Friday, February 11, 2005

urban transport

Most car journeys are under five miles. Most car journeys carry only the driver, no passengers or bulky luggage.

Public transport has some benefits, but it is inconvenient. The car offers freedom from timetables, freedom from timetables being ignored, an opportunity to go directly from A to B when you want without wasting time looping off to stop places you're not going to.

But the car too has its drawbacks. Imagine if it were somehow made so nimble that it could magically jump to the front of the queue at traffic lights and junctions. Imagine if there were free parking outside - or even inside - any building you went to. Imagine if it needed no tax, insurance or MOT. Imagine if it let you do a daily fitness workout whilst driving. Imagine if fuel were free and it never needed refilling. If it had zero emissions. If, whenever anything went wrong, instead of being at the mercy of pricey mechanics you could quickly, easily and cheaply do most repairs yourself. Imagine how much more precious it would be than the cars of today.

That vehicle is here. Prices start at about twenty quid, second hand.

I got back on a bike after an Aspire in 1999. Among the array of gigs, parties and veggie food was a bike repair workshop. It was run by a guy who spent the rest of the time cannibalising knackered bikes into working ones. He gave me one, and I had to force him to take payment of a cup of tea and a fiver. Less than a week's bus fares. It lasted about two years, when I bought another second hand contraption that served me well.

ReCycle Engineering, my local spares and repairs place where I got that next bike from, is great. The way all shops should be; unpretentious, friendly, capable, on first name terms with you, a 'god bless John Peel' poster on the front of the shop and, if you've timed it right, a free veg samosa inside.

But the sturdy urban workhorse they sold me needs to be put out to pasture, the time has come for me to upgrade.

Still, credit where it's due. That last bike was 30 quid and lasted three years including two massive hauls around Cornwall and West Wales. And rather like having a Betamax video, being a gaudy 1980s racer it was effectively theft-proof.

But doing so much cycling, often laden with very heavy stuff indeed, I could do with something a tad more reliable. I've just taken delivery of one of these.

It's in matt black too, making it feel like a Stealth Bomber or something. I'm going to look so swanky at February's relaunched Critical Mass in Leeds.

Riding the thing is amazing, it feels like it's on rails or even like the magic carpet effect as promised on the prickling-with-repressed-sexual-tension cover of Raleigh's 1958 catalogue.

So a warm but necessary adieu to the bike that took me along part of the Tour de France route, through the Preseli Mountains with no front brake and saved me a fortune in bus fares.

Check out the exhilarating vivacity of Gyrus' blog post detailing his redicovery of the joy of cycling, and some further thoughts.

World Carfree Network , an organisation evolved from CarBusters, have a great range of resources and their mail order section is wonderful - loads of books, and the classic ONE LESS CAR! stickers to put on your bike (available in 16 languages!)

The venerable and venereal James Veeb Davies recommended these two links too:

Ken Kifer's Bike Pages and Sheldon Brown's assorted bike writings.

Oh and people, when out on a bike wear a fluoro top and WEAR A HELMET. Not all that stylish or convenient are they, but then again neither is being unable to think or speak cos your brain and face have been pounded into jelly. Two-thirds of cycling fatalities are head injuries that wouldn't be fatal if the rider had been wearing a helmet. Nuff said.


RA said...

Being a risk-averse insurance fucker I applaude the helmet mantra. Being a (Previously) habitual drunkem/stoned cyclist I know about hitting tarmac. Wear a helmet.

The good thing about helmets is that the wird is rude too. Bargain.

All that aside, I've sen some fabulous high heels tonight.



RA said...

Being a risk-averse insurance fucker I applaude the helmet mantra. Being a (Previously) habitual drunken/stoned cyclist I know about hitting tarmac. Wear a helmet.

The good thing about helmets is that the word is rude too. Bargain.

All that aside, I've seen some fabulous high heels tonight.



scarletharlot69 said...

yay! you are a bicycle fetish Merrick!

isn't everyone....