Since February this year I have ridden 863.5km on our Christiania bike. (Note for new readers: that’s a big trike with a box on the front for kids & shopping.) Over 7 months that’s not a huge total – around 120km a month. But that’s 120km we haven’t been driving (and it doesn’t include the ~9km per week my husband uses the bike, or our work commuting rides, which we do on different bikes). It’s about 10% of our total travel.
Interestingly we’re not only driving less, we’re also using less petrol when we do drive. Our records show that fuel consumption per km has dropped by over 10% compared with the same time last year. Which makes sense, because we’re not doing any of those short, inefficient trips of less than 5km. They’re all being done by bike.
That’s definitely a bonus. We’re using around 180 litres less petrol per year just due to the Christiania bike. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but imagine if everyone did that? It would add up pretty quickly.
As I have written before, riding is a great way to feel part of the local community. There is the lady with a small girl in a pusher who walks past us nearly every afternoon. We smile, always say hello, and sometimes stop for a chat. The jogger with his headphones who sometimes asks for a lift up the hill – I’ve told him he can’t ride in the bike without a helmet, so I might be in trouble if he shows up with helmet at the ready! The crossing guard at the main road who notices if we don’t ride for a while, and checks to make sure we are ok. The cyclist friends who live along the route and often pop out to say hello when they see us going past. None of this would be possible in a car.
We see gang-gangs, sulphur crested cockatoos, long billed corellas and flock upon flock of rainbow & musk lorrikeets, together with the usual magpies and currawongs. Now that spring is approaching we smell daphne, jonquils and wattle in the gardens we pass.
Quite apart from all the benefits to me, the kids are learning some very important lessons along the way. They see us being habitually active, and they know that there are alternatives to car travel. They know themselves to be a part of the natural world, and not separated from it by steel and glass cages. They know that it is perfectly possible to ride in the rain, in the wind, in the cold and in the heat – unlike many adults we know, who assume that as soon as the weather varies from a balmy “25 degrees with clear skies and still air” we will retreat to the car (from balmy to barmy is a short leap, apparently).
My 7 year old complains that she feels lazy in the bike and wants to do her share of the work. It seems that our ideals are rubbing off on her. She is just learning to ride without training wheels, so I expect that in a month or two she will be riding beside me, instead of sitting in the box, and the weather will be perfect for it by then.
I don’t wear special gear to ride, apart from my bike helmet, and a reflective vest that I put on over my normal clothes, so that we are extra visible. I ride in everything from long skirts to suit pants, and in ordinary shoes (I admit I haven’t tried it in stilettos, but only because I don’t own any!). No lycra, no expensive gear. Once I am off the bike I look quite ordinary (as long as I remember to take off the helmet and the reflective vest!). This is a standard part of our daily routine. Anyone could do it. It’s not particularly hard work, but the rewards are high.
The few times we’ve had to drive, generally due to illness, I have really chafed against the traffic, and the parking madness. I don’t know how I managed to play the peak hour traffic game for so long. Cycling is a whole new game, and we’re having a ball.