There are many reasons for riding a bike. Here are a few of mine. The 4 big E’s
Cost has to come into it, especially if you are going to commute by bike. Some years ago I had a part time job at Lancaster University, a distance of seven miles from home by bike avoiding the busy main road. It wasn’t a highly paid job and the hours were limited. If I’d decided to commute by car, the cost of buying a second-hand car, taxing and insuring it, keeping it topped up with fuel and serviced would have eaten up most of my salary. I’d have ended up in the crazy situation going to work in order to pay for a vehicle to get me to work.A bike meant no expensive car insurance, no vehicle excise duty (often mistakenly called road fund tax. Road tax, as a separate tax to pay for the upkeep of our roads was abolished in the 1930s) No MOT and no petrol of diesel to buy. Quids in.In bad weather I had the option of going by bus or scrounging a lift from someone travelling in same direction. Catching a bus involved a walk of a mile to the nearest bus stop, a wait for the bus and a further quarter of a mile walk uphill at the end of the trip. Going by bus was slower and less convenient than cycling. No wonder it was the option of last resort.
There’s a disconcerting tendency in some people to regard a bike as piece of keep fit equipment. riding my bike probably kept me reasonably fit for my age and stopped me having to spend time and money and effort going to the gym. To me the ultimate illogicality is someone who gets into a car to drive to the gym in order to ride a stationary exercise bicycle when they get there. One occasion I recall with delight was riding the last section uphill towards to office where I worked and passing a student half my age pushing a mountain bike! I was a middle-aged lady on a touring bike – not a racer – and this encounter made my day.
We all know that cycling is good for the environment. Bikes don’t comsume vast amounts of fossil fuel, they don’t emit noxious gases or pollute the atmosphere, they don’t cause respiratory diseases and if you are hit by a bike you are not going to be as badly injured as if you were mown down by a car. For all the talk about “dangerous” cycling the acual number of people killed or seriously injured by cyclists is minute compare with those injured by car drivers.
Given all the above, I would still not be riding a bike – or a trike – if I didn’t enjoy it. The cash savings, the added fitness and the rather smug feeling that I am doing my bit to help the environment wouldn’t be enough to get me commuting 15 miles a day by bike if I didn’t enjoy it. And I did enjoy it. There are many people who enjoy their work and get a satisfaction out of doing it well, over and above any monetary reward. It is somewhat rarer to find people who like going to work in the sense of enjoying the actual journey. I can truthfully say that I enjoyed my trip to work most of the time. OK there was occasionally bad weather and inevitably there were punctures, but not many. Riding home in the dark and wet isn’t fun and some drivers never seem to realise that undipped headlights can dazzle a cyclist or a pedestrian. I was lucky in that there were facilites for showering and changing when I got to work and one department where I worked was especially cycle-friendly. By that I mean there were a couple of cycle helmets perched on top of a filing cabinet and the head of department kept his bike in his office leaning against the hat stand. Now I’m retired, most of the other considerations don’t apply, but enjoyment is still a factor. I can choose when and where I ride and it’s great. Cycling has these advantages over many other forms of exercise:
a) It can be done on your own. You can’t do that with tennis or football.
b) It can be continued into old age, as long as you can stop yourself trying to compete with younger riders or thinking how much faster you could ride ten years ago!
I read a piece recently about a bishop who had decided to give up using his car for Lent. He was going to walk, catch a bus or train or ride his bike instead. Good for him. Then it occurred to me; what I would find a real penance would be if I gave up my bike for lent. The deprivation doesn’t bear thinking about!