Green travel to green places

In search of climate and wildlife stories…by bike

Greener, fitter, faster. — October 31, 2012

Greener, fitter, faster.

 

Yesterday I worked out that I saved 105kg CO2 through low-carbon travel on my sabbatical. My travel emitted 60% less than if I had gone by car – a small car. Brilliant. I also got fitter.

Of the 953 miles, nearly 200 were by bike. When I started, I found the cycling tough – I was a bit out of practice. In the first week my daily cycling was 17 miles on average but by the last week in Dumfries and Galloway I was averaging 36 miles a day. I was even doing extra miles by bike – on the last day I had planned to cycle from Newton Stewart up to Barrhill station but I had time and kept on going to Girvan.

Thankfully that fitness hasn’t gone away again now that the sabbatical is over. In fact, I am inspired to do more. I might not have loads of time to go on long bike rides but I am now a regular cycle commuter into Glasgow and I have made a dramatic discovery. Cycling is the fastest way to get into the office – only 30 mins. Faster than going by bus, train or car. The main question is why didn’t I discover this cycling commute earlier. Laziness? No, I just didn’t realise it was possible and so quick. So now getting to work I can be greener, fitter and faster…oh and a little bit richer.

Bikes, trains and automatons — August 18, 2012

Bikes, trains and automatons

The dictionary defines an automaton as ‘a person acting in a mechanical way’. I’ve experienced a couple of automatons when trying to book my bike onto the train this week – a couple of odd experiences.

I don’t usually book my bike on the train but as it is holiday season I thought it best to do so for my journeys next week. At Glasgow Central I went up to the window and asked if I could book my bike onto the train to Oban and back. I got mechanical monosyllables and long silences while the guy looked constantly at his screen and shook his head. I wondered if he had actually forgotten about me. After a few minutes and a verbal nudge from me, it seemed he couldn’t find any availability from Oban to Glasgow. I tried the Scotrail website. Some information but nothing on how to make a bike space reservation. I tried by phone. The automated voice didn’t give an option for booking a bike onto the train so I chose a random number. A helpful woman helped me. Very helpful – probably because I had dialled the number for booking ‘assisted travel’. Her approach was to constantly talk and mechanically describe her every action to me as she looked up availability, more for her benefit than mine.

The good news is that my bike booked onto the train to Oban next week for my trip to Coll and Tiree. The bad news is zero availability on the train back from Oban. So I’ll just have to take the risk and a full set of spanners so in the event that there is a whole cycling club booked on I can take my bike to bits and get it on the train as luggage. Wish me luck.

Scotrail could do better and make cycle space reservation available on line at the same time as booking a ticket. It could also create more spaces for bikes on trains – that might inspire more people to get out and enjoy nature and leave the car at home.

My bike, on the train – unreserved
Day trips without the car — June 21, 2012

Day trips without the car

I live in the Southside of Glasgow with my family. We love getting out into the countryside at the weekend so when the kids are in bed on a Friday night we have a familiar debate that goes something like this;

Where shall we go this weekend?

Let’s go to [insert location here].

Can we get there by train?

Yes, but it will take too long [or] No, we will have to go by car.

We love to think we are not reliant on our car but when it comes to visiting the countryside its difficult not to be. Our destination usually rules how we travel rather than the other way around, although we are getting more familiar with great places to go to by train. We are lucky because we can afford to run a car even though we mainly use it only at weekends. The 2001 Census showed that 45% of Glasgow households do not own a car so public transport and active travel is the only way from them to access the countryside. For us, the car is a semi-luxury, helping us to enjoy our relaxation time.

On the sunniest day of the year so far we decided to take our bikes by train to Largs and take the ferry to then cycle round Cumbrae. It was a fantastic day, and so it was no surprise that half of Glasgow were also at Central station headed for the west coast beaches. That trip took more planning than if we had jumped in the car but even with the bikes and all the people on the train, going by car, with the traffic jams and parking hassles, would have been worse. Breaking the habit of grabbing the car keys and making a different plan can be the hardest part. It’s so easy to say – lets go to RSPB Lochwinnoch for the day – and automatically jump in the car, but leaving the car at home can be rewarding too in so many ways.

I’m off on the first week of visits to RSPB nature reserves next week. They will all be done as a daytrip from Glasgow to show that there are places you can go for a day out without taking the car.