Cycle September has come to an end, but cycling to work is not just a September or summer thing. At the Welsh Government we have a number of initiatives to encourage cycling to work, including the Cycle to Work scheme which helps staff pay for a bike through a salary sacrifice scheme.
One of our colleagues, Alex, is all too familiar with travelling to the office on two wheels and embraces this all year ‘round. While the pandemic led to more hybrid working at the Welsh Government, Alex has found ways around this by setting up his own “virtual commute”. He shares with us why he is so passionate about this and what he does to survive the inclement weather as we head into winter…
Growing up in Cardiff in the eighties, my dad used to cycle to his work for NHS Wales at Cardiff Royal Infirmary. Clearly this left an impression on me as I have been cycling to work for nearly two decades. Here’s picture of me greeting him home after work one day on his trusty Raleigh Racer commute bike, with Reynolds 501 frame!
In 2011, I joined the Welsh Government and began cycling to work from the outset. Having moved around Cardiff, I have commuted from various places across and outside the city, in all weathers and through the winters. I enjoy the open air and have found it an invaluable way of ‘decompressing’ on the way home after a busy day. It’s also been fun experimenting with different gear to achieve a comfortable commute regardless of the weather. My top tip is good quality warm and waterproof gloves and socks!
There have been a few highs and lows, especially when my trusty commute bike was stolen on Park Place after work! But most of all, it has been a fantastic way of keeping active and meeting lots of wonderful colleagues across the organisation through our Bike User Group (BUG). Year on year, the bike comes out on top in terms of efficiency compared with other modes of transport in the city.
The pandemic really impacted my usual cycle commute to work and since we’ve moved to hybrid working, I don’t have to cycle to the office so much. So instead, I have an exercise bike at home which comes into its own during the winter months, where I can use my well-being hour to break up the long working days during a typical week. I also try some days to do a ‘fake commute’ by bike, inspired by a colleague who did a ‘fake walking commute’. I have also thrown myself into various cycling challenges (within my ability), including the Macmillan Dragon Ride with a former colleague after the pandemic, which was great fun whilst raising close to £30,000 to date for Pancreatic Cancer UK in memory of my late mum (www.justgiving.com/team/purplesuzie / www.justgiving.com/movemberformum).
Since the pandemic, I cycle commute to work at least once a week and do the school run with my daughter who is now old enough to cycle her own bike.
In my spare time I convene the Bike User Group (BUG) in the Welsh Government, affiliated to Cycling UK and volunteer for the Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC), promoting cycling in Wales.
The Love to Ride challenge in September, which is a behaviour change platform, is another useful tool to encourage cycling and a fun way of organising teams and increasing participation. But cycling is not just for September. With the right kit and adaptations it is possible to still enjoy cycling to work safely through the winter months.