Since March 2011, I’d been lucky to make the most of a relatively easy bike commute (7 miles each way) into Leicester, but since I’ve been hung out to dry by my previous employers, the wheels could have been left grumping in the garage – it’s easy to leave them there, as I did for many years before 2011. But thankfully, over time habits and mindsets started to be rewired, and it’s now relatively easy to say “no, I can bike it” here and there. If you can (and often you can), ditch the car, bike it!
OK (debatably) taking the kids to here and there needs the car and that’s fine, carrying a large-format art print needs that car, getting somewhere in a suit possibly needs a car etc. But many frequent trips can be done on a bike.
Initially, the thought of taking the bike is worse (far worse) than the reality. The preconceptions about riding a bike can be massively negative. Gotta get the bike out, gotta wear a helmet, gonna get wet, traffic, time, it’s a pain in the arse… etc
- The reality (once you’ve done it a few times) is:
It can be easy to get the bike out.
- You don’t have to wear a helmet**, you DONT NEED ANYTHING that certain stores infer you should have cos they’re shiny, sexy and cheap this week**!
- Yes OK, it rains, and if it is raining the car’s a better option if you need to stay dry. But it rains fewer times than you might imagine and – it’s only water ‘be prepared’ as little boys say. There are things called coats and hats and many employers have showers and changing rooms.
- The traffic is what you’ll often find yourself passing by.
- The time it takes to cycle is surprisingly not as long as you’d think. Especially compared with vehicles at rush hours.
- It’s not a pain in the arse, the pain in the arse is sitting in a queue of traffic, finding somewhere to park, paying for the parking, fuel etc.
We could rabbit on forever about the positive aspects of getting out in the fresh air, getting your endorphins going, passing the time of day with other perambulatists, enhancing your physical, mental and social health etc but the best way of finding this out is to try it.
Try it. It won’t necessarily happen overnight. It took me a year or so to change habits and see things with a new perspective. Some things that without a doubt I initially considered stupid and ‘not an option’, are now default options.
A few trips taken in the last month that would have been made by car:
A trip to Aldi, Tesco & Boots.
4.6 miles, ALL doable offroad*, except a small section through the estate.
I needed some staple goods from Aldi (milk, bread, cereal, coffee, biscuits + plus those things you buy ‘cos Aldi is Aldi), and with a cheap pair of pannier’s it couldn’t be easier. Of course, there’s that one thing that Tesco sells (such as cooking coco) that Aldi does not. And then a trip to Boots for the family’s routine drug fixes – humf nature! All sorted without stopping at Syston Hub Cafe for a coffee – although that is always an option!
Some business here and there.
25.7 miles, significantly offroad*.
A trip to a meeting in Birstall, and back home. Then a trip into Leicester for another meeting. The Town Hall Square Bike Park in Leicester is a great facility enabling you to drop your bike off, safe, dry and central – it’s just 50p for less than an hour, £1 for the day. And of course, Bishop Street Cafe is right there for essential sustenance and mindspace.
Summer time in May.
10 miles, including a 2 mile meeting with the in-laws to discuss ‘stuff’.
This was a trip town for bits ad bobs and a drop-in at Syston Hub Cafe to oversee the installation of some art prints. The a trip to the inlaws for a meeting – which actually occurred over a 2mile stretch around the lakes. And then a return trip via Syston to pick up more bits and bobs.
*These trips are made easier when you accept that you are on a bike not in a car. The bike is more akin to a pedestrian on wheels and not a car without an engine. The roads where traffic is running at 30mph+ is not a place for people on bikes**. There are many shared pedestrian / cycle routes and alternative routes through parks etc. One just needs to change mindsets, perspectives, and habits – It is admittedly easier said than done, but it’s doable.
**If you’re predominantly riding off road and not mixing with 30mph+ motor vehicles, then riding a bike is simply that – riding a bike. ‘Cycling’ as a sport, is a different matter; not something that I do and not something I am talking about here.