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Where there's a wheel, there's a way - planning a cycle route to work

Julie Rand's picture
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Cycling to work is growing in popularity in the UK. You'll save time, money and stress when you free yourself from the daily grind of parking penalties and petrol prices. But how can you find a suitable route?
A woman riding to work looking at the view
Riding to work allows time to take in the sights

When you first start, you may want to use the most direct route as you’ll be worried about arriving with enough time to catch your breath before settling down to a hard day’s graft. But in time, you’ll realise that one of the major benefits of pedalling in is that your commuting time is nearly always predictable – and you will never be late because of ‘leaves on the line’ or a broken down vehicle on the motorway.

You'll probably have a few decisions to make before you settle into a regular routine - e.g. whether to breakfast before you go or breakfast at your desk; have a shower in the evening or, if you are lucky, a shower at work; work in your riding clothes or change out of them and so on. Once you done that, you might be able to find a route that is more enjoyable than just thrashing up the main road, even if it may take a little longer.

Charlie, 48, from Guildford rides 8 miles each way to work. He says: “I am lucky in that I have a variety of possible route options for my daily commute. I ride a hybrid so that if it’s fairly dry I can opt for a lovely potter in along a local canal towpath. But if I want to get to my desk more quickly, I just go down the main road and cut through the town. In reality, this only saves me about  ten minutes so most of the time I’m happy to leave slightly earlier in order to savour the time spent outdoors.”

I am lucky in that I have a variety of possible route options for my daily cycle commute." Charlie, cycle commuter

 

Even commuting by bike can get somewhat boring if you never vary your route, so it’s good to investigate some alternatives, especially if you intend to ride all year round. Occasionally ice, snow or just a diversion will mean that a particular option is unavailable.

So where can you find a route that is both pleasant and rideable on a daily basis? There are all sorts of route planning websites, gadgets and gizmos out there that can help you plan a journey to work on two wheels that is both practical and enjoyable.

CTC’s Journeyplanner is a good starting point – you simply put in your start/finish points and the system will do the rest! There are various layers of routing visible, from the fastest to the slowest and it will even show you the location of local bike shops, the time it will take and the elevation covered. And you can see it in Google Streetview so you can tell how busy it’s likely to be and the condition of the carriageway or track. 

A journeyplanning tool

A journey planning tool can show you how hilly your chosen route might be

Alternatively, you could ask a colleague who already rides in for some local options that may not show up online – for example a short cut to avoid a busy one-way system. Perhaps you could even ride in together occasionally?

But remember – the route that seemed like a breeze in mid-summer may become dark and discouraging in mid-winter.  Don’t feel you have to stick to the same routine every day – one of the many joys of cycling is the variety of experiences it offers.  Some days you may feel more energetic and want to tackle a hilly climb to get a bit more of a workout, whilst other times you may be short of time and will just take the fastest, most direct route.

When the weather really takes a turn for the worst, don’t feel you have to be a martyr to the cycling cause – it’s OK to take the train or bus occasionally. If nothing else, it will make you realise how much nicer it is to be out in the fresh air and in control of your own destiny!

Rider on a canal towpath

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