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Commute by bike on cycle to work day

If you're thinking of giving up the car or bus and cycling into work instead, then Thursday 12 September is a great date to try it out.

It's Cycle to Work Day, a national event championed by gold medal winning Paralympic Dame Sarah Storey, which encourages everyone to take to two wheels and cycle to work.

The website offers advice for new cyclists, and participants who pledge via the site to ride on the day will be entered into a free prize draw.

There are hundreds of prizes up for grabs including a top offer of a Raleigh Revenio 2 bicycle.

The scheme has also enlisted the help of hundreds of local bike shops who will give your bike a free health check – details at Cycle To Work Bike Health Check.

A nation of cyclists

According to census data 760,000 people in the UK cycle to work regularly and Dan Lakeman is one of them.

Dan, 38, a furniture salesman from Redditch in Worcestershire commutes by bike to Alcester in Warwickshire, 6 miles away.

The journey takes 25 minutes and although it's along busy A roads, Dan feels confident.

"Some people might not enjoy this particular route but I'm comfortable with it.

"I am courteous to motorists, and I find they are courteous in return."

Dan began cycle commuting three and a half years ago, because he and his wife wanted to run just one car rather than two.

‘Letting go of our second car felt right thing to do’

"I decided to try cycling and see how I got on.

"After a couple of weeks I realised I was feeling fitter, and enjoying the sense of freedom that comes from being on a bike so letting go of our second car felt the right thing to do.

"We've saved a lot of money in fuel, upkeep and insurance costs over the years which is great."

Dan dislikes the rain and wind, and found that as the evenings drew in, cycling in the dark took some adjustments.

"It was a bit scary at first," he admits.

"But I wear high visibility gear and a helmet, and am always alert to what's going on around me so I do feel safe."

Dan's advice to new cyclists is, "Keep going, it does get easier. You'll be surprised at how quickly your fitness levels and confidence improve."

I arrive to work ‘brighter and more refreshed’

A more recent convert is Katherine Lapworth, 52, a communications officer from Stratford-Upon-Avon, who began travelling to work by bike three weeks ago.

"I wanted to start when the weather was good to get my confidence up," she says.

"And so far I'm really enjoying it. The journey is only a mile but I find I arrive feeling brighter and more refreshed.

"I'm rather disappointed by the cycle routes however. They're narrow, pothole-ridden things and you're basically cycling along in the gutter, feeling every bump.

'I'll be lit up like a Christmas tree'

"And although cycle routes are clearly marked on long stretches of road, I find that when I reach a busy roundabout or junction where I could really do with guidance they disappear completely.

"It's as though they're intended more as a gesture than as real practical help."

Katherine is aware that cycling may become more challenging as we move into autumn.

"I'm more concerned about cycling in the dark than the rain," she admits.

"But I've acquired wet weather clothing and plenty of lights and reflective gear – so I'll be lit up like a Christmas tree!"

Get on your bike

The Cycle to Work day is just one of a number of initiatives to get us on our bikes.

For example there's Cyclescheme, a government-backed scheme that assists people to buy commuting bikes.

And Sustrans, a charity promoting environmentally friendly journeys is promoting a "Cycle to Work" standard, urging employers to provide areas for bike storage and showers for members of staff who cycle to work.

So why not let Cycle to Work day inspire you to get on your bike? You might discover a passion for pedal power that will get you fitter and save you money!

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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