Cycling to work is cool and green thing to do- to get some attention among peers, to enjoy the obvious benefits of exercise, fuel savings and so on. But then, is cycling really practical? Does it help a lot? I’ve been riding to office for some time and am listing a few observations below.
While deciding to cycle to work, primary factor will be the distance. If your work place is less than 5kms away, cycling won’t be much of a trouble. If it is 5-10kms, it’s still possible. When the office is more than 10kms away, it depends largely on your stamina to cycle, will power and patience to spend adequate time cycling all the away. Cycling may not be practical if the distance is more than 20kms.
Assuming an ideal condition that office is 5-10kms from home, let us evaluate the pros and cons of cycling to work. As everyone knows about advantages, let me mention disadvantages first… (Disclaimer: This is not intended to discourage anyone from cycling, just listing the factors to be aware of...)
- You’ll be spending more time on the road, without the cover of a car. This means you’ll inhale more polluted air than you’d have had you zipped past in a two wheeler/car. This depends on how polluted the streets you use,and exposure to pollution has its own set of side effects.
- Half way through if you realize that you’ve left something important behind (say a file required for the meeting), going back all the way to get it will be time consuming and effort intensive activity.
- While there’s a savings on fuel bill, if lot of money needs to be spent on juices and other refreshments (coz you’re tired after long cycling), then the cost advantage might get nullified. (Even then it will be worth it, due to long term health benefits)
- Changing lanes need more time and patience as speeding vehicles do not care about cycles. With nearly zero gadgets (like turn indicator) cyclist needs more caution on the road
- As far as safety is concerned, cycle is far less safer than any other vehicle. Because of its negligible weight, even a mild impact can toss the cycle and its rider up in the air and resulting in severe injuries. Bikes on the other hand offer some resistance to the impact due to their weight. Cars are much more safer. Not many motorists respect cyclists and cycle rider needs to be extra alert and cautious about the vehicles around him/her. Dedicated cycle lanes would have been great, but don’t think anything like that will happen in India anytime in near future.
- Not ideal if you don’t have a fixed commuting plan (For example: Sales people who’ll have to travel to different parts of the city)
- If one has to carry laptop, lunch bag and other goods, cycle can’t be ideal (though it’s very much possible to carry laptop n lunch bag on a cycle)
- If you value your time more than the exercise n other benefits, if you’re the one who’d finish lot of work in the back seat of the car while being driven to work, cycling may dampen your productivity and profitability.
- While wearing a cycle helmet is good idea, hardly anyone use them in India and you’ll surely get lot of extra attention if you ride with one. (ok, this one may not be a disadvantage)
- Your brand new and reliable cycle will not remain brand new and reliable always. It does command some attention w.r.t. maintenance. If not, you might have to face problems like low tyre pressures, weak brakes, chains coming off etc, inconvenience caused from which can spoil your mood/day
- Can’t give lift to anyone! (Technically it can carry 2 people, but riding double for long distance is not really practical)
- Climbing up a flyover will consume considerable energy, but you won’t be able to speed down the flyover, to leverage momentum, due to traffic.
- Not practical under hot sun. Rider should plan to leave early morning and return after sun sets
- Riding night time, while it is raining etc add up to complexities and demand even greater alertness as other drivers may not notice the cycle till they come close.
|File Photo from Mahabalipuram Cycling Trip, Feb 2009|
These are obvious and no brainer, still quickly mentioning them for quick reference
- Exercise & Health Benefits
- Fuel savings (its notional- If you were riding a bike earlier, savings will be say Rs 1 per km. If you were driving car it might be Rs 5 per km and if you were renting a Merc, the savings could be in few thousands)
- Eco Friendly
- Carbon Credits
- Can take part in cycling events that keep happening in all cities-network with like minded people
Summary: Though cycling to work has its advantages, its practicality needs evaluation based on one’s commuting distance and other factors listed above.
Similar: Tour of Nilgiries *