Utility cycling refers both to cycling as a mode of daily commuting transport as well as the use of a bicycle in a commercial activity, mainly to transport goods, mostly accomplished in an urban environment. Utility cycling encompasses any cycling done simply as a means of transport rather than as a sport or leisure activity. It is the original and most common type of cycling in the world. Utility or “transportational” cycling generally involves travelling short and medium distances (several kilometres, not uncommonly 3-15 kilometers one way, or somewhat longer), often in an urban environment.
It includes commuting (i.e. going to work, school or university), going shopping and running errands, as well as heading out to see friends and family or for other social activities. It also includes economic activity such as the delivering of goods or services. In cities, the bicycle courier is often a familiar feature, and freight bicycles are capable of competing with trucks and vans particularly where many small deliveries are required, especially in congested areas. Velotaxis can also provide a public transport service like buses and taxicabs.
Utility cycling is known to have several social and economic benefits. Policies that encourage utility cycling have been proposed and implemented for reasons including: improved public health, individual health and employers’ profits a reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution, improvements in road traffic safety, improved quality of life, improved mobility and social inclusiveness, and benefits to child development. The development of the safety bicycle was arguably the most important change in the history of the bicycle.
It shifted their use and public perception from being a dangerous toy for sporting young men to being an everyday transport tool for men—and, crucially, women—of all ages. Utility bicycles have many standard features to enhance their usefulness and comfort. Chain guards and mudguards, or fenders, protect clothes and moving parts from oil and spray. Kick stands help with parking. Front-mounted wicker or steel baskets for carrying goods are often used. Rear luggage carriers can be used to carry items such as school satchels.
Panniers or special luggage carriers (including waterproof packing bags) enable the transport of goods and are useful for shopping. Parents sometimes add rear-mounted child seats and/or an auxiliary saddle fitted to the crossbar to transport children. Trailers of various types and load capacities may be towed to greatly increase cargo capacity. In many jurisdictions bicycles must be fitted with a bell; reflectors; and, after dark, front and rear lights.