Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

I Love My Pushie

By Anne Clarke (SEE-Change administrator), July 2010

When I was ten years old I learned to ride a bike – a late starter by most standards. Two years later I broke my arm in a nasty crash and was reluctant to get on a bicycle again for many years.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I started riding again – a bit wobbly at first, but with increasing confidence. It helps, of course, that I live in the cyclist’s paradise of Canberra.

Two years ago I decided that I’d get rid of the car and commit entirely to the bicycle and bus as my means of transport, and I’ve never looked back. On the occasional wet, winter afternoon I’ve thought wistfully of the warm interior of a car, but that thought passes quickly, and there’s no greater pleasure than walking into a warm room when the cold bites. Besides which, a good, hard pedal quickly gets the blood flowing.

Most of the time it’s a pleasure to ride through Canberra’s streets and cycleways without the frustration of traffic jams and elusive parking spots. I tend to stay away from main roads – something which Canberra’s quiet residential streets makes easy – and I’ve discovered many laneways and shortcuts that I never before knew existed. I see more wildlife, enjoy conversations with neighbours, and experience a level of fitness that costs nothing (no expensive gym fees!) and contributes substantially to my quality of life.

Recently I’ve obtained a cargo trailer from the SEE-Change BERT program. It has made shopping easier, but even before then a backpack and a pack-rack did the trick just fine – even if carrying 20 kg of groceries on my back made me a little slower than normal.

Occasionally for trips away I’ll hire a car – 2 or 3 times a year perhaps. It’s a strange novelty now, the sensation of being locked away in a metal box, removed from the fresh air and birdcalls. My daughter and her Dad have made several trips to the coast on their tandem bicycle; that’s a bit too adventurous for me, but they enjoy it. The trip from Bungendore (they cheat a little by getting a lift with their gear to a friend’s property there) to Moruya takes 2 days, with an overnight stop in the Araluen valley. The road up to the hill to Major’s Creek requires a bit of courage, but they always make it somehow, returning weary but proud.

I don’t for a moment regret giving up the car. My only concern at the moment is that I lost my gloves last weekend – the last few mornings were a bit tough without them! My advice for anyone contemplating life without a car is go for it – but keep a spare pair of gloves handy, and don’t be afraid of a little frost – cold won’t stick to cyclists; we’re too warm blooded for that.

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