HAPPIA Health and Psychology Principles in Action

By: Daniel | June 04, 2016

In my latest 'Talking Sport' column in The Sentinel, I compare a 20 mile round trip taken by car against the same commute by bike. For HAPPIA's first  blog post, I expand on this column and provide videos for both journeys.


A commonly reported barrier to cycling to work is the perception that driving is much faster and therefore gives us time to do the things which are important to us. But is this really the case? 


To explore this, I timed my ten mile commute to work by bike and by car. These were recorded in the same typical week (May 2016) and I set out to arrive at work by 9am.  Although teaching had ended at Staffordshire University, all schools were open as normal and no events were being held in the area.

Part One: down hill commute (10 miles)

Part 1 shows that cycling was approximately 7 minutes faster than driving.  Cycling also burned approximately 720 calories compared to less than 150 sat in the car. There are also cost and air pollution considerations to take into account (to be discussed another time). I can hear the cries of "its easier downhill!" so let's move on to the uphill return journey:

Part Two: uphill commute

The journey home by car on this particular day was fairly quick in just under 30 minutes, while the bike took me just over 55 minutes. What this video highlights is the wide variation in time is can take to drive the same route. Due to the heavy traffic, this added an extra 15 minutes to my morning commute compared to my evening commute.  In my experience, driving this route can take as little as 25 minutes and sometimes closer to an hour if traffic is heavy.


Although the car was faster overall (18 minutes quicker), the question to answer is whether driving saves you time. Taking into account combined calories burned during my daily commute, I need to use up an additional 1100 calories on the day that I drive to work. For me, cutting this out of my daily diet is not feasible so I need to exercise, which would require a 55 minute jog at a reasonably fast pace. So in this particular example, combining exercise and the daily commute does save me time. So much so that my commute could be an extra 30 minutes or about 5-8 miles in length (depending on the gradient) each way and I would still be better off cycling.


This provides some support to the statement:


        "Bikes run on fat and save you money, cars run on money and make you fat"


It is important to note that this is one commute, on one particular day by one particular person. Your commute may be quite different to my own, but if you are like 63% of the population in Stoke-on-Trent then your journey may be less than 10km (less than the journey in this video).

Bike Week is taking place on 11th - 19th June, why not give cycling a go? You may find that it saves you time.


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