Monday, January 12, 2009

A bike ride in Auckland...

Is like an intense game of frogger: it's ultimately fun but you really have to look out for cars. This week alone (two days into it) I've had two close calls. That being said last week was uneventful. I think this means my riding has been raised to a new level, to continue with the video game analogy, but I could be wrong. There may just be more congestion due to all of those drivers back into the swing of things after the holiday break. Who knows. The only thing I do know is that it feels good to be able to stop at a red light right next to a car that passed me about a kilometre back, and to think that I didn't have to burn any gas while the other guy did.

We're experiencing a resurgence in bike ridership in our home lately. With the longer hours of daylight and drier weather Peter's been biking in to work nearly daily and I've recently bought a bike to toodle around the neighbourhood on. I have to say that it feels darn good to be back on the bike, now that the obligatory and awkward "getting to know you" phase is over. Two years of relatively low physical activity and a shiny new case of asthma have left me a bit out of shape, you could say. The rolling hills of Auckland didn't make the process easy but after a few weeks of short near-daily rides I'm doing better. I can now make it 14 kms without stopping (I actually feel pretty good afterward) and I only need the inhaler sometimes after I ride now. All in all Peter and I are feeling healthier these days thanks to this long-forgotten mode of transportation.

Our readers may recall previous posts in which Peter explained the perils of cycling in Auckland. The roads are narrow; shoulders and bike lanes (where they exist) tend to be filled with gravel, broken bottles and the odd dead hedgehog; storm drains are not always designed well and grates can sometimes run parallel to the curb. And always the aggressive traffic. None of these things make cycling as a commuter mode of transportation an easy choice, and those around here who choose to take the plunge trend toward the hardcore.* I'm trying my best to fit into this category, as I'm lucky enough to live along a commuter corridor that has bike paths for most of its length. My employer also has showers and lockers in the women's bathroom, which means that I can have a quick rinse once I get to work. Not everyone has access to this sort of thing here, so I should probably take advantage of it.

At its heart, this change is simply the latest step in our efforts to become a bit more earth friendly. We never drove the car all that much to begin with, but I'd say that 95% of its use was for my daily commute. At first I didn't feel bad because I could justify it: my weekly petrol bill was half the cost of bus fare for the equivalent distance, and driving cut my commute time in half. What's not to love? We'll, I hate sitting in traffic at the end of the day, getting wheezy 10 minutes into a friendly ultimate frisbee game at work, that extra roll on my stomach that now pops out when I sit down, and generally being a part of the twice-daily single occupant vehicle exodus.

So we're trimming back. My goal is to be able to bike to work come the end of the month without being too red faced and sweaty. Peter's biking to work daily, and we're cutting back on our meat consumption. It's all a part of our attempt to keep healthy and cut down on our carbon footprint.

I'll be taking the camera along some of my rides later this week so you can see what we're up to in our daily routine.

*A special note for Moms Jan and Char: don't worry. We wear helmets, ride only when it's safe and get off the bike or ride on the foot path when it's not. You've taught us well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay for helmets!! I had a recent experience this summer where I had to go and fetch John and our friend Don from the E.R. The grand total was 1 mangled bike, 1 very scraped face and 2 broken arms - and this was all on Don! John was wearing his helmet, just as his nagging wife insisted.

Miss you!!