Swap four wheels for two
My, times have changed. Back in 1865, the Locomotive Act made it illegal for UK drivers to drive unless they had a person walking at least 60 yards in front of them waving a red flag.
The flag became optional 13 years later but speed limits remained at a leisurely 2mph in towns and 4mph everywhere else. Fast forward 150 years and New Zealand now has some of the worst traffic in the world.
Kiwis, according to the TomTom Traffic Index Q2 2013, spend on average a whopping 101 hours every year in peakhour traffic.
Yet we still have a steadfast love affair with car ownership, with the average Kiwi household owning 1.46 vehicles.
So how can we break this love affair with our cars? One solution could be a two-wheeled one – the humble bicycle.
Cycling is becoming increasingly popular as a legitimate mode of transport to and from work. It’s often a quicker option than driving in larger cities and local councils are investing more in infrastructure that supports pedal power.
Neighbourly member Rob Stock says the reason he swapped four wheels for two is fourfold.
‘‘Firstly, it was to save money. I hated running two cars, and feeding my money to [gas companies] and the insurance company.
‘‘Secondly, I am busy and it keeps me fit – there’s no need for a gym.
I would walk my kids to school each day. They are now fitter and actually moan when they aren’t walked to school.
‘‘Lastly, it turns out that it takes me the same time to cycle as it took to drive near work, park up, then walk in.’’
Another Neighbourly member, Dallas Nesbitt, says the best thing about riding to work is the freedom.
‘‘Cycling wakes me up very effectively for a busy day at work, and I love actually smelling the flowers and seeing things rather than driving to work on automatic pilot,’’ she says.
‘‘The benefits in terms of increased exercise and improved health are huge, but you don’t need to suffer every day – get an electric-assist bike to help you on those strong headwind days.’’
It’s not just about beating the traffic and getting fitter and healthier, though.
‘‘I want to make a mark environmentally and that is hard to do in the city so this is one way of making a big difference,’’ Nesbitt says.
Julian Smith, also a Neighbourly member, agrees that the benefits of swapping four wheels for two far outweigh the cons.
‘‘I can’t think of a negative thing about riding my bike to work. Even if it’s raining, I have good wet weather gear and a place to store my bike at work.’’
So how can a car lover make the switch to two wheels? First you need a bike. If you’re going to be riding long distances every day, invest in a high-quality bike from a reputable cycle outlet. When you compare the price of a bike with the cost to run a car – and a gym membership – you’ll immediately see how much you’ll save.
Secondly, you need a helmet – they’re compulsory on New Zealand’s public roads. Think about detachable reflective lights and high-vis accessories too. The more visible you make yourself to drivers, the safer you’ll be. It might also be wise to purchase a tyre repair kit, for on-the-road mending.
Thirdly, think about what you’ll wear on the roads. Cycling isn’t about making a fashion statement but it’s always better when you’re comfortable. Cycling outlets and sports stores stock a wide range of suitable cycling clothing.
Think about buying a bigger backpack too. If you’re riding to and from work every day, you’ll need to take a spare change of clothes and shower supplies along for the ride too. Don’t forget a towel.
Finally, figure out the best route to take. If you normally take the motorway to work, you’ll need to find another way because motorways don’t accommodate cyclists.
Public transport may need to be added to the travel equation too. Keep in mind that while you can take a bike on most ferries and trains (subject to space), you can only take a bike on a bus if it’s foldable.
Double check with your public transport providers first.
Always think safe when riding. Cars’ blind spots can be much bigger than you think, and the stress of rush-hour traffic often results in impatient driving and hasty reactions.
Whether you’re in the right or not, cars will always cause more damage to cyclists than cyclists to cars, so remain on guard.
Cycling is becoming increasingly popular as a legitimate mode of transport to and from work.