The highs and lows of resuming cycling for commuting and in-work journeys.
In March 2023, I decided to put my bike into hibernation because of the barriers I was encountering with not being able to build on the successful cycling mileage campaign in 2022.
After five months of travelling by bus and train to commute and complete in-work journeys, I decided to resume cycling in September. This was complemented by resuming research into the active travel policies of other local authorities such as Sunderland, Nottingham, Sheffield, and Vale of Glamorgan.
Cycle to Work Scheme
The quickest and cheapest way for me to get back on my bike was to get a new one through the Cycle to Work (C2W) scheme, as opposed to saving up to get my existing one repaired, which I got during the pandemic in 2020.
The total cost of my new bike and accessories was £660 but the C2W scheme means I’ll only end up paying £495 over 12 months because of the tax and NI savings. I was also able to save money by removing my existing accessories of a pannier rack, mudguards, water bottle holder, lights, and bell from my old bike to my new one because they were still in good condition.
The debut in-work journey for my new bike took place in September via cycling along the tranquil Loop Line to Broadgreen station and then bringing it with me on the train to Manchester to visit my client, which included us going to the fantastic Heaton Park for a picnic.
However, the joy I gained from taking my new bike to Manchester was soon replaced with frustration after what happened one morning when I got soaked in the torrential rain travelling from HMP Altcourse to my office, so I had to stay in damp and cold clothes all afternoon because at the time there were no secure lockers available to leave spare clothes, towels, and accessories in.
To bounce back from that disappointment and to dry off in the autumn sunshine, I decided to change my commute home via cycling along the Prom to experience the soothing sounds and sights of the Mersey!
My contrasting experiences in Manchester and Liverpool influenced my decision to no longer use my new bike for commuting until secure lockers were installed, so in the meantime I’d only cycle to complete my in-work journeys on my home working days.
Bikes on Trains
In September I took my bike on the train again for two out of city visits. The first visit was to London, which is one of my favourite places to cycle because of the safe cycling lanes, the community cycle parking facilities, and the beautiful park that my young client lives by.
Bringing my bike on the train also allows me to experience the contrasting cycle storage and booking facilities, so whereas the train to / from London involved a comfortable and relaxing journey, this wasn’t the case on the train to Wigan because I had to sit outside the toilet with my bike! However, one of the many benefits of cycling is it provides the flexibility to amend your journeys, so I decided to cycle straight back from HMP Hindley to Liverpool via the safe and serene cycling lane on the East Lancs Road.
October was a superb month for cycling to my in-work journeys, especially the adventure I had on the Leeds-Liverpool canal for my visits in Aintree, Bootle, town, and Kensington! At the end of October I also received the fantastic news that cycling lockers had finally been installed, which meant I went into the half-term break very happy!
Gaining secure lockers provided me with the opportunity to resume commuting, so I embraced this because I find cycling home during the autumn nights to be an exciting experience.
Despite the campaigning achievements of gaining cycling mileage and secure lockers, an unresolved issue is not having anywhere safe and secure to lock my frame and wheels outside my work, which is a requirement of the bike insurance I took out with Bikmo via the C2W scheme. Whilst I wait for improved cycling parking facilities, I’ve been leaving my bike in the corner of a room.
My aspiration is for cycle parking facilities to become as good as those I experienced in November during my visit to my young client in Northampton, and at Liverpool Central Station ahead of getting the train to Chester and then bus to Ruthin as part of my three modes of transport visit to my client there. During my bus journey to Ruthin, I also observed great cycle parking in Mold town centre, then on arrival I noticed funky cycle stands in the local park.