In The Red: 'I might finally be turning into a smug cyclist'
Alice Jolly is an author, playwrite and teaches creative writing at Oxford University. She is crowd-funding her own memoir of infertility and surrogacy with the publisher Unbound. 50 per cent of the proceeds of the book will be donated to SANDS (The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Foundation).
Saturday 25 April 2009
I'm not sure I've ever had a response quite like that which I received to last week's column. Hey, if I'd known that cycling was such a hot topic I would have written about it earlier. The only thing is, I received so much advice for which, may I just say, thank you very much that I've been left feeling ever-so-slightly confused by it all.
I was told to make sure I cycled every day, and to spend enough getting a hi-tech bike. But I was also told not to pay a dime over 10, and to limit my cycling to three days a week. Actually, on every one of those counts I've failed although I have, at least, bought a bike and started riding it into work, if only twice this week.
If I'm entirely honest, there hasn't been much economising so far. My bike has saved me a few Tube and bus fares but then it also set me back 115 in the first place, and there have been several more outgoing costs since (lights, locks, helmets, and then that time that I was stranded by Regent's Canal in the dark and decided to call an emergency cab).
There also hasn't been much improvement in my biking skills. I was never the strongest of riders, even at the nimble young age of 12 when I used to take my Raleigh out every day. My ride to work shouldn't really take more than 25 minutes (or so my many cycle-minded colleagues tell me). It takes me 45. The thing is I go really, really slowly, taking the scenic route as far as possible through the park since I'm still terrified of traffic. Every time I go round a corner, I slow to a near stop, anxiously ringing my bell to make sure no one's there.
Still, I haven't given up hope. I couldn't have started cycling at a better time with the sun shining down and the temperatures balmy I've woken up every day actively wanting to cycle. So enthusiastic have I become, in fact, that my boyfriend hitherto a staunch advocate of the scooter's money-saving merit has gone off and got himself a bike too.
And I suspect that when I do eventually start making proper savings it won't just be on commuting costs. Already I've noticed the sensation of London opening up, so whereas before I would avoid visiting a friend on the other side of London because of the expense, it's now just a matter of whether or not I can cycle. And most of the time, I can. You know what? After a year and a bit of trying, I think I might finally be turning into a smug cyclist.
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