Michael Takes Delivery of his Bike
Michael Chambers (Marketing Manager, Estates & Campus Services) is the third person at Stirling University to take ownership of a new bike to try for his daily commute. Michael has been brave enough to take a non-electric (aka normal) bike for the next few weeks.
Following the success of the Marwan Goes Electric and Daniela Goes Electric blogs, Michael has also kindly agreed to write about his experiences, so you can follow his progress. Read on to hear his story...
Day One of my personal pedal challenge saw me commute by train (from Larbert to Bridge of Allan) and then walk in from Bridge of Allan to the Uni. (Normally I do the lazy thing and just hop in the car!). I took delivery of ‘my’ loan bike in time to make the homeward commute by bike and train.
I must say that my very early impressions both of my bike (lightweight with ‘friendly’ gears) and of my more active commute are very positive. It took me less than 10 minutes to cycle to Bridge of Allan station from Cottrell (the only downside being that I arrived a good 15 minutes ahead of my train’s departure time!).
Not having been on a bike for a good while, I was pleased to be able to largely avoid heavy traffic by using the on campus cycle path, on road cycle lanes and quieter side streets running parallel to the main road through Bridge of Allan (I knew that producing the University’s Get Active, Getting There travel guide would pay dividends one day!).
It may just be my perception but I certainly felt the better for my active commute (both walking in and cycling home). I’m off to Edinburgh for a conference for the next couple of days, so my next commute to the campus is likely to be next week.
Back to the office today after my conference in Edinburgh towards the end of last week but alas, and with some guilt, I don’t have the bike with me. Am heading straight for a doctor’s appointment after work and it’s debatable whether the bike/train/bike combo would allow sufficient time to make my appointment. Not looking overly promising for the early part of the week either. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is a ‘drop the wee one off at nana’s day’ with Wednesday seeing me have to hot foot (hot wheel?) it straight from the office to East Kilbride to sing and dance for a Women’s Guild group (bet that’s got you wondering about my ‘showbiz’ lifestyle!)….Looks like my next possible bike outing will be Thursday…have a dental appointment first thing and then into the office…watch this space and I’ll let you know how I get on (both at the dentist and on my bike!)
Back in the saddle again.
With circumstances conspiring to keep me out of the saddle for most of last week and the early part of this one, it was good to finally do a proper two way commute today, using pedal power and the train. Prior to coming to work I had to get to my dentist for my six month check-up.
I decided to also make that trip by bike and was pleasantly surprised at how little time it took me to cycle from Larbert to Graham’s Road, Falkirk (around 20 mins). Having parked the bike at Falkirk Grahamston station prior to my appointment (the dentist is just about two minutes’ walk from the station) I returned to the bike, with my teeth having been given a clean bill of health, just in time to catch the train to Bridge of Allan. From Bridge of Allan it was no more than a 10 minute ride to the campus.
Come home time it was back on the bike for the short return journey to Bridge of Allan station. On the train I bumped into Angela from Going Carbon Neutral Stirling who kindly agreed to take my picture (if only to prove that I’m not making this stuff up!).
First impressions of my, albeit limited, cycling experience to date? The bike journeys have left me feeling more alert/alive than doing the journey by car. I’ve also been less hot and sticky than I’d imagined I would be.
Next week I’m hoping to use the bike on three out of the five working days (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday)….
Week 4 down and I managed to keep my promise and cycle-commute for three out of my five working days. I have been pleasantly surprised to have remained rain-free for all of my commutes to date. Would like to think that my (literally) dry runs have been a sign that the sun always shines on the righteous but I suspect that I’ve just been lucky with the weather!
I’ve been continuing to weigh up the costs and benefits of the bike/train/bike commute. It undoubtedly takes a wee bit more planning to actively commute rather than just jumping in the car. I’ve chosen to leave a suit, a couple of spare shirts and a pair of shoes in the office which allows me to travel relatively light in my ‘duds’ and then get changed into work gear once I get here.
The cost of a daily return from Larbert to Bridge of Allan is £6.60, meaning that this week I’ve contributed the guts of £20 to Scotrail. It’s frustrating that Scotrail apparently only offer a 10-journey flexi pass arrangement for journeys to/from Glasgow & Edinburgh. Surely I can’t be alone in thinking that flexi pass arrangements on all routes would benefit both Scotrail (giving them money up front) and semi-regular rail commuters in terms of slightly cheaper fares?
On the plus side the petrol needle on the car hasn’t been moving inexorably towards ‘E’ and I’m reasonably relaxed that, both in terms of petrol costs and general wear and tear on the car, letting the train (and bike) take the strain is just about cost neutral.
I continue to feel that it’s doing me good to actively commute…the chill wind on my face in the morning certainly works wonders in waking me up!
A quick summary of my commuting week is as follows: Monday-Car share, Tuesday-Drove in on my own (having dropped the wee one off at her nana’s), Wednesday-Day off (Daddy day!!), Thursday-car share, Friday-Drove in on my own (see Wednesday).
Eagle eyed blog readers will note that the bike has not had an outing this week. This is not through lack of willingness, rather it’s just a case of prevailing circumstances. On the two days that I could have cycled the opportunity arose to resume a long standing car sharing arrangement which I have with Lynn Blaikie, Business Development Manager at Stirling University Innovation Park (SUIP). For a variety of reasons it hasn’t been convenient for Lynn and I to car share for quite a while, but this week our respective work and home life schedules were ‘in sync’ for two out of the five days. It was good to catch up and, of course, to ensure that, for two days at least, there was one less car coming on to campus. Conflicting work demands mean that car sharing 5 days a week is never going to be a practical option for Lynn and myself but we have both found that sharing the journey even on an occasional basis helps to ensure less frequent trips to the petrol station to fill up our cars, and also makes for a more pleasant, less isolated run to and from work.
So there you have it-a biking blog which unashamedly admits to non-bike use over the course of a working week. Looking ahead to next week, I hope to get back in the saddle again for a couple of days at least and possibly also throw in a spot of car sharing as well.
It’s official….I am a fair weather cyclist!!!
A combination of last week’s torrential downpours, a long weekend back in the Emerald Isle and the return of the very topical “Frostie the Snowman” weather conditions mean that my loan bike has been more of a ‘lone’ bike over the past ten days or so.
On the positive side I have been continuing to car share in the meantime but I’m getting concerned that the bike may be feeling the first signs of rejection (cue awkward silences and that difficult “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation). At the time of writing, with more icy conditions forecast, I’m not convinced that I’ll be getting back in the saddle this side of the weekend. I wish I had more confidence in my ability to negotiate icy conditions on two wheels but, having fractured my skull as a child, I’m not sure that I have sufficient brain cells left to withstand another blow to the head, even with my helmet on….so there you have it, I am currently ‘wimping out’ on the bike front but hopefully still putting my money where my carbon reduction mouth is by trying to ensure that one car less comes onto campus each day…!
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