By Matthew Charles-Jones, Yackandandah
Last Christmas, my long-lost memories of the childhood joy and thrill of bicycles were rekindled. Our four-year-old neighbour had been given a shiny, clean and new bicycle. It was a piece of engineering brilliance with wonderfully bright artwork, fine styling and beauty in its simplicity.
Many of us no doubt have fond recollections of hours spent experimenting on bikes, melding the physical skills of balance and fitness with the mental challenge of perseverance, commitment, resilience, trust, imagination and humility. Such a joyful and simple activity leading to a profound liberation of the human spirit!
This new bicycle also reminded me of what a wonderful mode of transport a bicycle represents. Bikes are relatively cheap, they are easy to park, promote social connection, encourage fitness and certainly help to reduce stress. And crucially, bikes are profoundly energy efficient.
As we start to appreciate the enormity of a world where cheap oil is but a memory, alternative modes of powering our world are being explored. But bikes already are a wonderful, affordable and available technology ready to be picked up – at least for local journeys!
The North-East seems perfectly suited to bike transport – overall, it is very flat, the weather is largely great for pedalling and typically involves small distances. With minimal changes, we could easily add bike racks to public transport (refer to the system in the ACT for instance) so longer distances could easily be serviced.
And here is the rub; if you ride to work/study/visiting only half the time, you would be cutting your commuting bill by 50%! Imagine a new car engine that uses 50% less fuel! But wait, there is more – exercise, weight loss, stress relief and an instant reduction in your carbon emissions! No Government intervention required.
Safety of course, must be a concern so thought is required. New research published by Bicycle Victoria (BV) is very clear, – most bike accidents (with cars) are a result of car driver error. So you must plan your route carefully to ensure your interaction with cars is managed. Choose roads that have wide verges, use cycle paths or quieter streets and always ride expecting doors to open, make yourself visible (lights and bright clothing), expect drivers to not see you and ride more slowly!
So go ahead, dust off the old bike and leave the money and ‘vitality-eating’ automobile at home. Rekindle that long forgotten childhood thrill from atop a bike.