Choose life: get on your bike

How would your family cope if you had to ditch the car and go green for a day?
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The Independent Culture
The Colliers

7.30am: Michael Collier ignores his company Peugeot 406 and cycles the 12 miles to work.

8.10am: Rachel, 12, leaves for school on the school bus.

11.30am: Kay Collier (above) cycles 2.5 miles to work.

12.30pm: Kay cycles home.

4.30pm: Rachel finishes her IT club at school and takes two buses home, arriving at 5.30.

5.30pm: Michael Collier cycles home through the rush-hour traffic and arrives home at 6.30.

The O'Connells

8.15am: Forgoing her car, Vivien O'Connell walks her daughter Lizzie (both above) to the local primary school near their home at Shaw, Swindon. She then sets off to work on her bike.

8.30am: Helen leaves for school on the school bus as usual.

3.45pm: Lizzie walks home from school accompanied by an adult.

4pm: Helen leaves school, again on the school bus.

5pm: Vivien cycles for home. She arrives 20 minutes later.

THE ONLY giveaway was the wobble. It was only the merest of shudders, but it was there all the same - otherwise you'd have been forgiven for thinking Kay Collier cycled to work every day.

In reality, as Mrs Collier set off for work yesterday morning, she was joining hundreds of other regular motorists around Britain giving up their cars for National No Car Day. On any normal day, Mrs Collier would have hopped into her yellow Fiat Punto and zipped off to the school where she works as a dinner lady.

"When my husband said he was going to cycle to work for the day, I decided I would give it a try," said Mrs Collier, 41, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire. "I suppose I haven't really cycled for a year, but when we were first married we used to have a tandem."

It was not just Mrs Collier and her husband, Mike, an environmental officer with Hertfordshire County Council, who were making the sacrifice of giving up cars yesterday. The couple's children, Rachel, 12, and Hannah, 14, usually take the school bus, but Rachel was also taking the public bus home from an after-school class.

The organisers of National No Car Day - part of Green Transport Week - wish there were more people like the Colliers. The Environmental Transport Association (ETA), a "green" motoring organisation, does not want people to give up their cars all together, just to be more selective about their use.

"Seventy-five per cent of journeys are less than five miles," said the campaign co-ordinator, Richard Evans. "Five miles can be cycled in less than half an hour. In urban areas cycling is the quickest way of getting to work. People often do not realise how much time they could save if they cycled."

The ETA believes there are several reasons - in addition to simple idleness - why people are reluctant to give up their vehicles. One is self-fulfilling fear: people are worried about cycling to work while there is so much traffic on the roads. There is also the small point that cars can often be extremely convenient.

"We do not want people to stop using their cars altogether. We are just asking people to be more selective about the journeys that they make with them," Richard Evans contended.

Given yesterday's example, he may just be granted his wish. Vivien O'Connell, a senior planning officer with Swindon Borough Council, also took up the challenge of leaving her car behind for the day.

Leaving her eldest daughter, Helen, 12, to take the school bus, she walked her youngest, Lizzie, nine, to primary school before cycling the four miles into work. It took her just 20 minutes.

"I have to do a lot of site visits, so I need my car some days. I could not do without it every day, but certainly there are some days I could," she said. "After today I shall be tempted to try it again."

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