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.
Excuses for not cycling
In fact, I resisted the idea of becoming a commuter cyclist 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 my V6 stationwagon 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. Driving 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.
A change in mindset
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 now 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 enjoy a bit of 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 destiny.
While I love the fitness benefits of cycling, it’s the psychological benefits that I've really noticed. At the start of the day I arrive at work flooded with 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 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.
If you’re still reading there’s a good chance you may be a reluctant cyclist too. My advice is to give it a go. And, now’s the perfect time with the Aotearoa Bike Challenge running throughout 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 yet. Nowadays it’s easy to hire one in the main cities. And, if you're thinking of buying, many bike shops will let you try some options first. Plus, electric bikes have opened up cycling to a whole new crowd.
Find out more about the Aotearoa Bike Challenge and register at lovetoride.net/nz
Looking for other ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your business?
Check out the Climate Action Toolbox.