I have finally got rid of my car, after having one for about 10 years and considering doing without one for at least the past couple of years. The car I have just relinquished, a 20-year old Peugeot 205, was beginning to get a little too flaky for my liking and was not really getting enough use to justify the cost of keeping it. For the past several months I have been conducting an experiment to see how well I could manage without a car and since I’ve only used it about 3 times since mid-October (none of them absolutely necessary) I’ve decided that in fact I can do quite well indeed without it. As the road tax was due to expire at the end of this month, this seemed like a good time to put the plan into action.
My preferred mode of transport is a bike (the pedal variety – I never did get round to getting a motorbike, much as I always quite liked the idea). There are several reasons I prefer using a bike to a car. The main ones, conveniently for the purposes of exposition, all begin with the letter ‘E’. They are:
- Economic – running a bike is a lot cheaper than running a car, thus saving me plenty of money that I can spend on other things (including, but not limited to, public transport or even hiring a car on the rare occasions I may need one).
- Engineering (well, mechanics) – I’m quite happy doing pretty much all the maintenance on my own bike and can generally keep it in good working order. Cars are mechanically a lot more complex than bikes and I’ve always felt a lot less confident about working on my car.
- Enjoyment – I’ve never been a great fan of driving but I generally quite enjoy cycling (except, perhaps, when it’s very windy and wet; I don’t like driving in those conditions either).
- Environmental – the environmental impact of running a bike is obviously considerably lower than that of running a car; one less car on the road may not make a huge difference but every little helps.
- Exercise – my commute to work and back each day is a total of about 5 miles, including a couple of fairly serious hills. Doing this on the bike (or on foot) rather than in the car is good for my general physical health and fitness. Given how stressful I tend to find driving, it’s probably quite beneficial for my mental health too.
Obviously there are some drawbacks of a bike compared to a car. It’s a somewhat slower mode of transport (except during heavy rush hour traffic – I think I would probably take almost as long driving to work as cycling some days, as my bike can get past the long queues of traffic I often meet) and not so good for going very long distances, it leaves you somewhat more exposed to the elements, and has much lower carrying capacity.
Regarding the first of these drawbacks, I find that with a bit of careful timekeeping the slower pace of travel isn’t a problem (and I don’t have to spend lots of time searching for a parking space) and on the fairly rare occasions I’m going further than I could feasibly do on the bike and can’t get a lift, there’s always the aforementioned public transport or car hire options. Getting rained on isn’t so much fun, but I can usually take a change of clothes with me if I need them and in any case, as a friend of mine once remarked, “real men get wet!”. A pair of panniers (obtained via my local Freegle initiative) give me enough carrying capacity for bringing home shopping or stuff like that; I can walk if I’m not going too far with a bigger item such as a guitar; if I’ve got more to carry or further to go, that’s the time to smile sweetly at one of my friends. 🙂