7 reasons to make your post-pandemic commute an active one

Antra Svarcs Bungalow Series
Antra Svarcs, Bikers, Bungalow Series

Over the past few months, many of us have abandoned our offices to stay at home. For some, this new work routine brought a welcome respite from the daily commute. Not only has lockdown relieved us from this tedious time sink – more than a fifth of Europeans commute 90 minutes or longer every day – but we’ve all enjoyed healthier and cleaner air, as levels of pollutants dangerous to human health dropped as traffic vanished from our towns and cities.

Now, with many of us beginning to return to work, and public transport proving to be a less attractive commute due to hygiene concerns; more of us are considering the benefits of walking or cycling to work. According to the government, outside of London, half of all journeys are less than three miles long and a 5% increase in cycling would equate up to eight million fewer car trips and nine million fewer rail journeys. Their £2 billion spending package, announced by the Transport Secretary, Grant Schapps, is set to widen pavements, close streets and improve cycle lanes around our cities to create more space for greener, healthier commutes.

At Gather Round, our central Bristol location, on-site shower and bike racks actively encourage sustainable commutes, and our community is a literal walking, talking example of the benefits of travelling to work by foot or by bike. Whether you’re worried about getting too sweaty, rained on or generally don’t feel safe cycling on busy roads, here are seven reasons we think you should take the plunge, and make your return to work by a more active commute.

Antra Svarcs, Hikers, Bungalow Series
Antra Svarcs, Hikers, Bungalow Series

1. You’ll reduce the risk of infection

In research carried out by Intelligent Transport, 62% of Britons said unless social distancing measures are maintained they won’t feel comfortable using public transport after the lockdown. Walking or cycling to work eliminates the risk of contracting Covid-19 through close encounters on public transport.

2. We’ll all benefit from cleaner air 

During the lockdown, scientists across the world watched as air pollution levels dropped to record lows. Today, air pollution is responsible for over 40’000 deaths every year in the UK, and studies have shown high levels of particulate matter to be a factor in mortality rates of Covid-19. It’s simple: fewer car journeys, however short, mean less pollution in our cities.

Antra Svarcs Lakeside
Antra Svarcs, Lakeside

3. It’s good for you

Squeezing a workout into our day to hit our goals of getting fit, losing weight or simply staying active can be a struggle: especially if we’re balancing the demands of family life with client demands coming in left, right and centre. Turning your commute into exercise effectively turns what was once a time sink into a worthwhile activity: just a short walk or cycle to work can make it easy to hit the government’s recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week.

4. There’s something for everyone

By foot? By bike? By e-bike? There are numerous initiatives and schemes to help commuters benefit from an active commute. If the length of your journey rules out walking to work: bike-share schemes offer an affordable way to cover some distance, while owning your own bike or e-bike has never been more affordable.

Take advantage of your Cycle-to-Work scheme or finance available from bike stores, and get kitted out with all the gear to keep you safe, dry and fully equipped for a journey by bike. Got some distance to cover? From May, e-bikes will be included in the Cycle-to-Work scheme, with some models covering up to 25km/hr. What’s more, a study by Cycling Weekly showed e-bikes offered a similar level of exercise, but riders sweated three times less than those who used a pedal-bike. Great if you’ve got a hilly route, or aren’t too keen on the idea of turning up to work sweaty! If you’re worried about finding a safe route, cycling and walking charity Sustrans has maps and journey planners to help you follow traffic-free paths where possible.

Antra Svarcs Make Friends
Antra Svarcs, Make Friends

5. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint

Changing our personal car use is one of the easiest ways to reduce our own individual carbon footprint. By cycling and walking to work, the only carbon impact you’ll have is the maintenance of the bike, and growth of the food you’ll eat to fuel your new active commute!

6. You’re more likely to support local businesses

Something which you might not have considered: cycling and walking is good for your local economy! We all know it’s good to shop local and support our neighbourhood businesses, and walking and cycling around our cities mean we’re more likely to use our nearby shops: from groceries to gifts. Just make sure you invest in panniers or a sturdy, comfortable rucksack to transport your purchases home in with ease.

Antra Svarcs Happy Camper
Antra Svarcs, Happy Camper

7. You’ll be more focused and productive at work 

And of course, despite all the personal benefits from healthier air to breathe and increased fitness levels, your professional life will see improvement, too. Studies show those who cycle or walk to work are more focused, have improved cognitive ability and focus, and generally enjoy better wellbeing at work.

Here in Bristol, we’re en route to becoming one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the UK, with the highest number of cycle commuters, and plenty of dedicated cycle paths. Bristol Bike Project offers community workshops in bike maintenance, while Lifecycle UK is offering free adult cycle lessons for those who want to build up their confidence. Plus, the charity responsible for improving cycling and walking access across the country, Sustrans, is based in Bristol, and you can find plenty of resources on their website, from the best traffic-free routes to local schemes and initiatives to improve walking and cycling access in your area.

A huge thank you to the super talented Antra Svarcs for allowing us to use her work to tell this story. Antra is an illustrator and art director from Melbourne. Her work is bold and optimistic, often celebrating positive interpersonal connection and a respect for the environment. Antra combines analog and digital techniques ensuring her illustrations maintain the presence of her hand. If you’d like to check out more of Antra’s incredible work head over to Instagram or check out her website, here.

Antra Svarcs Bikers Bungalow Series
Antra Svarcs, Bikers, Bungalow Series