I’m sat at the learning cafe with the urge to write my thoughts on our future. For those Ernie fans out there he’s not with me like he usually would be and I am starting to feel withdrawal symptoms (I’m sure he’s feeling the same), however my housemate has very kindly lent me his bike and that’s chained up outside. The problem is that I’ve got so used to cycling everywhere that I’ve forgotten how to walk (just kidding but it takes so much longer and there’s no adrenaline buzz) and I just don’t have the money to catch the bus at the moment.
After reading David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries I gained a real idea of how extensive cycling can be. This man rides around some of the most dangerous cities and gives some really interesting insights into the lives of cities that you wouldn’t gain if you were to drive around one. He almost treats them as if they were living organisms. I’ve also started to enjoy this treatment of cycling- I used to hate it; people would laugh at you for wearing a helmet, you’d get hot or soaking wet depending on the weather conditions and then there was always the worry that someone would steal your bike or steal parts from it. However since being in Winchester, being older and owning a folding bike I’m not really bothered about what people think about me- screw ’em- if they walk it takes them ages to reach their destination, if they catch a bus then they’re limited to waiting for their alloted time to travel and if they drive then they have to endlessly fork out money to maintain and keep their cars running on the road. I’m not against other forms of transport but it is a pet peeve when people start degrading my form of transport. When I first started riding Ernie I gained a lot of funny looks- ‘why is your bike shaped like that?’, ‘why do have such a silly looking bike?’, ‘aren’t those wheels a bit too small?’, ‘where’s the real bike?’. I’m sure I’ll get all those comments when I return back home. Those kind of comments soon disappear whether people get tired of asking me, or they see I don’t actually care what they think, or that they see the usefulness of my bike- I don’t know. However since cycling I disregard the bad comments, accept that the rain may fall on me, accept I might get cold (in the winter time- freezing), accept that there are big hills and accept that roads aren’t as safe as they should be. Even better I enjoy it! I feel amazing when I get off that bike and- ladies- I’ve lost 2 stone in half a year and am starting to get toned legs; which just makes me feel great. I also love the views- you’re that little bit higher than a car and you can see so much more. Cycling also allows you to contemplate, to clear your head and that has been so helpful at times.
So where are we going with transport? I’d like to start off by saying that I don’t hate cars. Actually they’re great and I do love them. So when I write this I’m not putting in a bias because I don’t happen to own one. However the problem is that I think we’re becoming over dependant on them, everyone wants one and cannot seem to live their adult lives without the need for one. We’re marketed at by car manufacturers because we’re quite frankly besotted by them and the government joins in with their car scrappage scheme because they see that they’d make huge losses without them. They all scream out- if you don’t have one you’re screwed- you can’t do anything! I think to myself how can I possible get to somewhere far away that I usually go to by car? I joined my parents on holiday in Wales by going on the train and overall I found it very enjoyable on the way up (apart from waiting 2 hours on a railway station that was -7 degrees celsius not their fault but weather conditions) but on the way back home I found it deeply frustrating to get on an overcrowded train. I think since the 1950’s, and (would you look at that) the invention of the car, our transport system has gone to pot. To go buy trains means four words; expensive, infrequent, unreliable and overcrowded- it’s a shame. I do see people try to sort it out now but I feel it’s a little too late to do something amazing. Of course this varies from the area you live in. To travel tomorrow (8th April 2010, 0955) from Chippenham to London would cost, with a 16-25 railcard, £36.65 for an open return. From Winchester- £19.20. With the former price do you still wonder why people buy cars? It’s a shame.
I’m not sure about global warming but I do wonder what on earth we’re doing with all those exhaust fumes and where and how we’re still managing to get copious amounts of oil. I wonder how how much we will have to pay to use cars and I wonder how much longer this can continue. Does the future of transport rely on us to ditch the car? My answer is that I hope not but I don’t know whether that’s down to the marketing of cars or whether it’s because I can only see the current state of our transport system. My little utopia vision is that a lot more people dig out their bikes from their sheds and see the benefits of riding a bike around their cities and towns instead of cars. How fun it can be to work out how to take your shopping home on a bike. I’d also like to see a better railway system- you can’t realistically demand people to ditch their cars when they go on holiday or visit relatives but you can entice them. I’d like to see these alternative (actually alternative spells out not as good) transports combined- buses with bike racks (there used to be, in my hometown, a bus that had a magnetic bike rack on the back which was really clever but they got rid of them as they weren’t used) , cheaper folding bikes, even more cycle lanes, more incentives (not just that but better advertising- ‘it’s as good as a car’ would be a start), better instructing on how to ride a bike and how to maintain one.
Oh and whole areas to park your bike! Like here at Oxford station:
This view always gets me slightly excited.
Most of all I’d like to see the car as an ‘alternative’ transport instead of it’s current status as superior transport.
There’s nothing much more I can say on the matter, I can’t convince someone outright that using a bicycle is fun- it’s hard work to begin with, I realised how out of shape I was, how much I hated the rain and the cold but in the end you get over it. Maybe by viewing these posts on my blog you might gain some incentive to get your bike out and give it a try for short distances.