Well, today I have travelled a total of 12.6 miles without the car – 9.2 under my own steam – burning 87 calories in the process and saving more on car costs (£3.30) than I spent on public transport (£2.90).* Result…! AND the girls were not late for school. I am, it is true, feeling a little damp as I write this – but we’ll get on to that.
School is 1.7 miles away, up a hill. We used to drive, but about a year ago I started taking the girls on the bus. There are two buses on that route, with a bus stop practically at the end of our road, and we often do the journey in 15 minutes including waiting time – it’s a no-brainer. It’s also a bit of daily community event, or perhaps an episode of Balamory. We wait in the WH Smith (aka ‘Jackie’s Shop’) right next to the bus stop, chatting to Jackie herself, who shouts ‘Bus!’ when she sees one coming and we all pile out the door. By that time there is at least one family group from the same school to travel with. Anyway, I have to admit that sitting on the top deck of a double decker just never gets old (and I’m 42).
I jogged home, or at least what passes for jogging on a Monday morning, and at 3pm I walked back to pick them up. We came home on the bus. Sorted.
However, my other trips for the day were ones I’d normally do unthinkingly by car – going to a shop beyond my nearest high street, and a meeting in a pub 1.5 miles away. For both, I decided to cycle.
I’m not much of a cyclist for someone who has recently joined the London Cycling Campaign and spouted lots of online opinions in favour of cycling. For a start, I haven’t got a bike. I use Mr. Subversive’s bike instead. It’s a, I don’t know, sort of green mountainy bike, French I think, and I’ve done something to the saddle so it’s constantly swivelling from side to side and I can never pump up the rear tyre to more than halfway and no matter how much oil I put on it it makes a squee-squee-squee noise. Also, my new D-lock doesn’t fit in the D-lock holder, so it’s slung over the handlebars.
I also don’t have much in the way of suitable weatherproof gear for cycling, because my normal policy if it’s raining is to get in the car. (I’m not the only one – have you noticed how London traffic suddenly swells on wet days?) But I did find a 12-year-old high vis showerproof mac in the back of my wardrobe, and brought it with me to the pub just in case. Just as well. It rained steadily all the way home, and the water dripping off my back somehow all collected at the back of the saddle and was channelled directly into the back of my pants. (Note to self: get one of those cycling capes that hang lower than the saddle, or something.)
- Today was easier than I thought. Once you’ve made up your mind that the car is not an option, other options seem more do-able. I would never normally choose to cycle in the rain but now that I have – and really they were very short journeys – I’d do it again. The car was just not necessary for those trips. In the whole day, I added on only about 25 minutes to journey times by not driving.
- Today I was the only cyclist in the whole world. In my twenty minute cycle along a major A-road to get to the shop, I did not see a single other cyclist. On my journey through a leafy suburb to the pub and back I was the only person on two wheels. Nor did I see any cycle paths or facilities to park bikes or even any bikes locked to railings. I felt like I belonged in a parallel universe.
- Maybe I do.
* calculated with the help of the AA, though some of that cost is a ‘standing charge’ which I haven’t saved because I didn’t get a refund of my road tax or insurance for the day. That would have been nice.