As every New Year dawns, millions of people tell themselves and others that they will improve their lives in some way, more often than not, in terms of their health. A really effective way of doing this is by taking up cycling.
Hours spent travelling in a busy week are unavoidable and often seen as ‘wasted’ time, so combining it with your daily exercise kills two birds with one stone, which provides encouragement to stick to your New Year’s resolution and keep fit. Cycling is also often quicker than other modes of inner city transport and when you get to work, you will feel better, not just for having been efficient with your time, but also due to the endorphins flowing around your body making you feel good. Endorphins are a naturally occurring form of opiate that cause good moods or even euphoric feelings after physical exercise. This ‘runner’s high’ is genuinely noticeable and really prepares you mentally and physically for a good day’s work.
Additional pros of riding a bike include reducing pollution and alleviating strain on congested public transport systems, which improves everyone’s health. Indeed, research has confirmed that, despite recent improvements in air quality due to environmental concerns, pollution still reduces life expectancy of big city dwellers by an average of eight months, increasing the risk of heart disease, lung disease and asthma. As well as direct impact on human health, burning calories rather than fossil fuels makes the planet healthier, giving future generations more hope of happiness and health. Additionally, with tube prices increasing, your wallet will feel plump and healthy.
It may have reached record low temperatures already this year and snow may have brought London to its knees but I have found my cycling journeys very pleasant nonetheless. I am at one with my surroundings, directly experiencing every element of my environment, from the lay of the land to the weather and the sights, sounds and smells that fill our diversely populated urban streets. And as we pedal rapidly towards spring and summer, London’s cyclists really will be in their element.
There are of course also dangers to health when cycling on London’s busy roads. Pollution may unavoidably and constantly penetrate my lungs as they work overtime to feed me with oxygen, but the increasingly frequent incidents with faster, heavier vehicles than myself concern and infuriate me considerably more. Despite a massive increase in cycling activity in London, death rates of cyclists on London’s roads have dropped in recent years but are still disturbingly high, with half of all fatalities arising from collisions between bicycles and heavy goods vehicles. Since early last year however, the blind spot on HGVs has been ‘illuminated’ in many cases by the invention of a stick-on lens that adheres to the truck’s passenger side window displaying cyclists moving up on the inside of lorries.
It seems that, with the government’s Change4Life public health campaign and various politicians championing cycling themselves, there are movements being made towards making our roads more suitable for cycling. However, as I take to the streets each day, I will still be very careful to ensure my health and safety whilst pursuing this mode of transport that I love.