Recently I’ve had several triathlons in a day. No, not swimming/cycling/running, but rather active transport triathlons. I started out by running to the gym, which is about a mile away. I could have cycled there, but a) it’s uphill and b) getting my bike out of the shed and through the path down the side of my house is frankly rather faffy. PLUS, I have a running target this year of 1000 miles, which is about 2.8 miles a day, and I’m behind on this target. I don’t need to take much to the gym: just some water and my house keys, or I can get water at the gym if I can’t be bothered lugging it there. It’s a nice warmup and cooldown, plus running home downhill is usually a relief after a tough class. I also got a Fitbit recently, and I must admit to being a *tiny* bit keen on getting my 15,000 or 20,000 steps in…Active transport is brilliant for working extra exercise into your day, often with little or no extra time spent, it’s a win-win.
Later on, I needed to go to my local shops. These are about a quarter of a mile away, so walking seems a good choice. But actually, I don’t like walking for transport very much, it just seems so SLOW! And I didn’t want to run because I had a couple of bags of shopping to carry. Cycling there was a no-go (too faffy, plus it’s along the main road and the way drivers overtake you on a blind crest is properly scary, and there is nowhere to park your bike. So I took my scooter. I love my scooter: for distances of up to 2 miles (which is actually most journeys for many) it’s by far the quickest and easiest way of getting about. If there are any stairs or other obstructions which make cycling a pain, then it’s the obvious choice. It’s twice as fast as walking, twice as much fun, you can go on the footpath, and you can fling a few bags of shopping onto the handlebars without too many problems. Plus it makes people smile, me included. Or stare open-mouthed, in some cases. These people need to open their minds and put their prejudices aside, because scooting is the future…
In the afternoon, I had to make a trip into town and take some coins into the bank and books back to the library. This time I chose to take my bike, as the convenience of being able to travel a mile reasonably quickly whilst carrying a heavy bag outweighed the faffiness. Plus there’s a cycle rack just outside the library and the bank. The route to town (about a mile) is hilly, but except for the horrible junction up a tiny hill onto a main road and then immediately right, the roads are fairly quiet. Even so, I’d say that cycling is my least favourite way of getting around shorter distances, as the cycling environment in my town is hostile to say the least. There are only tiny amounts of the most derisory cycle paths imaginable (and then there are usually cars parked on them), they don’t join up at all, and there are large stretches of main road where you have to mix it up with lorries, idiot car drivers trying to kill you, and potholes/illegally parked cars/insert other possible obstruction here. In an environment which discourages and frightens cyclists, it’s no wonder there are very few people cycling. The design of the roads screams ‘CARS ARE KING, YOU HAVE NO PLACE HERE’.
In the face of all this and the utter incompetence of the local roads department, I usually prefer not to cycle. I went to an exhibition about a ‘new’ cycle path along the river last year, and chatted to the very nice council people about their plans. They’re basically taking an existing path and ‘upgrading’ it by putting some gravel down, as far as I can tell. This path is under about 3 feet of water when heavy rains swell the river, so I wish them luck with their *magic* gravel…While they’re fiddling as the planet burns, I’ll keep using my scooter or run for many of my journeys.
Of course, I could have used my car for any or all of these journeys: most people do. Occasionally I drive to the gym, as it’s made too convenient for me. There’s usually plenty of parking, and it’s free. However, I feel too guilty when I drive to the gym: just how lazy is that, to drive a mile? If they charged me for parking, then I’d probably never drive there…Driving to town is much more difficult: parking is in a couple of multi-storeys which are seemingly populated by the most indecisive, worst-parking drivers you have ever seen. It’s quicker to walk to town than it is to find a park and walk down the stairs. I actually can’t remember the last time I drove to town. Similarly, I’d never drive to my local shops, it would make no sense for such a tiny distance, and parking along there is hit and miss. It’s considerably quicker to walk there than to drive (which doesn’t stop most people, including my husband *rolls eyes*).
But actually, door to door, in most cases driving is the slowest and often the least convenient option logistically. Yes, active commuting has the added benefit of increasing your physical activity levels, improving your mood and fitness and all the other things exercising does for you. But the main reason I run, scoot and bike around my little urban area is just sheer pragmatism. I can understand why many people don’t (not everyone runs, the cycling environment is hostile), but of all of my active transport options, I think that scooting has the most potential to be adopted more widely if government has no courage to spend money on cycling infrastructure. It doesn’t, with a couple of notable exceptions. If you go to London or other big cities, chances are you’ll see at least one adult on a scooter. I think the only thing stopping adults from scooting is the framing of it as a kids’ toy: if we can change that then I predict an army of adults nipping onto buses, trains and tubes with folded scooter in hand, whizzing down footpaths (minding out for pedestrians, of course) and generally commuting and running errands with the wind in their hair and a smile on their faces. Soooo much nicer than being stuck in aggressive traffic breathing in traffic fumes and fretting about being late 🙂
Photo: By Alex Genz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons