Thursday 4 September 2014

Thin wheels work

Today, in Britain at least, it is Cycle to Work Day and I urge you to join 16,000 people who are cycling to work, even if it is only the day this year you do so. Paralympic patron Sarah Storey shown [R]. The folks who have signed up so far this year cycle an average to 15 km on their commute which saves the planet 50 tons of CO2, and their pockets about £100,000. They also have some aerobic exercise, which if done regularly will give them fitter hearts and lungs, mightier thighs, knotted calves and a longer life. In my Dublin days, I used to do a round trip of about 25km on my beautiful pink bike and, before I was whacked off it by an inattentive car-driver, we had cycled 40,000km (=1 Earth-girth!) together.  I'd had some near misses before the end and a sense of virtue and weaving and jinking happiness that persists in memory to this day.  I had a lot of my best ideas while cycling to and from work and debugged a lot of niggles and errors in the terrible Fortran code I wrote back then.  The great thing about cycling to work is that it makes the journey part of the day rather than an annoying and frustrating dead-time interlude between home and work.

I have just once cycled to my present place of work and back, when the only car we owned lost its gear-box 50 miles from home and I had to teach class at The Institute.  Luckily I was given several hours notice and it was a nice day in early Summer because we live at a height of 230m about 40 km and 190 vertical meters from work. It was okay going down to work, but on the way back in the evening, my legs were so wobbly that, not only could I not cycle up the barest incline, I was hardly capable of pushing the bike uphill either. I'm sure if I did it regularly, it would get easier; but even so 80km a day is a bit on an ask for an old buffer like me.

The Boy chooses most days to cycle about 40km a day to work and his employer is signed up to the Cycle to Work Scheme. They asked him for a selfie to show what cycling to work means to him. He definitely isn't a one-day-a-year cyclist but he's not stupid either and if it is raining stair-rods, he takes the train, but nowhere near so often that it is worth him getting a season ticket. I share without his permission his cycling promotion photograph: the yellow sign round his neck says I can't afford a car and the one between his feet says please give generously. I'm sure this will encourage his colleagues. Car use is insidious and madly expensive when you take into account all the costs and reflect that on an average day it spends 23/24ths of its life doing nothing except costing you money. It is just bonkers that our anxiety and desire for 'independence' and 'instant gratification' should induce us all to own one.  If you own two cars, you should feel really guilty: you can only expiate your guilt by getting off your (capacious) arse and pedalling to work. Go to!


  1. Enjoyed this yesterday, but didn't inspire me to take the bike to work. 1. I'm not fit! 2. its a 50 mile round trip and well beyond a one day a year challenge. 3. I went for a cycle the evening before with dau II (to borrow a phrase). it was a 30 min jaunt to the local church, We departed at 7pm with plenty of light, so much in fact I dismissed suggestions from said Dau (and bucket of sense) to bring lights or hi viz jackets. The cycle started well but about 5 mins in met our first hurdle, the neighbours out for a jaunt, and so we dismounted and strolled along, until we felt we had "passed ourselves" as neighbourly (about 15 mins gone) next we met someone at the school, then the church, and finally John Boy Kent, a childhood pal, who I hadn't seen in 3 years. At some point the every sensible Dau II (to borrow a phrase) cut in on our 3 yr catch up to remind me that it was getting dark. Reluctantly we separated and we had to push the bikes down the path into the village as the dusk turned to darkness. Dau II was a little glum at this but I got a laugh out of her with the story of the local man coming home from a dance on his bike in the dark who collided with an ass. Bike ruined he decided to ride the donky home, and at least the donky was smart enough to avoid further obstacles. Anyway, the long and short of it is that bike to work might work in an urban area with a fit type of person, but on country roads its just not worth it - to many people to talk to...may it ever be thus!

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