Cycles of all shapes and sizes benefit from regular cleaning and maintenance: and you are rewarded with a speedy and comfortable ride. Even in the summer cycles get dirty with a grime that clogs moving parts. Once cleaned, lightly oil the chain. Check brakes and adjust or replace as necessary: in wet weather well adjusted brakes are an essential safety measure.
As the nights begin to draw in, make sure that you have a set of functioning front and rear lights.
As the summer holidays end and schools go back, it feels as if a new term is starting for us all. This can be a good time for setting in place new intentions or resolutions about how we live and how we care for the world around us.
Whilst the weather is still mild, it is a good time to develop the habit of active travel – using walking, cycling and public transport as our go-to means of getting around. Good for the environment and good for both our physical and mental health.
Urban areas are generally hotter than their nearby rural areas. Buildings and vehicles all add heat to their local micro climate, whilst vegetation reduces temperatures. Not driving cars during hot weather is one small way of keeping the air cooler. You too will probably feel cooler walking on the shady of side of the street rather than being sat in a hot metal box.
What does sustainability look like in daily life? I thought I would share our (me and my husband) experiences.
The single biggest issue that affects the sustainability of travel is the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used directly in the form of petrol and diesel to fuel cars, motor bikes, farm vehicles, lorries … as aviation fuel for planes, diesel for trains where there is no overhead or third rail electrical current, the low grade petrol or bunker fuel used for ships. In addition fossil fuels are used indirectly where electric powered transport uses electricity non renewable sources. World wide transport contributes around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions. (https://ourworldindata.org/travel-carbon-footprint)
Sustainable travel has to be that which minimises the use of fossil fuels.
Setting aside the means of transport used to get products from farms and factories to our homes and tables, and leaving aside the transport used by the emergency services etc. I shall focus on the transport solutions we use to get from A to B.
We live in a suburban part of London. We have good range of local shops for food, books, bikes, paper and craft materials, tools and timber, household and homewares. There are also schools, churches, gym, library, GP, green spaces all within a mile of our house.
Our main mode of transport is walking. Cotton bags and rucksacks provide carrying capacity, waterproofs and umbrellas protection against the elements.
Second to this would be cycling. This makes the dentist, swimming pool, theatre, cinema, shoes shops and department easily accessible – all within a half hour cycle. (Cycling is a would-be as my recent neck injury requires a year’s restraint from such activities). When I both worked and studied in central London, cycling was quick, reliable and enjoyable. A well maintained bike, panniers or rucksack, waterproof clothing, lights and a helmets are essential.
Next comes the bus for short trips, plus the train and the underground network. This gets us all over London.
Trains also provide long distance travel both here in the UK and across Europe, for holidays, visiting friends and families, etc. Starting off in London makes this easier: when we visit places less well served with public transport we do have to rely on family or a taxi to drive the last leg of the journey. Did you know you can go from London to Berlin or the Swiss Alps by train in a day? London to Glasgow or Edinburgh can be an overnight journey.
Flying we avoid. Next year we would like to visit North America and are looking to travel with one of the passenger carrying cargo ships.
There are some trips which we do choose to make by car. For example when my husband volunteers on a steam railway in Hampshire, or when transporting a model railway to exhibitions. At other times we use a taxi for my mother who struggles with escalators on the underground.
A rough calculation of the carbon footprint of the journeys I make annually by bus and train comes to 0.56 tonnes of CO2. If I were to make those journeys by car (even a reasonably fuel efficient one, 52 mpg) it would have produced 1.52 tonnes of CO2. If I had flown that same distance, it would have produced 2.27 tonnes CO2.
What I haven’t calculated is what my carbon footprint would have been if I had made all my local journeys by car rather than on foot. If say I normally walk 4 miles a day but instead make those journeys by car, I would produce a further 0.43 tonnes of CO2.
A further advantage of walking or cycling in terms of sustainability, is the low capital outlay or expenditure of resources. In the case of walking that would be resources used in making a pair of shoes, or for cycling, that of making a bike. Both will be significantly less than is needed to make a car. The resources needed to build a bus or train are considerable but when apportioned across the number of users and the life time of the vehicle, is probably less than the equivalent for a private car (which will often carry a single passenger as well as spending 95% of its life parked on a drive).
