Taking the long way home: the joys of city cycling

Geoff Simmons cycling

Geoff SimmonsGeoff Simmons, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Creative Designer, loves riding his bike to work every day.

I’ve been riding my bicycle in London for over 30 years (longer than WCRF has had its UK branch!) and for me it’s without a doubt the best way to travel around the city. Plus, regular exercise lowers the risk of cancer as well as weight gain and I’m convinced that my cycling habit has helped me to keep my weight down, maintain my general fitness and fill me with a sense of wellbeing.

There are many more people on the road now than there were when I started cycling and I try to set out early to avoid the big rush and take my time on the journey. Slowing down a bit is no bad thing, I just let the lycra-clad masses pass me by and enjoy the ride to work. I never see my commute as a race or part of a daily grind; it’s a positive start to the day, enjoying the wind in my hair (through my helmet, of course) and the glorious sights of London which I pass by on my way – Clapham Common, Battersea Park and the Houses of Parliament. I try to vary my route and take quieter roads to avoid too much pollution, it’s a great way to discover London and even takes me past Buckingham Palace.

The pros and cons

After spending the day at a computer, it’s an absolute joy to be back in the saddle again, clearing my head and using some energy. There’s a lot of camaraderie on the road and a sense of a shared purpose. I’m always encouraging my colleagues to cycle as it really is the best way to get around and it saves so much money. The main worry for people seems to be the belief that it is dangerous. London is still far from perfect, and a long way from some European cities where cycling has been part of the culture for a very long time. Somewhere like Copenhagen is so different, cars give way to bikes, people ride around in normal clothing and everybody seems less rushed. However, a lot has been done to improve things for cyclists in London and it feels like we have a voice. I’ve seen very few serious incidents in all the time I have been riding to work. I think being alert and trying to predict any danger is the key to staying safe. As long as I keep my wits about me I never feel like I’m in any danger.

Working for WCRF has definitely inspired me to keep cycling – I once met a WCRF supporter called Bob who was 92 and a lifelong cyclist, still on his bike every day. Freedom, fitness and feeling good – cycling is one of the greatest pleasures, one I believe you can enjoy whatever your age.

Geoff’s top tips for city cycling

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Lights and reflective gear aren’t just for night-time, athough more important than ever with the nights drawing in. Think about how easily you can be seen by other road users and pedestrians.
  • Ride slowly and avoid aggressive or competitive situations.
  • Just like when you’re driving, stay alert and always look ahead to predict possible hazards.
  • Try to take in parks and cycleways on your journey.
  • Take the back roads to avoid more polluted areas.
  • Avoid using headphones and similar distractions – maximum awareness is vital for your safety.

Cycling makes you hungry – so plan ahead by eating a healthy breakfast, like porridge with banana, and having healthy snacks available. This will help you to avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks or drinks.