Utility cycling is a broad term used to refer to cycling as a means of transportation. It is used to refer to students using cycles to go to schools, postmen using bicycles to deliver mail, delivery boys using bicycles to deliver groceries or office-goers using bicycles to go to work. In fact, any cycling that is not done for recreation, sport or pleasure can be considered utility cycling.
Cycle manufacturers have developed several accessories to benefit these users. These include chain guards and mudguards to protect the rider’s clothes from grease and oil; kick stands that can be used to park the bike easily; front mounted steel or wicker baskets that can be used to carry small quantities of goods; rear carriers that can be used to keep school bag or any delivery articles; saddles that are fitted to cross bar to seat children.
Earlier, many countries insisted that all cyclists must have bells, and front and rear lights fixed to their bicycles. Today, the cyclists use reflectors at the front and back of their cycles to be noticed by motorists at night. Some cyclists use trailers to tow extra goods. However, this is largely done by those cyclists who like to travel long distances on their bicycles.
The use of a bicycle depends on the availability of other forms of transport. It has been observed that cycling serves as the best mode of transport for people who do not own cars or motor-cycles. That is why in the developed world less number of people use bicycles as the main means of transport.
In developing countries, in contrast, a large number of cycles can be seen on the roads because they form the most affordable means of transport for most people. This is especially true of countries like Sri Lanka, North Korea, Vietnam etc.
In the recent past a lot of surveys have been conducted on utility cycling. Most people in developed countries use utility cycling for short distances. Around 50% of the people using cycles cover less than 5 km a daily. The maximum distance traveled is around 9km and is restricted to a very small section of the population.
In fact, utility cycling continues to be the mainstay of the lower middle class. They find it the most affordable way to commute.