One of the fundamental principles of the Transition movement is to respect resources and reduce reliance on fossil fuels and I wanted to see how I could incorporate this more into my daily life. So a year ago I made the bold step to sell my car (and not replace it!) to make a concerted effort to travel more sustainably.
I’ve always cycled and regularly enjoyed getting out and about by bike. Bournemouth has some great corridors for cycling away from traffic (think Bournemouth Gardens, the Stour Valley, and not forgetting the seven miles of coastal promenade). However, my cycling was very much of a fair-weather variety. It was very convenient with a car parked outside my front door, and for me at least this was a huge barrier to choosing the bike over the car as my primary mode of transport. Even though I logically knew the advantages of cycling vs driving; better for my health, cheaper to run, less CO2 emissions, better for the planet, it was often the car that won out.
The excuses I would come up with were endless. ‘I’ll go by car. It looks like it might rain.’ ‘I can’t go by bike. I need to pick up some shopping on the way home.’ ‘I’m running late. It will be quicker by car.’ ‘It’s too hot today for the bike.’ ‘It’s too cold today for the bike.’ ‘I’ve got too much to carry.’ ‘It’s dark’.
If you’ve ever had to make the choice between a car and a bike then I’m sure you’ll recognise my predicament. However, once I removed the car I found solutions instead of excuses. Rain – I bought some waterproofs. Shopping – it’s easier to park at the shops on a bike. Late – most of my journeys by bike take the same time or are indeed quicker, particularly at rush hour. Hot – Go a bit slower and wear sun protection. Cold – Layer up, pedal fast and you don’t feel the chill. Carrying stuff – Panniers are a life saver, how did I live without them for so long!? Dark – A good set of lights and reflective clothing work a treat, and I’ve actually discovered that I enjoy cycling more at night as there are far fewer cars on the road and there is a real sense of freedom as I navigate I way home by the light of the moon.
Stargazing at night is just one of the pleasures I’ve enjoyed. I’ve also delighted in the change of seasons. I notice things more on a bike. I feel connected to the natural world in a way you never possibly can in a car. I spied animals at close quarters, buzzards, foxes, pheasants and rabbits. I noticed the scent in the air when blossom appeared. I felt the breeze on my skin, the warmth of the sun, and observed leaves from the trees gently falling around me.
There were a few occasions when a bike just didn’t fit the bill, and I would take the bus, or use the train for journeys further afield. I also joined the Co-Wheels car club, a social enterprise membership scheme, where you can borrow a car for anything from an hour to a week. This was really helpful for getting to more rural parts of Dorset. Car sharing is far more sustainable as it reduces the amount of cars on the road, most of which are left standing for 95% of the time. Public transport is also more environmentally friendly as it alleviates congestion and improves air quality.
Getting through the winter months was challenging, although the times I did travel by car it felt very claustrophobic and I became frustrated like the other angry drivers, having to sit in traffic jams and wait in queues that I could easily nip past on a bike. Journeys by bicycle are by far more relaxing and I’ve also enjoyed cycling holidays and even tried out an electric bike.
Over the past year I’ve travelled well over 1700 miles on my bike. I’ve reduced my CO2 emissions by around a tonne, which is more than 10% of my total annual carbon footprint. I’ve also saved well over £2000 on the cost of running a car, which is a real financial incentive for keeping it up. I feel much healthier and far more alive, and as the snow melts away and Spring finally begins to arrive I’m truly glad to be on my bike.
Count On Me project coordinator