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A crazy idea!

November 26, 2016
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Five years ago this month, I posted about my ‘small on the outside, big on the inside’ local town shop

Regrettably, ‘Cyclops’ in Syston are closing down this year – but the Serfas ‘True 250’ rechargeable bike light that I bought five years ago has been used week-daily through five winters, being used for ~2 hours a day, the charge still last all week.

Alas, due to the council not clearing leaves on supposed bike paths, I came a cropper this week but the only significant damage was my True 250’s bar mount! It fractured on pavement impact. The local shop’s closing; so I searched t’interweb and Serfas in Phoenix, Arizona replied within an hour and put me onto Leicester based Walkers, who stock Serfas lights etc! New bracket in the post, bingo, let there be light. Thanks Walkers!

It’s been a while since I banged on about the benefits of riding a bike – people must be bored of the media’s soundbites, but as my house (and family) is taken up with Saturday night’s BBC ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, I’ll write again about why I ride a bike.

This week I was scanning Momentum mag’s online news. They’re a Canadian bike mag – they’re about ‘people that ride bikes’ not ‘cycling’. It’s good stuff – I’ve not found a comparable UK publication. I was reading Danyel Jones‘ story – “her motivations for getting back on a bike as an adult“, and thought I’d repeat some of my own ‘motivations’.

What is the spark that inspires someone to get around by bicycle?

For me, now 48, Leicester UK, it was March 2011 – At the time it was a combination of lack of exercise, an extremely sedentary job, and a desire to save money and get out of the daily “sitting in the traffic” commute. I remember it, sitting there in the car burning £s, waiting for the steady stream of traffic (of which I was part) to nudge forward and my turn at the next junction.

When someone suggested why don’t you ride your bike to work, I didn’t even entertain it, “crazy idea”, who’d want to ride home after a day’s work? But Spring 2011 I tried it one Friday, and after a while I was doing it daily.

It took months, perhaps years, to really find my way amongst the options. There’s the whole cycling subculture that tells you to buy this and that, most of which you do not need! There’s the move from riding with the mindset of a motor vehicle driver to that of a more pedestrian person on a bike. It really is hard to shake the culture of ‘gotta get there, gotta get there’. In a motor vehicle, ‘the journey’ is neutered and the joy of the places and people you pass is smothered in new-car-smell clown-infested radio or comforting playlists.

The health benefits of riding a bike are perhaps immeasurable – Riding a bike you’ll see good aerobic activity twice a day. The daily endorphin hits are invaluable. The daily experience is arguably also more constructive than a similar trip in a car/bus and cerebrally, thoughts and feelings get a more intense workout. The experience is arguably exhilarating and elevating, depending on your psychological position/attitude to the road-space social-class struggle – this does need to be kept in check.

Over the years I have moved from road cycling and the driverly mindset, to riding a bike on separate (ideally segregated) cycle ways. No matter what the stats say, sharing with motor traffic is a nerve-wracking experience. If that’s your thing then good luck to you, but for me the daily dice with close passes, speeding idiots and irresponsible attitudes from people in charge of machines equipped with bumpers, airbags, roll-cages etc is unwise. My experience is that the rules of the road are generally unenforced and where action is needed authorities are under resourced, under funded and not greatly accountable. Even with video evidence, you’ll be in for the long haul through months or years of red tape and bureaucracy.

Once one realises that there is another way (ahead of most UK local authorities who still have no long term visions or balls) the separate routes can be found. Ideally, there will be routes separate from motor vehicles. Either on segregated bikeways, on shared bike-pedestrian paths, or on alternative routes for bikes. My nine miles has shared paths, segregated paths, alternative routes and a few sections where you have to share the road with motor vehicles. White lines on the road telling bike riders to ride in the gutter are useless, dangerous and patronising.

There is a lot of work to be done as facilities for people in bikes are often badly maintained and poorly designed, but don’t let that get you down. There is a real viable alternative to the motor vehicle. My 9 miles in takes me 45-50 minutes – In rush hour traffic a car takes not much less. My fuel is a banana a day, a car would cost more than £2 in fuel. The health benefits are significant; physically, mentally and spiritually. The thought of going back to commuting by car is a dark thought.

I hesitate to recommend things, riding a bike should be a personal thing – it can be a very tactile, physical, stimulating and dare I say life changing thing. Perhaps it’s not for you, but don’t take my word for it, think about it. To me, at first, it was indeed without question, a crazy idea!

More bike/cycle stuff here: bike/cycle

 

 

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  1. A bike’s for life, not just for Christmas… | Jules P. Richards

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