For the past 12 years I’ve been working in the environmental sector and encouraging people to take climate action. However, I haven’t always been great at following my own advice. Riding a bike to work is a good example.
I’ve owned a bike most of my life. Early in my career I cycled to work every day - I was living in Palmerston North which is flat and great for cycling. However, as I got older and moved cities, the idea of navigating the slightly up and down streets of Auckland on two wheels wasn’t so appealing.
In fact I resisted the idea of becoming a bike commuter again even when my employer was offering incentives like a free loan to buy a bike. I was well aware of the environmental benefits of leaving the car at home but no one could convince me to actually do it. Why was that?
Here’s what I told myself. The car was convenient and a quick way to get to the office, only six kilometres away. Parking was free. I didn’t have to worry about the weather, showering when I arrived or carrying a spare set of clothes. It also seemed a lot safer than being on a bike and riding the gauntlet of busy roads.
Quite simply, I didn’t want to change my habits. Counter intuitively I decided to start biking to work when I changed jobs and the distance of my commute increased. And guess what? The change was surprisingly good. In fact, I was a bit like the Dr Seuss character who shuns eating green eggs and ham and then does a complete u-turn after conceding to give them a try. I have a new attitude to pedal power.
From home to work,
in the sun, in the hail,
in a park,
on a trail after dark,
from here to there,
now I ride my bike anywhere.
I used to check the weather forecast every day. Now I hardly bother. The best way to find out what the day is like is to be out there. I love the rain in summer and tolerate it in the depths of winter. I embrace the challenge of heading home into a strong south westerly. I try not to be too smug on my dedicated bike path as I pass long lines of traffic crawling around the city but, damn, it feels good to be in control of my own destiny.
While I love the fitness benefits of cycling it’s the psychological benefits that I really notice. At the start of the day I arrive at work in a flood of endorphins. And, as they start to ebb, I give them another boost on the ride home. At the end of each journey I feel awake and ready for anything. In the old days I would have driven home and fallen asleep on the couch within 10 minutes.
It’s great to know I’m helping the planet in a small way by reducing my carbon footprint but, really, it feels like I’m getting the better end of the deal. That’s very different to how I was feeling about the idea of biking to work a decade ago.
So, if you’re still reading there’s a good chance you may be a reluctant cyclist too. My advice is give it a go. And, now’s the perfect time. We’re having great weather and the Aotearoa Bike Challenge is running through February. Its main aim is to get more people on bikes and to spread the joys of biking.
The Challenge could be just the nudge you need to get on your bike. The guidelines are simple. It doesn't matter if you ride every day or if you haven't been on a bike in years. You only have to ride for 10 minutes to take part. Plus, there are great prizes to win too!
The idea is that once you get a taste you’ll want to keep on going.
Don’t worry if you don’t own a bike. Nowadays it’s easy to hire one in the main cities, or many bike shops will let you trial one before you buy. Plus, electric bikes have opened up cycling to a whole new crowd.
Find out more the Aotearoa Bike Challenge and register at lovetoride.net/nz
Looking for other ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your business?
Keep an eye out for our Climate Action 20/25 online tool which we’ll be releasing early this year. It's going to be a simple one-stop shop that brings together the best industry advice and resources making it cheap and practical for smaller businesses to take climate action.