Swap your 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 peak-hour 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 twowheeled 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 am­busy and it keeps me fit – there’s no need for a gym.

‘‘Thirdly, it meant 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 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.

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.

Cy­cling is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar as a le­git­i­mate mode of trans­port to and from work.

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