I moved to Bristol four years ago, from London, via Hull. I’ve driven since I was 18, a terrifying 25 years ago. I didn’t drive that much in London, because of public transport, or in Hull, because it’s tiny and you just don’t have to. But when I moved to the top of the hill in East Dundry, I was suddenly driving to work, to yoga, to the supermarket - everywhere.
I was dimly aware that all the traffic jams I was part of were bad for more reasons than just my blood pressure, but with miles rolling away beneath me, the sun coming in through the windows and pop music pounding on the stereo, I kept telling myself that this was my only option. My brave neighbour cycled to work every day, but given that I hadn’t been on a bike in 15 years and even my Renault Clio could barely make it up Broadoak Hill, I quickly dismissed that option as madness and kept on truckin’, despite the guilt about my emissions creeping up.
When I moved to Fishponds in 2019 and became properly engaged with just how bad the climate
crisis really is, I knew I couldn’t put off the evil moment anymore. So, filled with a certainty that I’d be smashed to smithereens under a truck before
the week was out – or, more likely, die of a stitch by the end of the day – I got myself down to
Bool’s Bikes on Staple Hill and, after being helped
by some truly lovely staff members, bought myself a purple hydrid. I named her Greta. Because why not?
Rather than being the trial I feared, I fell in love with cycling pretty damn quickly. Zipping past the traffic, flying down hills, taking in the ever-changing graffiti – it’s all pretty awesome. Living right near the Bristol and Bath Railway Path helped. You do have to contend with all those terribly important men wearing Lycra who are in a Very Big Rush to get past you at the speed of sound. That can be a bit unnerving at first, but you soon get used to it. And the certainty of knowing that you will arrive at your destination at the right time, rather than having to allow an extra half an hour ‘just in case’ makes it all worth it.
The hills are hard, I’m not gonna lie. But the warm glow of knowing you’re doing good for the planet while also earning yourself some extra cake-calories for when you get home make it easier. And if the hills are too much for you, you could always get an electric bike for that bit of extra help.
If you live in Bristol and are nervous about making that all important switch from car to bike, you might be interested to know that Life Cycle UK does lessons for adults who are new to cycling, making it that bit easier get started. If you live in the South West, have a look at this map to find a bike shop near you.
All of this information and so much more about cycling is available on the Better Transport Options page of this website.
Let us know how you get on in the comment box below.
Did you know… Bikes aren’t entirely carbon-footprint-free as they do need to be made. However, riding a bike contributes 10 times LESS carbon to the atmosphere than driving.