Counting on … day 392

28th November 2022 (this is rerun of a post from last year)

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. 

https://wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk/walking-wheeling-and-cycling-definitions/embed/#?secret=7xNzMjwypv

 Counting on … day 310

16th September 2022

Check out high visibility clothing. With schools terms starting and the evenings drawing in, it is a good time to think about staying visible as both pedestrians and cyclists when it is dark. After dark even light coloured clothes do not make the wearer clearly visible to other road users.  Fluorescent markers on bags and coats, cycles, helmets, wrists and ankles are all good options.

The Green Tau: issue 52

Positive Tipping Points

Scientists have long predicted tipping points in the climate crisis, vis events that will be triggered by rising temperatures and which will be irreversible even if temperatures fell. EG a temperature increase of 1.5C will cause the Greenland ice sheet to melt. Even if temperatures subsequently fall back that ice sheet cannot be recreated – it was the product of thousands of years of cold temperatures. 

The widespread destruction of the Amazon rain forest is leading to another tipping point where the loss of tree cover, and thus the ability of the ecosystem to absorb water, such that other trees cannot grow.

But there are also positive tipping points. For decades the petrol car has ruled supreme. Roads and service stations have all been developed to facilitate the use of the petrol car. The more ecological option of an electric vehicle has been slow to take off. The initial cost of each vehicle was high as productions numbers were low and scale of economies as yet untapped. Recharging points were limited in number and far apart as low numbers of vehicle discouraged investment. All these factors deterred would-be consumers, and expansion was therefore slow. However in recent years, rising demand has boosted the impact of change. Soon a tipping point will be reached where the number of electric cars produced and used in the UK will exceed those reliant on fossil fuels. The number of charging points will exceed petrol pumps. Petrol stations and the huge carbon footprint of vehicular transport will become a thing of the past. 

At present domestic heating is another big contributor to our national carbon footprint. The use of heat pumps and solar panels,  and the equipping of houses with double glazing and insulation, will be the norm, with the economies of scale and the increasing number of qualified technicians ensuring the affordability of these options. There will also be the swing in social norms that means that everyone will expect such technologies and the alternatives of  gas and oil fired boilers will be seen as antediluvian.

Whilst the number of people who follow a vegan diet has increased significantly, absolute numbers are still low as a proportion of the total population. So whilst the availability of plant based milks in cafés is widespread, there is not yet a comparable selection of vegan cakes and sandwiches. Whilst  in restaurants there may be the option of a vegan burger and possibly risotto, we are still waiting for the time when the dishes at the top of the menu are vegan and meat based items are the minority fare at the bottom of the menu. But when that tipping point is reached and the vegan diet is the norm, the carbon footprint for our food will be reduced by more than a third.

In the past we have seen positive social tipping points past. We have moved from a society in which wearing seat belts in cars went from being the exception to the norm. We have moved from viewing a last drink for the road as acceptable, to one that deplores drink driving and where taking a taxi after an alcoholic evening is the norm.  We have seen the change in expectation of maybe one holiday a year, typically in the UK, to two or three holidays a year with at least one involving taking a flight to hotter climes. 

In Sweden ‘flygskam’- flight-shame – has led to a fall in the number of people taking domestic flights and an increase in those travelling by train. Here in the UK Flight Free aims to persuade people to give up flying, not through shaming them, but through providing people with both illustrative information that shows the damage and pollution air travel causes, and testimonies from people who have made the Flight Free pledge. 

In the Netherlands 43% of people cycle everyday compared with 4% in the UK. Whilst a government survey found having off-road and segregated cycle paths (55%), safer roads (53%), and well-maintained road surfaces for cycling (49%) were most likely to encourage people to cycle more, there has not been sufficient investment to significantly improve the cycling infrastructure. In terms of tipping points, the more cyclists there are on a route, the more confident other cyclist feel about joining them. And the greater the likelihood of more investment!

We can all be part of the tipping process. If we make the beneficial changes the climate needs and talk about them with friends and family, at church, in the work place, at the gym and in the café or bar, the desire for change will grow in momentum and change will happen.

Eco Tips: living sustainably and travel 

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).

If you want to know more about the carbon footprint of cycling, taking into account the cost in resources of building and maintaining the bike and the calories consumed in pedalling, visit: https://www.bikeradar.com/features/long-reads/cycling-environmental-impact/

 Counting on … day 212

13th June 2022

To ‘put your skin in the game’ is a business term that describes someone’s commitment to a project. Last Saturday cyclists literally bared their skin as part the WNBR London Naked Bike Ride. The campaigns objectives are to: protest against the global dependency on oil, curb car culture! obtain real rights for cyclists, demonstrate the vulnerability of cyclists on city streets, and celebrate body freedom.

NB cycling without protective clothing makes you vulnerable if you have an accident. Helmets protect your head and neck. Clothing protects your skin from the abrasive nature of the road’s surface.

Counting on …day 169 

30th April 2022

Picking up on the idea of car-free Sundays, how many excursions or days out can you plan that don’t involve a car? Walks that include a pub lunch, walks that incorporate a visit to a museum or historic site, cycle rides that include stunning view points (and a downhill ride afterwards!), a bus or train ride along a scenic route, a walk along a canal….

Counting on …day 149 

12th April 2022

It may not look much, but I was glad I was wearing my cycle helmet when I collided head on with a car. It took sufficient of the impact to allow me to leave hospital 24 hours later with just a cracked vertebra. 

Safety helmets were designed to protect us in case of accidents. And as accidents do happen, we should always wear them. 

 Counting on ….day 137

31st March 2022 

This May, 5th, London’s local councils will be up for re-election. It is important that our local councillors know which things actually matter to us. The London Cycling Campaign has created an email letter to send to candidates asking them to prioritise various cycling matters that will create greener and pleasanter neighbourhoods. Richmond Council is already instigating many of these proposals but there is always scope for more if councillors feel it is something g we really want. 

https://action.lcc.org.uk/climate-safe-streets

Counting on…day 132

24th March 2022

Cycling is always easier of your cycle is well maintained: peddles, wheels and gears flow easily allow you to cycle further/ faster with less effort. You can book your cycle in for a routine servicing at a local bike shop or finding training opportunities so that you can become your own cycle mechanic. Richmond council is offering the following free workshop: The Cycle Maintenance Course at the Holy Trinity School Cycle Hub will take place on Wednesday 23 and Wednesday 30 March at 5pm. Both courses are completely free to attend.The event is being organised by the borough’s Healthy Streets Officer. To secure your place, please send an email to raphael.younger@sustrans.org.uk.

Bikeworks also offers maintenance workshops at different levels https://www.bikeworks.org.uk/Event/maintenance-courses/