“UK drivers have cut 550 million miles a week by working from home” reported Ciara Knight in November 2020 (https://www.bymiles.co.uk/insure/magazine/author/ciara/). Commuting makes up 15% of car journeys in the UK so the more those journeys can be reduced – either by working from home or by living closer to the workplace – or shifted from cars to public transport, cycling or walking, the better – both for environment and our health.
Walking holidays, cycling holidays, train journeys – there are lots of ways of planning holidays that minimise fossil fuel consumption. Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany can all be reached by train within the day plus there are also options for taking a sleeper.
The pandemic increased the shift to online shopping and queues of cars outside supermarkets are now a thing of the past! In suburbs like East Sheen, walking – or cycling – to the shops is easy and what is bought can be carried in baskets, backpacks or trolleys. Kingston or central London are a train or bus ride away. Why do shopping centre need car parks?
Car free sports? Being active, doing sports, going to the gym are all good for our health – and even better if you get to the sports ground, the gym, the pool or the park without driving. If you normally drive, can you walk or cycle of maybe take the bus? Check out routes and times and enjoy an even greater sense of fitness.
Recently Londoners we’re given health warnings about air pollution: the elderly and those with breathing difficulties were advised to listen strenuous exercise and to stay inside. A spell of high pressure weather mean that the air over London had remained static for several days: no winds had been moving the air on and bringing in fresh. As the air wasn’t moving nor were the noxious chemicals and small particulates moving. Instead concentration levels of these pollutants were rising.
Where do these pollutants come from in the first place? Exhausts from vehicles, dust from brake blocks and tyres, smoke from wood burning fires, exhausts from gas and oil boilers, dust from construction sites, exhausts from waste incinerators and from industrial plants. Of all the sources of pollution generated in London, over 50% comes from vehicles! It would seem that we Londoners are the cause of much of the problem. Can we drive less? Can we become less reliant on polluting vehicles to deliver goods and services? Can we encourage active travel – walking and cycling?
“Bike is best!” Whether you are young or old or somewhere in between. Whether you are able bodied or disabled. Whether you are super fit or just starting out. Whether it’s simply for leisure or for getting from A to B. Whether it is for deliveries or commuting or the school ‘run’.
Active travel reduces carbon emissions, improves air quality and aids healthy living. What’s not to like?
And what is included in active travel? – walking, wheeling and cycling. The following extract comes from Wheels of Wellbeing, a charity that promotes cycling for people with disabilities.
Walking: foot/pedestrian-based mobility that may incorporate the support of aids to mobility such as stick/s, cane/s, crutch/es, the arm of another person and/or assistance animal/s.
Wheeling: an equivalent alternative to foot/pedestrian-based mobility. Includes wheeled mobilities such as manual self- or assistant-propelled wheelchairs, including wheelchairs with power attachments or all-terrain attachments (such as the “Freewheel”), powered wheelchairs, mobility scooters (three and four-wheeled) and rollators. Some people rely on their cycle to move (at a pedestrian’s pace) through pedestrianised environments when it is not physically possible to walk/push their cycle. Some people use their cycle as a walking aid, by leaning on it (do not use crutches but need to lean in order to walk, due to pain etc. – they can dismount but cannot park their cycle). Some people use e-scooters (with or without a seat), to wheel/scoot through pedestrianised environment if they cannot walk unaided.
We recommend never using ‘walking’ on its own (as it likely reinforces ableist stereotypes in people’s minds) but always using ‘walking/wheeling’ together. Both words represent the action of moving at a pedestrian’s pace, whether or not someone is standing or sitting, walking/wheeling unaided or using any kind of aid to mobility, including walking aids / wheeled aids, personal assistants or support animals.
Cycling: incorporates the action of moving at speed on a wide range of pedal- powered wheeled transport that may be powered with hands and/or feet, may transport one or more person, may or may not include e-assist and usually have between 2 and 4 wheels.