I reckon one of the best things that happened to my dad (in terms of his health) was when he lost his driver’s licence a few decades ago. Dad belongs to that generation of people who never had to take a test before being issued a licence. Unfortunately, when he lost his licence, driving tests had become mandatory, which meant he would have to subject himself to one before being allowed to drive again. He never did. And so began a few decades of cycling to work on a bicycle, come rain or shine. As a consequence, he is pretty fit for a man in his late sixties. I know another lady who’s in her late seventies and fit as a fiddle due to a lifetime of cycling (I actually remember her from my teenage years, long before I knew her in person; an old lady riding a Chopper is not the sort of image you forget).
From childhood to age twenty-six, I didn’t own a car. When I worked at Lismore Comprehensive, I thought nothing of the four-mile journey by bicycle. In fact, I enjoyed it. Even when I worked twenty-five miles away in Belfast, I would take my bike on the train, then cycle the remainder of the way to work. In my early teenage years, probably the only thing that saved me from ever increasing obesity was my regular paper round. Bikes are great.
So, last weekend, I got the mountain bike out of the garage for the first time since last summer. I feel like I really want to make a go of things in two-wheel fashion again. Maybe get stuck into cycling to work on a regular basis. But the car is such a temptation. You can stay up later in the evening, knowing that you can spend extra time in bed the next morning, because it only takes ten minutes to get across town by car, whereas it’s twenty by bicycle. Then there are those mornings when it’s raining, or when the roads are covered in ice. Worse still, the thought of cycling in last summer’s heat wave is more horrifying than the thought of a bitter winter cold.
The thing is, if you don’t have a car, you find a way to overcome these circumstances, whether that means bussing it on certain days, or walking, or whatever. Transportation for the weekly shopping is another problem. However, one solution would be to do the shopping twice a week instead of once, carrying what I need in a backback. You see? There’s always a way – as long as you don’t mind a little extra effort.
Am I seriously contemplating getting rid of my car? On the one hands (and assuming I can resist the temptation to drive it to work), it’s terrible to spend so much money every year on insurance, tax, MOT, repairs, if you end up using the vehicle for only 10% of the time you did before. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning to the sound of torrential rain beating on the window. So, I don’t think I will be rashly selling the car anytime soon. My main concern is my health.
The modern trend is that we spend a portion of our leisure time doing exercise, but this strikes me as slightly freakish – even though I do it. It’s like we’re making up for something that our bodies should be doing in a more general sense over the course of a day. I’m always questioning the culture that I live in, and I think we could learn a lot from the way things are done elsewhere in the world, particularly from the Chinese, who have a lot more respect for the idea of cycling to work than we in the west do.
Well, I’m not going to make any drastic decisions. In true lazybones fashion, I’m going to break myself in gently and wait for warmer weather before experimenting with cycling to work.
For cycling fans, here’s a great blog I subscribe to: Free Advice on How to Fix Your Bicycle.