Transport


We’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint in lots of ways, but I still love to travel. To try and square that circle we have stopped flying. I’ve had to get on a plane for work, but as a family we haven’t flown on holiday for nearly three years.

The great thing is, living in Britain, that there are loads of great holidays we can still have by road, rail, and sea. Some of those holidays can be a bit trickier to plan than the average package holiday, so I’ve teamed up with some good friends to share what we’ve learned. Together we have put together a site – RoadRailAndSea.co.uk – with all our experiences, and we’re adding to it all the time.

So whether you’re after a weekend in Brussels with Eurostar or – my favourite – an overnight train to Venice, we have found a range of great places to go, and you never have to wait in Airport security again . . .

Following last week’s post on Cargo Bikes, here’s a great example of someone using one in everyday life, and for their work. This is a particularly post-peak-oil example – a bike covered in gardening tools. Well worth a watch:

A nice lighthearted video today, with a serious context. In a world of expensive oil – and therefore expensive petrol – we’re going to have to re-learn how to move things around without the benefit of power assistance. If you’ve ever had to move anything heavy (like two resisting kids) without the benefit of wheels, you’ll know what a slow and painful job it is. That’s why I love Cargo Bikes and trailers so much. They can carry really heavy loads decent distances, powered by normal people (although you’ll go faster if you’re fitter!). We’ve got a trailer so I can’t justify a dedicated cargo bike like this, but if you want to be car-free there’s no better way to shift shopping, kids, plants, or work gear. One of the best UK suppliers is Practical Cycles, although they don’t have this one:

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Bike Friday is on again this Friday (30th October). It’s a great opportunity to commute into Manchester by bike in the company of others. Rides are led by experienced guides so if you haven’t cycled for a while, or feel nervous or unsure about cycling into the city then this is the way to get started.

This month Bike Friday is encouraging people to ‘Brighten Up – Be Seen’ and cycle safely and with confidence during the winter months:

With the clocks having just gone back and with the evenings drawing in all road users need to take extra care and look out for others. BikeFriday want people to continue enjoying the freedom of cycling in Greater Manchester … and are encouraging people to ‘Brighten Up – Be Seen’ and cycle safely and with confidence during the winter months.

And this month there are a whole host of freebies to be had:

To help people “Brighten up and Be Seen” the first 50 Bike Friday participants will receive a free battery charger and set of rechargeable batteries donated by Manchester Friends of the Earth (co-organisers of Bike Friday) and ten lucky cyclists will also receive a hi-viz vest kindly donated by the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op. All participants get a 10% discount on coffee at Titchy Coffee in the Triangle, and new participants get a free coffee.

The BikeFriday cycle rides start at 8am from

  • Chorlton Library,
  • Levenshulme Station,
  • Prestwich Pizza Express,
  • Stretford Mall,
  • & Withington Library

and finish at approx 8.30am at the Triangle, Corporation Street, City Centre.

For more details of the routes see: www.bikefriday.org

Weeride on BikeRather than all this impersonal planning for the future, I thought I’d take a step back and look at some of the things we’ve already been doing. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most has been taking my daughter to Kindy on the bike. This came about as a result of a number of things hitting us at once.

My daughter’s first Kindy was just around the corner from my work, a job where I had a free, reserved parking space. We’d drop my wife at work, I’d drop my daughter at Kindy and then park at work – nice and easy, but not a fantastically efficient use of a 2.5 litre engine attached to a couple of tonnes of 4×4. However, just as my wife was starting maternity leave for our number two, the Kindy announced that it was closing. This was quite a blow, and after a hurried search we got her a spot at a brand new Kindy just a kilometre or so further away. But it was a kilometre further into the City, so rather than drving across all the rush-hour traffic I’d now be stewing in it with everybody else. In addition, our office had just moved and I had no free parking space – parking would now cost me $10/day.

So all our car-sharing travel plans were thrown up in the air. To top it all, it made a lot of sense for my ready-to-burst wife to have access to the car during the day. To our credit, we never thought about just buying a second car (partly we’re green, partly we’re just very economical). And as I couldn’t face the excruciatingly tedious extra commute we had to find other options. None of our buses went anywhere near the new Kindy – we’d have had to change at least once. Luckily I’m still just about able to get on a bike, and my little one loves zooming around in her bike trailer.

However to get to Kindy we’d need to cross some of Brisbane’s busiest roads, and I wasn’t confident enough to be doing that with the trailer. Another solution was needed – a normal bike seat. That’s when I found the WeeRide. It’s significantly more expensive that a normal rear-mounted seat – ours cost us $180 – but I found that a conventional rear mounted seat wouldn’t fit my mountain bike, so our options were limited.

It has been worth every penny cent. This picture was taken in April, and we’ve ridden into kindy twice a week, every week since, with only about 7-8 missed trips due to holiday or torrential tropical storms! That’s been a direct saving of around $500 in parking – not counting the wear and tear, extra petrol, or possible second car we might have needed otherwise. We haven’t quite got rid of our SUV – but we’ve certainly taken one vehicle out of Brisbane’s busy morning commute.

And . . we have a great time. With her on the front we spend the whole trip chatting, counting, learning colours, and generally experiencing the world together – it is just a delight. Enough to make me ignore the fact that the kindy is at the top of a hill!

iZip Street Enlightened
iZip Street Enlightened

Saw one of these in our local bike shop when we were in there picking up a new tube. It’s an iZip Street Enlightened – looks like a normal fast hybrid but the aero down tube is wrapped around a battery pack – a 24V / 10 AH Lithium-Ion pack for those of you feeling Techie. This powers it to 30kph(19mph) with a range of 50km (30 miles). It has a whole range of clever torque-sensing options so you can use it as anything from fully-electric to fully-pedal-powered depending on how stuffed you’re feeling. It is heavy (25kg) so don’t aim to be carrying it up any stairs or jumping too many kerbs.

Part of me loves this, but then the little nagging voice in my head (the anti-consumer, fed by Amber at Unstuffed) says “you already have four bikes – and only use one regularly. You don’t need another bike”. And then the little peak-oil, voice says . . . “and that battery pack looks very custom-made – I bet getting spares will be a challenge in the future” – and when you think that the only major spare I’ve bought for my Orange mountain  bike has been a new inner tube . . you realise that simple is probably best (and that I need to ride more 🙂 ).  And I don’t have that many problems riding my current bike that this would solve.

Plus it is £1000+ – and that money would be better spent on Solar PV I think. If you’re still interested – possibly to get a non-cyclist out of a car, or for a longish commute – you can buy them from Top Electric Bikes or Tredz, and they’re made by Currie Tech in the USA, who do have a whole range – and some much cheaper models too (not as sexy though . . )