Save money and the environment by taking up cycling
Cycling to work can take the stress out of commuting and save you cash
Saturday 05 May 2007
Cycling fever is set to sweep the country this summer, when the Tour de France returns to Britain for the first time in 13 years. The race, which kicks off in London on 8 July and stretches out into the South-east countryside the following day, is expected to attract more than a million roadside spectators, and to encourage thousands more Britons to take up the sport for the first time.
But while the Tour's riders are among the fittest athletes in the world, you don't need to be an elite sportsperson to enjoy cycling. Britain now has some 27 million cyclists of all ages, many of whom have taken to their bikes as much for the financial benefits, convenience and environmental-friendliness of cycling, as for the fitness and health payoff.
As the costs of petrol and public transport continue to rise, there is an increasing amount of money to be saved by using your bike. And with government tax incentives in place to encourage more people to commute on two wheels, it's not even very expensive to get yourself started.
USE YOUR CAR LESS
The biggest savings from cycling are made, naturally, by making more journeys on your bike and fewer in your car.
According to Sainsbury's Bank, it now costs more than £2,200 a year to run a car. Although many families feel they would be unable to dispense with their vehicle entirely - especially those in rural areas - simply substituting a proportion of car journeys for trips by bike can save you hundreds of pounds a year.
The average family spends more than £1,200 a year on petrol, and more than £460 a year on insurance. By cutting your mileage, you can directly reduce your fuel costs, and may even be able to reduce your insurance premiums as well.
Parking your bike costs nothing either, while parking a car can be very costly in the larger cities. What's more, if you live in the capital, you're now forced to pay an £8 congestion charge every time you enter the city centre between 7am and 6pm on a weekday.
If you live in a big city where the public transport infrastructure is good enough, why not ditch your car altogether, and simply hire one or join a car club for the times when you absolutely can't manage without? A reliable car will set you back several thousand pounds, while a good bike costs only a few hundred.
Fixed costs such as car tax and MOTs will also set you back several hundred pounds a year, while service charges for older cars can also be incredibly costly. A worn-out clutch or a new exhaust can easily set you back many hundreds of pounds in one visit to the garage.
COMMUTE TO WORK ON YOUR BIKE
If you use public transport to commute, you can save many hundreds of pounds a year by swapping the train or the bus for a bike. A year-long Travelcard for Zones 1 to 6 in London costs £1,720, but even those who commute into the capital from surrounding counties can save significant amounts of money by taking a fold-up bike on the train, and cycling for the last few miles of their journey.
A year-long season ticket from London to Brighton, for example, costs £520 less if you don't buy the London travelcard to go with your train ticket.
Time-saving may be a less tangible benefit in financial terms, but Gill Harrison of the sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, points out that in the big cities especially, using a bike instead of public transport or car can make all the difference to slicing minutes off a regular commute. And at the very least, cyclists have a much clearer idea of when they are going to arrive at their destination, as they don't find themselves getting caught up in traffic jams or held up by train or bus delays.
"Our research shows that people always overestimate the time it takes to cycle or walk somewhere - so they tend to end up arriving on time or even early when they cycle," she says. "Whereas people tend to underestimate how long it takes to drive somewhere."
CANCEL YOUR GYM MEMBERSHIP
Another advantage of cycling to work is that it allows you to combine your commute with an exercise routine. As well as the time this can save you, it can also save you hundreds of pounds a year in gym fees.
In the South-east, the cost of a gym membership can currently be as expensive as £100 a month. And even if you're only paying £30 a month, there's still £360 worth of annual savings to be made for those who are willing to replace the exercise bike with the real thing.
Harrison adds that regular cyclists are also much fitter than the average person, and less likely to become ill. This can save you money on medical bills, and can mean less time off work through sick leave.
Yannick Read of the CTC, the national cyclists' association, says regular cyclists on average have the same level of fitness as someone 10 years younger than them.
The wheel bike deal: everything you need to know about the cost of gearing up
BUYING A BIKE
You can buy new bikes for less than £100 today, although if you're thinking of using your wheels on a regular basis, such as for commuting, it's well worth spending a bit more.
Stuart Clapp of Evans Cycles says: "You can get a decent commuter bike, such as the Ridgeback Motion, for about £200, but if you're planning on using your bike every day, it may well be worth opting for something a little more expensive, such as the Pinnacle Aurora. The main difference is the components; you'll get a better ride quality from a higher-spec bike, plus the frame will be lighter and more efficient. You get what you pay for."
Spending £500 may seem like a big investment, but the Government's Cycle to Work scheme allows you to save up to 50 per cent on new bikes, cutting out the tax. As well as not having to pay VAT, you can pay out of your gross salary. If you're a higher rate taxpayer, the savings can be considerable.
If your employer isn't signed up to the scheme, ask them to consider it; it will cost them nothing and it can be administered by a third party, saving them the paperwork.
It's important to look after your bike. Sustrans says the average cost of maintaining a bike is £75 a year, but it can be a lot more than that if you don't make a bit of an effort. So keep it out of the rain, oil the moving parts regularly and keep the cogs and chain clean - simple measures that will all help to give your bike a longer life.
A basic service at your local bike shop can cost anything from £20 to £70, so it is worth considering taking a bike maintenance course to learn how to do it for yourself. These tend to cost between £100 and £300, depending on the course length. Next month, the national cyclists' group CTC is launching its own two-day maintenance courses (see www.ctc.org.uk/maintenance).
Insuring your bike can be very cheap. Some home insurers will include it on your policy at no extra charge or for a very small sum. Specialist insurers such as Cycleguard ( www.cycleguard.co.uk) or Butterworth Insurance ( www.butterworthinsurance.co.uk) will give you instant online quotes.
Yannick Read of the CTC says it is worth checking that your policy covers you for third party costs. "Obviously, people think about insuring their bike against theft, but they often overlook the idea of getting third party insurance," he says.
"But were you to hit a pedestrian or damage a car, third-party policies will pay out on your behalf. Even if you are struck by a car, a third-party claim can be made against you, and third-party insurance will cover you for that. Even a relatively small amount of damage can be expensive. And the insurance costs very little."
CTC membership, which costs £34 a year, includes third-party insurance, as well as discounts on kit. For details, visit www.ctc.org.uk.
Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?
What would happen if you put a statistician in a casino with £1m?
Simon Read: 'The fight must go on over equality on expat pensions'
More people are switching current accounts – but what do the figures mean?
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms