World Carfree Day

Friday 22nd September

It’s that time of year again, World Carfree Day; except, I sold my car last year and either cycle… or run (or sometimes walk) if I have somewhere to be.

My time being without a car has been pretty-much problem-free. There have of course been a few times when “I needed a car”, usually for work as a computer technician, but not enough to justify the expense of owning, maintaining and running one.

A couple of people wanted a new printer for example when I would have previously ordered and delivered one for them, but now I just suggest what to get and where they can get it. Instead of taking a whole desktop computer away for repair on the odd occasion of that being required of me, I just take the bits away on my bike or do the work on site.

I occasionally get clients offering to pick me up, or bring their problem to me, which I always decline. Sometimes it is to me a stupidly short distance that would take them as much time for the two round-trips required by car as it would take me to get there and back on my bike. Then there are those that wonder what I do when it rains, but I have my own theory about that; that it actually rains a lot less than people who stay in or drive everywhere realise. There are those that worry about my bike being left outside their house in the rain, even though I may have just spent an hour cycling in the rain to get there “it’s used to it” I say.

I had one occasion when I relied on my mum to take me and my siblings in her car to a funeral. We arrived late and missed it, and my mum is a scary driver; I’ll not be doing that again any time soon. I really feel uncomfortable being a passenger now. I avoid public transport too, so I have few options when it comes to those rare longer journeys, having to instead consider camping on the way or something.

Being without a car requires a different mindset, and different lifestyle too. You get into the routine of getting on a bike instead of getting in a car, you plan for the weather, and I plan what I need to eat the day before when I have a long-ish journey to make the next day. I plan shopping trips around work, based on what I can fit and carry in my panniers. Just before I got rid of my car I did a bit of de-hoarding; getting rid of those few bulky items I would struggle to get rid of without a car; I also turn down offers of free things I wouldn’t be easily be able to get rid of without a car (everything wears out or breaks eventually).

Seeing perfectly-abled-bodied people take lazily-short journeys by car will always bug me. A few weeks ago I was at a client’s house and I noticed their neighbours pop down the road to the shops, in their car; I watched them leave, a father and son, and come back 10 minutes later with a couple of things in their hands; a journey they could have walked, or cycled. One time another client popped round the corner in their car to pick up a disc from a family member; I kicked myself for not making that journey for them, for the time it would have taken them to turn their car round at each end I could have been there and back on my bike.

I get asked why I choose to cycle everywhere, is it to save the planet, or to be healthier, or to save money. Really it’s a bit of everything; it’s just what I do.

Last weekend I was out blackberry picking, this time on foot. It was a 5-mile round-trip and I was enjoying the fresh air and I popped round to see my mum on the way. Just as I was less than a mile from home, by now carrying a bag of books, someone who recognised me and knew where I was walking to drove up along side me, holding up traffic behind them and hindering an oncoming car too, offered me a lift. I politely said “no thank you”, “are you sure?” she asked, almost thinking me crazy for turning down the offer because I was surely walking a long way, “I’m enjoying the walk!” I reassured her. Why is it so crazy to be enjoying a journey made under your own steam? I often run that 5-mile route, it’s no big deal.

So this coming Friday, I will, as usual be out on my bike, and hoping others will be ditching their cars too. It will be market day for me, so I’ll be filling my panniers with shopping; it’s no big deal, it’s what I do. I may even have a day out on my bike too, donning the “World Carfree Day” T-shirt I made a few years ago.

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