On the weekend before last, KJ and I travelled to Manly to meet some friends, up from Sydney, who had bravely driven all the way to Brisbane in a car loaded with mum, dad, two kids and an apparently flatulent boxer puppy. It was a perfectly clear and sunny Autumn day, so we opted to cycle rather than drive. That meant not only did we get to enjoy the glorious sunshine even more, we dodged Gateway Bridge toll fees of almost $10. Sure, it’s a steep ride up and over the bridge, but it’s a wide and safe cycle path so you can take your time and not worry about the traffic.
An unexpected bonus was not having to worry about parking at Manly. Being a picture perfect day, there were eleventy million (give or take) people there, all enjoying a day by the sea. And most seemed to have travelled by car. What a pleasure it was to simply cruise in on our bikes, without the frustrating search for somewhere to park. I think that was even more satisfying than dodging the toll.
The level crossing at Lindum Station however, leaves a lot to be desired. This may well be Brisbane’s least human-friendly intersection, but fortunately the Sunday traffic was almost non-existent, so that helped. The only other matter of concern was the rampaging cow beside the road in an unfenced paddock, just around the corner from said station. My thanks to the kindly driver who stopped to give warning, and my apologies for the confused look on my face.
The substituting of bikes for a short car journey was brought to mind a couple of days ago, when I finished reading David Herlihy’s fine history of the bicycle, called simply “Bicycle”. Herlihy writes that in the US, about a third of all petrol pumped into cars is used on trips of less than three miles, which is roughly five kilometres. And www.environment.gov.au tells me: Vehicles are least fuel efficient and most polluting at the start of trips and on short trips. One reason for this is that catalytic converters (which reduce air pollution emissions) do not operate properly until they have warmed up. Trips of less than five kilometres generally do not allow the engine to reach its peak operating temperature. I don’t know how the statistics in Australia compare with the US, but we are a highly urbanised country and my guess is we’d have similar fuel usage patterns.
So it’s simple really. Cycle more. Burn less fuel. Spend less money. Have more fun.