Why freelancers ride bikes

By Jacqui Ma

GOODORDERING cycling trends banner 

There is no doubt that there has been a huge shift in the way we work. According to a report by freelance job site Elance, in 2013 in the UK the number of businesses hiring freelancers increased by 46% and payment to freelancers has been increasing 37% year on year. Staggeringly 34% of the US workforce is freelance. Not only is being a freelancer much more highly regarded than it was say 10 years ago, but freelancers have the ability to make more or less money as they wish. This shift in the rhythm of work is wholly the basis for my prediction regarding why urban cycling will continue to grow towards and past 2020.

Let me give you a few examples.

Long tail bicycle with kids on the back commuter

Nick is a house-husband. He used to work in corporate branding where he made enough money in the early 2000’s to save up and buy himself and his family a nice house. When his son was born he decided that's enough. Enough big nights out drinking with clients, enough 18 hour days and enough crap holidays during half term. He started his own company in 2013 manufacturing widgets, got them into some of the biggest department stores and now works on average 3-4 hours a day. He drops and picks his son up from school and meets friends for lunch most days. He rides his around between north and east London. He knows riding a bike is the most reliable way to get back in time for pick up and he gets his exercise in to burn off those lunches. Riding a bike is in line with the choices he made to leave corporate life. He can’t even remember the last time he got the tube… or wore a suit.

girl commuter on bicycle new york 

Jane is a millennial. She is a freelance brand strategist. She used to work for the big guys until she decided she could do a better job on her own and charge a fraction of the price. She works out of cafes, friend’s houses and the odd members club. Most of her work comes through contacts she meets socially. Most days she starts the day off with a long ride to a yoga class or morning rave depending on how she is feeling. Health and happiness is number one for her. Even on a night out she would never dream of not taking her bicycle because even when shes drinking its always in moderation because… shes is a millennial (and she has a yoga class at 7am the next morning). All her friends ride bikes and if they don’t they soon do. She can lock it up against any tree if she is running late for a meeting and she always has that ‘just off the bike’ look.

co-working space with cycling commuter space

Mia is a product designer who started her own company 4 years ago. She still does most things herself to keep costs down. She has a young family, which she sometimes worries about supporting but the trade off for a better work-life balance was worth quitting her full time job of 8 years. She still freelancers in trend forecasting because she loves having variety of work. She cycles everywhere around town from client meetings to freelance jobs to pick up her son from nursery. She is part of the growing 40% of UK freelancers working in design and media. Her bicycle is an old banger which she can leave anywhere even overnight when she has a few drinks out with the girls. A typical day could consist of anywhere between 2-8 rides from place to place sorting out the bits and pieces she needs to for her business from photo shoot to pick up samples from the post office. Her bicycle is just as much her work tool as her mobile phone.

As you can see from the above profiles, the daily commute average of 2 trips per day (into work and home from work) is vastly different for freelancers who could take up to 6 trips per day on average moving from place to place. If you base the average London commute by public transport as 40 minutes, in a day of 6 journeys that's four hours of commuting which is just not viable. On a bicycle these trips can be reduced to as little as 15 minutes on average.

Plumber on a bicycle with all his tools including a ladder

Skilled trades people are currently the highest percentage of freelancers in the UK making up 56%. These people, for example make-up artists, plumbers, stylists, painters usually have to carry around tools and parts for their jobs. I see a large percentage of these people increasingly taking up cargo bikes in the future. Free from congestion and fuel costs, cargo bikes allow users to get from A to B quicker avoiding traffic and also incorporating their daily exercise and well-being into their travels. Furthermore as we move a sharing economy, many of the tools and parts they need to carry around could possibly be shared rather than owned, leading then to new innovations in storage and related apps.

In conclusion:

The new work travel rhythms as created by the ‘workstyle’ of a freelancer means that traditional modes of transport are less relevant. As we increasingly work more flexibly, we also need our transport to be more flexible and this is where a significant increase in urban cycling will take place. Work places and cafes will also adapt by making room for bicycle storage, security and for cyclists to refresh themselves for their next appointments.

References and good articles

Why you should work from a cafe even if you have an office

15 Tips on commuting to work by bike

Getting paid to ride


About the author, Jacqui Ma

With over 15 years experience in accessories design and trend forecasting, Jacqui has a diverse creative career spanning Virgin Altantic, Puma, Debenhams and 8+ years as director of Accessories and Footwear at global forecaster WGSN. Currently she is trend consultant to Amazon Fashion and lecturer of fashion trends at The University of Creative Arts. Founder of Trendfields consulting, Jacqui brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of consumer and high fashion trends. Her skill lies in taking global macro trends and interpreting them commercial products and experiences.

1 comment

  • Great article and persona profiling.

    MIa on

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