After 13 years of driving to work at Southampton General Hospital, Sanjay made the bold move in 2020 to start cycling from door to door. Sanjay changed his default mode of transport and transformed his fitness. In this blog he shares his story along with seven top tips for starting to cycle to work.
Sanjay purchased a bike through the Cycle to Work scheme and changed the way he commutes. Credit: Joe Hudson/Sustrans
Prior to 2020, Sanjay’s daily routine was to drive his car for the first seven miles of his commute to Southampton Hospital.
He’d then cycle the remaining ten minutes of his journey on a folding bike which he kept in the boot of his car.
He told us: “I did this for about eight to ten years and it saved me the cost of parking.
“The cycling offered me a little exercise and at the time I thought something is better than nothing.”
“I suppose back then I was concerned that cycling the whole of my commute wasn’t safe or I was just too busy to do it.”
Changing my default mode
In the spring of 2020, quieter roads got Sanjay wondering if he could cycle door to door every day.
He’d tried it a handful of times over the years on his folding bike, but had never established a routine.
Driving to work had always been the default, cycling the whole way was the exception.
By June 2020, Sanjay was ready to make the change and signed up to the Cycle to Work scheme.
“Joining the scheme was very easy.
“I paid for my new bike directly from my salary for about 12 months and now it’s all mine.
“I bought a brand-new road bike that’s better and lighter than my folding one.
“The road bike enabled me to get serious and become a true convert to cycling my commute.
“I started to hate driving as I got used to the freedom of cycling.
“I admit I’m not a fan of cycling in the cold and wet of winter, so at times I’ll still drive.
“But it’s not my default anymore and I’ve cut my car usage way down.
“Two winters have passed since I got my new bike and each spring I look forward to cycling full-time again.
“I don’t miss the car at all.”
Finding my personal escape
“Cycling everyday became my personal escape.
“In the beginning, I was building up my cycling confidence on quieter roads.
“More recently, I've joined a cycling group, so I’m now doing 30-50 miles at weekends.
“My new all-cycling commute certainly got me into the position where I felt able to join a cycling group like this.
“So now I have a new hobby too, which is great as I have a little more free time these days since my children are growing up.
“Since I started focusing on cycling, I definitely feel healthier.
“I tell my kids I’m physically fitter than I was 10 years ago.”
Reflecting on cycling to work
“When I consider that 6,000 people are employed at Southampton General Hospital, I imagine the difference it would make if more people cycled into work.
“I think most cars seem to bring in just one person.
“That's a phenomenal amount of fuel consumption, as well as damage to the environment.
“Of course we can’t do everything right, but every individual positive choice we make can help.
“If it’s pouring down with rain, I admit I might jump in the car to get to work, but this is far from every day now.
“I wonder how we can make it easier for more people to make cycling into work their default choice.”
7 top tips for starting to cycle to work
We asked Sanjay what advice he'd give to someone who wants to start cycling to work:
- Start small. Don’t feel you have to tackle your whole commute in one go. If you can’t split it into different modes of transport, try building up your cycling distances on your days off.
- Get to know the basics of cycle maintenance. Understanding your cycle will give you more confidence in it. YouTube is great for maintenance tutorials, like how to oil a chain or repair a puncture.
- Visit a cycle shop. Ask them about accessories which will help you to be safe and comfortable such as lights, hi-vis, waterproofs and a helmet.
- Find company. Ask friends, family or colleagues if they’d like to cycle with you. You can support and motivate one another.
- Establish a little-and-often routine. Cycling short distances frequently will gently build up your fitness and make you more likely to adopt cycling into your everyday lifestyle in a sustainable way.
- Be motivated by the health benefits. You can get fit without a gym membership and there are cycles to suit all budgets.
- Familiarise yourself with the Highway Code. Particularly the parts related to cycling. This will help to keep you and others safe.
For more tips on how to build your confidence in cycling to work, check out our list of handy tips.