Beat the traffic – ride to school or work!

This is the article we submitted for the September edition of the Hayling Islander. The published article was subject to editing by the Islander.

Thanks to all the Cycle Hayling supporters and newbies who braved the strong winds for our social ride on the evening Friday 19th August. We started and finished at the Olive Leaf, as the wind was too strong to make it to the Ferry Boat. A great chance to meet up and chat, and welcome our new supporters.

Autumn can be a great time to cycle – it’s a bit cooler for a start. If you’ve ridden your bike this summer, keep on pedaling – it’s a great way to keep in shape and get fresh air. Here are some ideas to fit cycling into your busy schedule.

Saturday 9th September is Hayling’s Three Churches ‘Ride, Strive and Drive’ day, where you can ride, walk (or drive) between the churches to raise money for historic church restoration.

How do you get to work? Wednesday 13th September is Cycle to Work day. Registering gives you the chance to win a cycling holiday and many other prizes. Health warning: you might get fitter, you might beat the traffic, and you might find it habit-forming. Do take a look, at www.cycletoworkday.org, and maybe not just for 13th September? Hint: It’s worth preparing your bike and your route in advance.

And for any school day, riding to school is a great way for children (and parents) to keep fit and gain independence and confidence. It’s never too late to start cycling, but childhood is the best time. Our island schools encourage cycling (and walking) to school.

Safety is of course paramount, and they provide training through the national Bikeability scheme. This replaced the old cycling proficiency, and has now trained well over 2 million people, at 3 levels.

Level 1 gives basic skills about the bike and how to control it in a traffic-free environment. It’s suitable for all ages. Level 2 teaches you how to ride on the road, and recognize and avoid hazards. Most junior school children would achieve level 2. Level 3 equips cyclists for busier roads and more complex traffic situations, and is aimed at older children and adults.

Bikeability trained cyclists get more than just training – they get a badge, a certificate, confidence and self-respect. It’s very popular with children and parents alike. I know Mengham Junior will be running it in September – wish the children luck! More details from the schools, or from bikeability.org.uk.

And why not encourage your children learn to do their own basic bike checks and maintenance? The common stuff is very easy, and there is fantastic training material on the internet. The skills they learn will be building blocks for the future. Good for them, and good for you.

We often get asked ‘are we still safe to cycle, with increasing air pollution from traffic?’ Well the latest research shows that in a car, your air intake is sucking in raw exhaust fumes from the vehicle in front, but cyclist’s heads are higher, where the gases are much diluted. So, yet another reason why cycling is better for your health than a car.

Here’s hoping the jet stream over the Atlantic gives us an Indian summer – happy cycling!

Tip of the month: With darker mornings and evenings, make sure other traffic sees you, with high-vis clothing, reflectors and lights. Lights are becoming cheaper and smaller than ever. We like the tiny USB rechargeable LED lights, in slow flashing mode for greater visibility and longer battery life. Get in the habit of recharging them every time you get home from a ride.

More on our website: cyclehayling.org.uk