Four Weeks on Two Wheels

There are some compelling reasons for not driving cars as much these days. Over the last few years, as a family, we have been driving less and less. Over the last 4 years I have ridden bikes around double the distance I have driven the family car. So, I set myself the challenge of managing 4 weeks without getting into a car.

Where you Live

Firstly, this is not for everyone. The biggest impact on how easy it is to go car free, is where you live & work and the distance between the two. This is one issue which E-Bikes can definitely help with. To do it, it’s also much easier with frequent, reliable, cheap public transport for when the trip is too far, tricky or inconvenient. Also, if you live somewhere very remote or conversely, somewhere designed completely around car use, it can also be tricky.. Luckily, I do have good local transport and a couple of bikes to cover my day-to-day needs.

Local Infrastructure

At the moment global bike riding infrastructure is a bit of a lottery depending on where you live. If you live in a city or town in the Netherlands or Denmark, the chances are that this wouldn’t even need any discussion or thought. If you have plenty of bike riding infrastructure, anyone can ride pretty much anywhere they might need to ride. However, back to reality, some cities are great, some towns are great, but as a whole, cycling infrastructure can often be best described as very patchy at best. My local roads offer some paint for protection, sadly that’s about as good as it gets for many of us.

Lock n Load

A decent lock is a 100% essential if you are leaving your bike somewhere in public. Locking up the bike in obvious, highly visible places is also important – make it as hard as possible for anyone to take it. Loading up shopping is much easier on a dedicated shopping / commuter bike with carrying capacity through racks and panniers. My second-hand Dutch commuter / shopper bike, bought locally for £100 is pretty much ideal for what I need.

Grocery Shop

The usual weekly shop for our family is a weekly thing. With the lower capacity of the bike, I have to make two trips to the supermarket. I know I could probably find a trailer and go once a week but I am trying to do without too much extra outlay – with the supermarket 2.5 miles / 4km away, two trips works out to be an extra half an hour each week. Packing bottles and heavier stuff roughly equally on each side of the panniers makes for a more predictable ride home.

Ride There

Some appointments can be tricky. Unfortunately I have a bit of medical history which means I need pretty frequent, regular checks. Basic stuff (blood tests, consultations) are okay done on the bike. More invasive medical stuff might need some thinking about, however, for these four weeks I only had a couple of quick appointments.

Coffee Rides

Got to be honest, this is the easy bit. Years of practise at leaning my bike up outside a cafe, I have got it down to a fine art. Combining a coffee ride with chores is just good use of time, you just need a decent cafe near where you need to go!

Thoughts on the 4 Weeks

If you live and work in the right place, not using a car is pretty easy. I am lucky to live on the edge of a city which has decent bus and train connections, quieter roads and a few shared use paths. If you live & work somewhere hillier or further away, an E-Bike would make day to day riding much easier. Even basic infrastructure (paint) is better than nothing and it does probably help encourage kids to ride to school (there are quite a lot locally) as well as encouraging people generally ro ride bikes. Proper, well-designed, separated bike path infrastructure would obviously be better and these can reduce school-run traffic further and make it much easier for people to be less car dependant.

Low Point

Getting rained on when you are wearing regular person clothes on a bike is just not nice. I had forgotten that wet jeans on cold legs feeling. Urgh! I was lucky that I only got rained on once or twice, but it did encourage me to keep a better eye on the weather forecast. Other than that, the regular bad driving and ‘attitude’ from drivers seems equal, regardless of whether I am riding chores or for fun & fitness.

High Point

Riding back from the shops is pretty enjoyable in a ‘powered-by-smugness’ kind of way. I would have previously thought the extra weight of shopping (Up to 20KG) would ruin any bike ride. However, once you adapt to the functional transport mind-set – rather than riding for fun / fitness mind-set, it’s not bad at all. It is probably easier on a bike that is designed to haul stuff, once it gets moving, the momentum of groceries just keeps you rolling. Obviously an E-Bike would also make this much easier too. However you do it, I reckon, because there’s a little bit of effort involved, the whole idea of shopping takes on a more ‘hunter / gatherer’ vibe which I quite like.

Tool for the Job

I don’t want to come across as a self-righteous tree-hugger or anti-car. I am just glad to be able to not ‘have to’ use a car. It has always seemed weird that I ‘needed a 1500kg car to move 80kg me, to collect 10kg of groceries or get to appointments. I think the 4 weeks just proved that for probably 98% of the time I really don’t need a car at all. A low-cost, reliable bike is just a better tool for the job.

Related Blogs;

What would happen if you swapped your car for a bike.

Cities with More Cyclists are Happier

More Time to Ride

Essential Anti-Theft Tips for your Bike

Commuter / Urban Bikes & Kit