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Living Lightly column

Hitting the road, fossil-fuel free

By Lauren Salathiel

This time last year, my husband and I were setting out from Yackandandah towards Queensland on two bicycles.

The 2000-odd kilometre trip took us over mountains, through storms, down highways and across gravel roads, and by the end of it, we promised ourselves we’d not get back in our car once we got home. It was to be the pedal-powered, non-fossil-fuelled life for us.

A month later, despite our best efforts, we were back in the car – driving the 100km roundtrip to work twice a week. Carting vegetable harvests back from our market garden 5km out of town. Buying bulk dry goods from Albury. Visiting family members in Mansfield.

It wasn’t that our resolve was shaken, as much as it was that the convenience of a car in a region that has a distinct lack of well-timed public transport options was just too great to ignore.

But we were aware that, like most processes involving significant change, the first step is to confront the reality that what is convenient isn’t necessarily what is best – particularly when it comes to the environment. And that it’s often just planning that facilitates change.

So, when we found an electric cargo bicycle for sale in Melbourne, we spent weeks imagining how it might enable us to realise our pedal-powered life.

The box on the front – 80cm long with a 100kg-plus carrying capacity – would fit more than half our vegetable harvest. With a second electric bike and trailer, we could carry just as much as our car would.

The battery, with a range of up to about 50km (depending on which level of assist we used), would well and truly get us up and down the hills to and from the garden, even with a big load of vegies. And with a second battery, that range would be doubled, so our bulk food run to Albury was on the cards – if we could charge the battery a little when we got there!

By combining electric bikes and the public transport options available to us – buses and trains – we could get anywhere, provided we planned well and had the time.

We bought the bike. And we’ve used it and a loan e-bike with trailer, ever since – even to go chopping firewood!

Our car’s days are numbered…