trips. This means that there is a 0.0000055% chance of death on any given trip. How do you feel about cycling after seeing the data? Personally, I feel quite safe about cycling if I stay in the cycling lanes and away from cars.
And of course, we shouldn’t forget about the health benefits that cycling provides. Considering this, cycling is even more attractive mode of transportation.
When I first thought about cycling, I only saw the negative aspects. Now, I have learned to adapt, get used to some inconvenience and found that cycling can be fun! For me, the benefits outweigh the costs by far!
If you are thinking about cycling, you should ask yourself – does cycling contribute to my goals? If among your goals is staying active, lowering your CO2 footprint, losing weight, saving money or saving time, then regular cycling can help you with that.