Get your Butt on a (Folding) Bike

Being raised in a country that has more bikes than people you understand that I also do my fair share of cycling, preferrably daily. Besides being close to nature and doing something for your health, cycling also reduces carbon emissions, which is good news for the environment. There are in fact so many advantages that it's hard to understand that not more people use the bike more frequently. Of course there are disadvantages as well but they are nothing compared to all the positive effects cycling has. And if it isn't for your health or the environment, you can save lots of money, specially with the rising fuel prices. I can't think of a better way to save money than by cycling. Of course I don't stand alone with this opinion and Islay has some advocates for cycling as well. In the Ileach of early June brian palmer published an article to raise awareness and to promote cycling, and he came with a practical solution too. And what applies to Islay applies to most parts of the world. That's why I decided to post brian's article, titled "The Folding Stuff", because it's a great piece of advice and it can benefit your health, your wallet and the environment too!

Brian palmer: For those of you in possession of a motor vehicle, I need not point out the rather exhorbitant price of petrol on Islay, and in many cases, on other Scottish islands. Yet it would seem that it is not expensive enough, since many still seem happy to drive alarmingly short distances within each village. Of the larger villages on Islay, there is not one which cannot be walked from end to end comfortably by any able-bodied person, calling into question the need to drive from home to place of work within the same area. However, a substantial number of Islay residents work some distance from home, and not unnaturally use car or van to do get there. However, the distances between each village are not colossal by anyone’s standards, and in order to save fuel and perhaps remove a pound or two of couch potato-ness, cycling could be a viable alternative. Continue reading....

I have broached this possibility with a number of confirmed drivers, but in almost every case, the excuses as to why this is not possible are more eagerly sought than reasons to at least try the option. I am not naive enough to expect those with little or no history of cycling to suddenly abandon the car and start cycling to and from work everyday. But even here there is a viable alternative... The folding bicycle.

In order to put theory into practice, on Tuesday of this past week, I cycled from home to the bus stop in Bowmore Main Street, folded the bike and boarded the bus bound for the morning ferry in Port Ellen. While the folder I rode is heading towards the super-duper end of the market, the principal remains the same with any folding cycle. In folded guise, the bicycle took up considerably less space than that of one of the otherpassengers, who had two suitcases and a buggy with a child in it. Islay’s buses do not regularly accept bicycles for transport due to space restrictions and they can be a hazard to other passengers. A folding bike solves both those problems.

As a regular cyclist, I can see accusations of being in possession of lurid lycra; anathema to the prospective cycle commuter I would imagine. However, in this instance I wore a pair of jeans, a regular shirt, a softshell ‘hoodie’ and a pair of leather shoes. The only real giveaway was the white cycle helmet, and that was my choice. Helmets are not compulsory in the UK. On reaching Port Ellen ferry terminal, I left the bus, unfolded the bicycle (the manufacturers detail folding/unfolding time of 30 seconds; I reckon about a minute), and set off in the direction of Bowmore along the Low Road. In an effort to be realistic about travelling time, I made no attempt to cycle particularly fast, yet it only took me 35 minutes from village to village. I figure an hour would have been acceptable. Distance is ten miles. Thus, during the summer months, it would seem a perfectly acceptable choice to travel to work on the bike, exercise that would set you up just fine for the day ahead, and at the end of a hard day at the office, fold the bike and hop on the bus home.

Are there disadvantages? Of course there are: Islay gets more than its fair share of wind (take the bus into the headwind), and you might get wet. But with the money saved, I'm sure it’s possible to purchase a decent set of waterproofs; it’s only water after all. In the endless search for carbon savings, I’m sure this is an idea that Islay Energy Trust could add to their portfolio. The bike ridden was a Dahon Speed Pro TT retailing at £1300, but Dahon folding bikes start at £400, probably less than most folks’ annual car insurance costs.


Tag: cycling bike health environment