20 pledges for 2020: After using every excuse in the book to not cycle, I've finally given it a go

At best, I’ll get fit, rediscover a long-lost hobby and do my bit to tackle the growing climate crisis. At worst, I’ll end up with a broken leg and a wardrobe full of Lycra, says Will Kirby

Friday 28 February 2020 17:52
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It took about two weeks to fully exhaust all the possible reasons not to cycle to work.

I started off with the easier ones – it’s raining, I woke up too late, I’m going for a drink after work – but before long I was really scratching my head to come up with another excuse not to brave the road on two wheels.

But it was after my flatmate asked me why I hadn’t taken the bike out that day, and I offered ‘puddles?’ as my only potential justification, that I realised I needed to address the expensive elephant in the room.

It’s daunting, you see. My experience of cycling is limited to pedalling to my weekend job in a village shop, down country lanes on a battered old mountain bike. It was easy – you didn’t really need to know the rules of the road, often because you were the only one on it, and given there weren’t a lot of other transport options in deepest darkest Dorset, you didn’t really have a choice but to just get on with it.

It was a far cry from the roads of central London, to say the least. They say in London you’re never more than six feet away from a rat - well you’re even closer to something/someone that’s going to knock you straight off your two wheels and onto your arse. Around every corner there’s a truck, or a bollard, or commuter with their earphones in, or a tourist staring at their phone, or any number of obstacles in between you and work.

Not only this, everyone you talk to about cycling knows someone who knows someone who got into a collision somewhere in London and hasn’t quite been the same since. But, keen to avoid public transport while putting my fairly pricey new road bike to good use, I needed to take a deep breath and put all this to the back of my mind.

So I got up a little bit earlier than normal, took the tags off my shiny new helmet and lights and all the others bells and whistles, and went downstairs. I unlocked my bike (which took much longer than it should’ve) and rolled it out onto the pavement. There I stood for a minute, knees weak, arms heavy, trying in vain to think up a tiny little excuse that could stop me from riding to work for one last time. Alas, nothing came to mind. I had no choice. So off I went.

And you know what - it was fine. Good, even. And the more I did it, the better it got. The roads in London really aren’t as intimidating for cyclists as you often hear and I genuinely started to feel a little brighter when I got into the office each morning. Even the bank balance seems to be seeing the benefit, now that I'm not forking out £25 to get to work each week.

Looking back, I can't believe the lengths I went to in order to get out of riding my bike. To make an excuse for myself – as I’m clearly good at it – change is tough. Introducing a new routine takes time and effort, and that can be even harder when you’re doing something for the sake of the environment - an issue that seems so impossibly vast it’s hard to pick apart why your one in seven billion lifestyle change is enough to achieve anything. But the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time - and the only way I can start addressing my impact is in the choices I make each day. That becomes a lot easier, and a lot more productive, when we stop making excuses and start doing it.

So, after a slow start, cycling has quickly become a key part of my day, and long may it continue. Provided it's not raining, of course.

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