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Thursday, 10 July 2014


According to Sustrans, one third of UK households own two or more cars.  Despite all my efforts at low carbon living, my household is part of that third.  At the start of the year we had three cars between 4 drivers.  When Junior Daughter became driver number 5 in February, I can quite understand that she wanted to have her own car.  Senior Daughter, away at uni at the time, was already planning to get her own car this summer to see her through her work placement year.  I couldn't contemplate the thought of adding yet another car to the household.  So I decided to give my car to Junior Daughter and try to manage without one (in rural Oxfordshire).

There are 28.5 million cars in the UK and the average car owner produces over two tonnes of CO2 each year.  We have long been careful to minimise our journeys.  We lift share, we combine missions like shopping with getting to school/work.  We use public transport when we can.  Even so,  I'm pretty sure we are contributing that average 2 tonnes of CO2 output.

So since February, Junior Daughter, has been driving herself to school and I have been trying to get around by bus/train and on foot.

This has been mostly possible, but I haven't yet developed the bus time table awareness for the infrequent buses that get me to within a twenty-minute walk from home.

To get to my nearest town which has excellent (if a little pricey) onward bus connections to Oxford I have a twenty minute walk in the wrong direction to get to an hourly 25 minute bus ride.

I knew I needed to get on my bike!

And now I have.  Inspired by National Bike Week, last week I rummaged around at the back of the garage and got out my bike.  I haven't been on my bike for a few years, I think!  The tyres were flat, it was a little rusty in places and it was home to a few spiders, but it seemed otherwise in reasonable working order - meaning the brakes and gears seemed to function.

I found these handy maintenance tips on the Bike Week website:

Here's my first couple of #BikeIt weeks.

Wednesday - letters to post, poorly grandma to visit (combined with helping uncle to eat up a joint of pork as grandma is off her food).  Total miles 4.

Thursday - a little further this time.  A trip to a local school to talk about what they'd like me to do as guest speaker at their certificate evening.  Total miles 10.

Dilemma of what to wear!  My main aim was not to arrive hot and sticky, so I cycled in a cotton dress and pumps and had a little crumple proof jacket and posh shoes in my rucksack.  I gave myself plenty of time so I could cycle slowly - still way less time than it would take by bus - and it all worked perfectly smoothly.

Friday - Senior daughter needed to get to work and was inspired to go by bike - my bike, because hers is tucked away at the back of the garage and probably needs attention.  My mission was therefore to be on foot, but as it involved buying 2 dozen eggs for cricket tea, maybe that was for the best. Total miles me 4, Senior Daughter 4. We both got a bit wet!

Sunday - An afternoon party 60 miles away in the wrong direction for public transport - Not going to happen by bike!  But I did manage to make the most of my car journey as I gave someone else a lift and arranged to fill the boot of the car with stuff from Senior Daughter's house that she is shortly moving out of.

Tuesday - I got a lift to Oxford to judge an up cycling competition.  I then had a twenty minute yomp to my next meeting which I managed to change the venue of so it was achievable without a car.  Mr Pitt and Junior Daughter then picked me up on their way to JD's summer school (at Eton College!!).  We took a slight detour on the way back, with the added advantage of it being a less traffic laden route, so we could check out the cycle path to/from our nearest station.

Wednesday - I get on to Google to check out train tickets as I had a meeting in Birmingham the next day. The first bus out from my village doesn't get me to Oxford in time to get to my meeting by 9.30am.
It is 10 miles to the Station.  I think about trying out the route and timing it instead of going for a run.  I think I can do it and I'm encouraged that there's a bike path for some of the way. But then I realise how much the train ticket from Long Hanborough to Birmingham is going to cost me.  It is £77 for a return ticket and then on top of that, I'd have to pay for a taxi the other end.  Way too expensive!

Thursday - Yes sadly I was back in a borrowed car, and I picked up a colleague on the way (so that's 2 train fares worth of car journey).  But I feel disappointed.

Monday - I decide to stay at my desk rather than cycle to a meeting about local transport issues.  I follow the meeting on Twitter thanks to timely Tweets by Kate from Sustainability Witney group.

Tuesday - I get on my bike to cycle to the Certificate Evening, in the hope of inspiring my audience to think in a more circular economy way.  I feel I'm in a room full of future achievers and doers and so I talk to them about the idea of putting the environment at the centre of all their wonderful ideas and creations in order to be achievers and doers in a sustainable future. I cycle home in the rain with a warm heart and a lovely bunch of flowers poking out of the back of my rucksack, much to the amusement of the various faster cyclists who overtake me.  By the time I arrive home, the rain has dried and the exercise has done nothing but create an appetite for more exercise so I go for a short run in the fading sunshine.

Wednesday - Back on my bike to meet up with the local community action groups (CAGs) and Sustainable Witney.  We clearly have too many great things to talk about and the light is going as I leave so I say my goodbyes in a hurry and peddle home.  I didn't know I could peddle that fast.  I must find some lights for my bike as it is only going to get easier to get caught out at dusk.

Today I was back in my car to do an Eco-Schools Assessment in another corner of the county.  Crossing Oxfordshire is not an easy task by public transport and I wasn't quite ready for the 60 mile round trip by bile.  I can dream though!

So far I've made 5 short journeys by bike and 4 long journeys by car, but only one of the long journeys was on my own.  I'm glad I've managed bit of peddle power and it certainly feels like the way forward.
Charlotte's Tip from The Marlborough School version of
 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free