Want To Cycle To Work? Here’s How To Plan Your Route
19 September 2018
If you plan to take advantage of a Cycle to Work scheme or have decided to try cycling to work for the first time, it’s a good idea to plan your route in advance. In this blog post we share some tips for planning a safe and convenient cycle route to work to help you get to there safely and on time!
Cycling To Work – Planning A Safe Route
Safety is the important concern when planning a cycle route. Whilst it may not be possible to avoid traffic and other hazards, there are ways to minimise the risks. Before you start thinking about your cycle route, first think about whether you have everything you need to cycle safely.
Points to consider are:
A roadworthy bike – mechanical breakdowns are not only an inconvenience but could put you in danger. If you’ve recently got a new bike make sure you take advantage of any additional checks the retailer offers. For example, Evans Cycles offer a free 6 week health check to make sure everything’s running smoothly. Alternatively book your bike in for a check up with your local bike shop to ensure it’s safe to ride.
Bike lights – lights are not only important for cycling in the dark, they’ll also help you be seen in poor weather conditions and gloomy days. Check your lights are working correctly every time you get on your bike. Carry spare batteries too.
Cycle helmet – a well fitted cycle helmet is a must if you plan to cycle to work. Your bike shop will help you find the right size and adjust it to your head, as well as ensuring you’re wearing it correctly.
High visibility clothing – it’s a really good idea to invest in a high vis chest strap or vest to ensure other road users can see you. High vis jackets can also double up as protection from the weather, coming in lightweight waterproof and windproof versions. Cycle to Work schemes cover high visibility clothing too.
Check out our online Bike Shop to explore safety accessories and more.
Once you’ve got the right kit, it’s time to plan your cycle route. Where possible you should aim to minimise the amount of heavy traffic you encounter by looking for traffic-free routes. However, you should also consider your personal safety if you use routes that are unlit or are in quiet areas. These may be fine to use in the daytime, but might be best avoided at night.
Where possible stick to the following types of cycle routes:
· Cycle paths and quiet roads – a back route to work may be preferably to a heavily congested main road.
· Roads with low speed limits – 20-30 mph speed zones give drivers more time to see you.
· Bus lanes – legally cyclists can cycle in a bus lane, providing they’re travelling in the direction of the traffic (buses). This can be a safer option than cycling in the general traffic.
· Parks and green spaces – often cutting through a park can make your commute to work much quicker and enjoyable. Check first that your planned route does allow cycling. Many parks have marked cycle paths.
There’s lots of online support to plan your actual route. One way to get a rough idea is to use Google maps, enter your home postcode and your work postcode and get directions: choose the cycling option from the menu. However, this method may not show bridleways, cycle paths and official cycle routes. To find this information try the following:
· For national cycling routes search the National Cycling Network by entering your postcode.
· Plan a route using cyclestreets.net choosing whether you want the fastest, quietest or most balanced route. The Bike Hub Cycle Journey planner app (available for iPhone and Android) uses this data so you can plan a route on your phone when out and about. It also will show you where the nearest bike shop is in a 6 mile radius.
· Search your local council for cycling maps and routes. Many provide this information for visitors and residents. If you need to cycle in London, Transport For London has produced various routes and maps you can use, click here to explore.
· Have a look at a local OS Explorer map (Ordnance Survey) to see whether there are any bridleways you could use. Bear in mind these may not be suitable for a road bike, and could be muddy some of the time.
Once you’ve found a route or two, it’s important to test them to make sure they work for you. Ideally fix your map or smartphone (with the route loaded) on your handlebars so that you can easily see it as you cycle. You can buy a smartphone mount or ‘map trap’ from a bike shop. Then set off on the bike you plan to commute with to explore. It may be a good idea to take notes or photos of landmarks and hazards on the route that will help you navigate next time. If you have various routes to choose from, use these notes to decide which one is best for you.
Planning your cycle route to work – the dry run
When you first test your route you’ll probably go a bit slower than if you were actually cycling to work. You might also have stopped a few times or got lost. Now’s the time for a dry run to make sure you know exactly where you’re going and how long it will take.
Time your journey by cycling at a sensible pace: don’t race because otherwise you’ll have to race everyday if you don’t want to be late for work! Take all the stuff you might be regularly travelling with (laptop in rucksack or pannier, change of clothes etc.) as this extra weight might affect your speed.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to the same route every time. You may decide that one route is best to get to work and another better to return home. Or you may prefer a longer more picturesque route in the summer months, and a more direct route during the winter.
If you have any tips or recommendations for planning a cycle route to work, please share them on our Facebook page! Click here to leave a comment.
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