Travelling from car to bike
Why don't more people cycle?
Overcoming my own hurdles to cycling more often
Although it is only four miles to my nearest station, in the days when I used to travel up to London regularly it never occurred to me to cycle there. The route goes up a steep hill on a busy main road. There was a track along the old railway line, but at the time it was often muddy and not suitable when wearing a suit. In addition my bike didn't have a rack to carry briefcase etc so I never considered cycling as an option. Then one day my car was hit where it was parked and written off. That was the moment when I decided that would be my last car and took to cycling to the station.
Fortunately by then the Forest Way (Sustrans Route 21) that covers most of the distance between my home and the station, had been upgraded so it was now mostly viable to ride it in a suit. This beautiful trail is a joy to come home along.
It was only when I took the plunge to go by bike that I realised how easy and pleasant it was to cycle to/from the station, which including parking, was actually not that much longer a journey, and much cheaper. But actually taking the bike on the train and cycling in London I deemed both impractical and a bit scary.
The next step in my journey to using the bike as my main mode of transport was going on a cycling event in central London. This wasn't any cycling event. It was the London Naked Bike Ride. This annual ride that now takes place in cities around the world was the first worldwide protest against our dependency on oil. The nakedness highlights the vulnerability of cyclists; 'now can you see me' as one naked cyclist had painted on their back.
That first naked ride around London revealed several things to me (!). Firstly how easy it was to take my bike on the train, and how liberating it was to be able to cycle away from the station and not have to plunge into the underground. Central London is also pretty flat compared to the Sussex hills. After that there was no going back and I always took my bike on the train. A new bike with a rack also made it possible to add a waterproof bag for my laptop. London now has a whole network of cycle routes along quieter and less busy routes and Transport for London maps and can ordered free to any UK address.
With the arrival of new modern trains without a guards van, the train company decided to prohibit bikes in the rush hours. This meant that if I missed the 3.53 train from London I would have to hang around until 7.23 before the next permitted train. As folding bikes are allowed, I began to look for one. While pricey, the Brompton stood out for me as the bike to have. I thought that I would only use it when I had to, but quickly fell in love with it. Bromptons exudes such good design that almost without fail every time someone will strike up a conversation about it. If I arrive back at the station in the pouring rain, anyone can give me and my bike a lift home without needing a special rack. Since it can be taken on the bus, it has helped introduce me to bus travel, something I never considered when I had a car. This has greatly extended the places I can go and being able to arrive somewhere by bus and pedal away brings a great sense of freedom. Going by bus also connects you to a whole part of the community thats going on around you, that you would not have the opportunity to connect with.
There are times when one needs to carry more than will fit in panniers and this can be another reason for holding on to car ownership.
Car clubs, such as set up by Transition Lewes, and soon to be launched in Forest Row by the Parish Council in partnership with Transition can be a solution to this. But bike trailers can also fill the carry gap. However while bike trailers can solve this, storing a bike trailer can be even more tricky than finding space for a bike. There will surely come a time for a REconomy business in every community renting out bike trailers, perhaps using a simple standard design such as the bamboo trailer.
The final hurdle often cited is fear of cars. Cyclists are without doubt the vulnerable vehicle on the road, but having the confidence and awareness makes a lot of difference. While most people take driving lessons, not enough take cycle training that would give them the confidence to cycle on the road.