Reflections on a frosty morning

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Although I no longer own my car, it is still on the drive waiting for the new owner to pick it up. On my way to work yesterday morning I noticed some nice frost patterns on the windscreen so I used my new camera’s phone to grab a picture or two.

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Perfect timing

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post, but there is a slight (and rather annoying) irony attached to the timing of my getting rid of my car.

Apparently the new-style photocard driving licences that we now use here in the UK need to have the photo updated about once every ten years.  That’s fair enough, as one’s appearance does tend to change somewhat through time so it makes sense to have a reasonably up-to-date picture for ID purposes.  What’s annoying is that my renewal notice arrived just about the same time as I found somebody to take my car.  What’s even more annoying is that it costs twenty quid to get the thing renewed (not counting the costs of postage and getting an up-to-date passport photo – unfortunately I can’t use one of the five year old ones (*) I still have, even though I still look pretty much the same).

Despite the fact that I’m not planning to have a car in the near future, I think it’s well worth keeping my licence (which means I have no choice but to renew the photo). Not only will it enable me to hire a car if I need one, or to get another car at some future point (as most likely I will one day) but it’s a very handy form of ID for many other purposes too.  Also, I think if I relinquished the licence now and then wanted to get it back I’d have to undergo another driving test, which is not a prospect I’d relish (and it would certainly cost a lot more than £20).

In case you’re wondering, I’ve had my licence for quite a bit longer than 10 years (I think it’s about 17 by now) but I only got a photocard one about 10 years ago, the first time I changed my permanent address after they had introduced them.  Fortunately you don’t have to pay for licence renewals every time you change your address or other details (I may have had to pay for the first photocard, but not subsequent ones).

(*) I mean, of course, photos taken about five years ago, not photos of me as a five-year-old.

On Your Bike

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. 🙂