Alison’s Car-Lite Life

“I cycle because it keeps me fit and active, not just as a means of transport but also for pleasure and social engagement.”

Why are you ‘Car-Lite’?

I arrived in York 7 years ago from the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, or New Zealand – shown above.
I only knew one family in the locality. They were committed cyclists for transport and pleasure, so to be able to join them I made an early purchase of my Dawes touring bike. Of course, it needed to be ‘postcoded’ for security purposes, so I went to a cycle event in Rowntree Park. Whilst waiting my turn I got chatting to York Bike Belles (YBB), “You are just the kind of person YBB needs”, so to cut a long story short, I am now a Director!
I used to drive a 70 mile round trip to work daily. Beginning of the term it was no problem, but by the end of term it was a chore and challenge. Then I changed jobs and even after 15 years, I still appreciated only having a 20 minute cycling commute.
Now I no longer have to go to work on a daily basis, most of my trips to meetings / classes / social events are taken either by bike or on the bus.
I cycle because it keeps me fit and active, not just as a means of transport but also for pleasure and social engagement. I joined a Breeze Ride Group for beginners about six years ago and now I have some really good friends in that group and we cycle at weekends for exercise, chat and of course cake! We take our bikes on holiday both in England and abroad. Sightseeing by bike is so much fun!
I have a car but I only use it when the journey cannot easily be done by bike or public transport. For me, it makes no sense to drive myself when I can take the train or bus and read my book or do my knitting on the way. I arrive feeling relaxed and refreshed.
I recently went for a bone density scan and as part of the preparation I was asked did I do any exercise. I brightly replied “Yes, I cycle up to 60 miles per week”. “Oh, that doesn’t count” was the prompt retort.
So now I try to walk a bit more too, to get my weight bearing exercise as there are so few hills in York to require weight bearing cycling. The YBB monthly Walking Book Group is one regular opportunity. We are in such a beautiful part of the world that there are numerous walks both within and outside York, so it is a real delight to go walking too.

Have there been any challenges?

One of the things that challenges me sometimes, especially in our typical damp British  weather, is clothing. As I often use my bike for transport to meetings and events, my question is – “Do I dress for the event, or do I dress for cycling”:
Option 1 – Dress for the event, and carry or wear a waterproof, warm outer layer, plus a pair of overtrousers with “trouser clips” (as my dad would have called them) . Try luminous velcro bands as they help make you more visible in damp weather, as well as keeping your overtrousers under control. And, finally, consider a jacket with a hood that goes under your helmet. This also prevents the rain from going down your neck!
Option 2 – Dress for cycling, and take some clothes to change. Waterproof panniers are essential for this!

What are your top tips for going car-lite?

If the distance of your journey makes cycling unmanageable, consider how you can split the journey. One idea – there are bike lockers at Park and Ride termini in York – so bring your car to the Park and Ride and pick up your bike there, or drive to the Park and Ride with your bike and cycle from there.
Consciously think about your journey – do I really need to get in the car? Can I benefit from a walk to the shops? Who might I meet on the way to do my errand? If I have to take the car because the shopping is too heavy, what else can I do whilst I am out? Could my neighbour and I co-ordinate our shopping trips and just take one car?
Finally, the bus can often get nearer the shops than you can in your car – so why not try the bus?
Enjoy Car-Lite Living this year by switching driving for greener journeys. We’re offering free advice, personal journey plans, and 1:1 buddy support on walks, rides or public transport. Check out our free Car-Lite Living scheme!
Alison is a YBB Director and leads our Walking Book Group.