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Living Lightly column

Ditch the car and lighten the impact

By Chris McGorlick

Getting a driver’s license and a car is a rite of passage of sorts in Australia.

I remember getting mine at 18, and finally having the world (as far as a tank of petrol would take me) at my fingertips.

However, increasingly, I’ve come to see my car as a big fat vote of approval for fossil fuel companies. Every time I fill the vehicle with petrol, I can’t help but feel as though this one act counters all others I might take to try to “live lightly”.

So, this week I’ve handed over the keys to my trusty “steed” – which has served me, and one other owner before me, so well – to its new owner.

This act has caused me its fair share of trepidation, not least because living in a rural town in this part of the country, with its sporadic public transport services, seems to necessitate a car of some kind.

An electric car would, of course, negate all this, however without the finances to afford one, I’ve happened upon the next best thing – an electric-assist cargo bike and a new sense of perspective about the need to travel far, fast and often.

Purchased a year ago, my e-bike has enabled me to ride from my home in Yackandandah to all the major regional centres around this area, without working up a sweat. In its cargo box I’ve managed to cart as much as I would have in the boot of my small hatchback.

Travelling around regional Victoria without a car does mean that one has to plan one’s trips in a different way because our transport systems, towns and, indeed, lifestyles are designed with the car in mind.

I’ve become hyper-organised, spending time listing all the jobs I need to get done in a certain place, so that I can make all my pedalling worthwhile!

It means I need to factor more travel time into my plans, as it takes about four times as long to get somewhere as it does in a car.

And it has meant thinking carefully about what might happen, come bushfire season, if I need to evacuate the town.

The great thing about cycling everywhere is that it comes with in-built thinking time to consider all these questions and plot new ways of living.

And to consider what our communities, roads and climate might look like if cycling were the norm when it came to transport.

Here’s to this next rite of passage!