On your bike

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It’s not surprising that a recent report from Cycling Scotland has seen a huge increase in cycling since social distancing was introduced in Scotland. While we’ve all been stuck in our homes, many of us have turned to cycling, rather than walking or running, as another way to enjoy our limited time outside.

Lots of us have got into (or back into) cycling as a way to stay active, and look after our mental health by getting that much needed fresh air fix.

Peddling through a pandemic

Plenty of people have enjoyed dusting off their bikes during lockdown, especially Lucy Smith, Gym Support at Easter Bush Gym: “From the beginning of the pandemic many of us have seen a big change in our exercise habits,” she says. “For me cycling has been a wonderful (wobbly at times) new learning curve and a great way to stay sane and social with friends, family and colleagues.”

Across the city, the number of cyclists on the road has multiplied, with some people enjoying an easy cycle in the fresh air, while others have committed to the full lycra looks and pushed themselves to combat some of Scotland’s steeper hills as a way to stay active.

Lucy reminds us it’s important to stay safe: “Whether you’re a beginner or Sir Chris Hoy, there is an element of risk on the roads. So, if you’re throwing on your lycra and signing up to Strava like me, know how to stay safe on your bike with the essential skills guide by Cycling Scotland.” Lucy recommends investigating local cycle paths: “A fab resource for discovering Edinburgh’s cycle paths is the Spokes cycle map found in most local bike shops.”

Now that we’re all easing out of lockdown, cycling seems to be the commuting method of choice, in place of using public transport. Lucy explains that even during lockdown, essential workers were choosing to get around by bike: “Cycling in particular has been adopted by many essential workers replacing public transport as a low risk and healthy way of commuting. Like dumbbells in Argos, bikes have been flying off the market. However, to ensure bikes are available to our NHS heroes bike shops like the The Bike Station in Edinburgh have been gifting second hand bikes to key workers which is just fantastic.”

Cycle to work

Keen to pick up cycling again for your commute? The University offers a cycle to work scheme which lets you save money on a new bike and equipment, while spreading the cost by paying back monthly instalments.

In July the scheme was re-launched with an increased spending limit of £3,000 due to the popularity of electric bikes, or e-bikes. The addition of a battery and small motor makes it much easier to use over longer distances.

David Brook, Head of Support Services in Estates decided to make use of the University’s scheme to trial an e-bike: “I had long promised my staff, usually after a glass of wine, that I would one day cycle to work from Falkirk. Last year on a whim I borrowed an electric bike from the University fleet, took it home in my car and cycled the 36 miles back the next day.”

But that wasn’t the end of it. “I kept it for four weeks under the try before you buy scheme and I used it very regularly for other trips with my 10-year-old son.”

Even though it meant an early start, David explains how much he enjoyed it: “I left home at 06.30am and arrived at work just before 9.00am.  The journey was cold at the start before the sun came up, but great fun, mainly flat along the canal and the e-bike was great, only losing charge about half a mile before the office.”

He continues: “I will be buying one very soon under the University’s Cycle to Work Scheme now that the threshold has been raised.”

And David’s advice for anyone still on the fence? “Speak to the Transport Office. I am a car nut, not a normal cyclist but I really enjoyed doing it.”

Where to start

Not sure what to do next? We’ve pulled together a list of resources to help you get started.

Transport and Parking cycling information

Getting a bike (Transport and Parking)

Cycle to Work Scheme

Edinburgh Council cycling advice

Cycling Scotland safety advice

Have you been jumping on your bike more recently? Plan to take advantage of the new scheme? Let us know in the comments below or drop us an email at bulletin@ed.ac.uk.

Photography: Lucy Smith; Honglin Liu/GettyImages; ARTindividual/GettyImages