The future of transport

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of transport.

In July last year, my car overheated and had to be scrapped. I mostly used it for the weekly shop. But a few times a year I’d drive a few hundred miles around the country for music festivals, weekends away, and visiting friends. After that July, I had no more big drives planned, so I held off immediately buying a replacement and decided to wait and see if I could survive without.

Since then, I’ve adapted to living without a car. I work from home nearly 100% of the time, so I don’t have a commute. I’m also lucky enough to live in London and within Waltham Forest, which was part of the Mini-Holland programme. Waltham Forest is a nice place for cycling, with a lot of bike lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods. I’ll cycle to meet friends, run errands, go shopping, and go to the pub.

Cargo

My house is on the North side of Walthamstow. The canals and the towpaths run alongside us North to South, which also runs right underneath the North Circular, which itself is followed by industrial estates and retail parks.

When we were doing a lot of DIY to the house in November, Lila ran out of ceiling paint, so I hopped on my bike with my takeaway tray and cycled the 10 minutes over to B&Q. Coming back with 10 litres of white matt paint was a little wobbly, but doing it a second time would be fine.

My bike with two 5 litre cans of paint

My first test of no car club

I love this bike. I’ve owned it for seven years. It’s got a hub gear, which means I can change the gear while stationary. No downshifting when coming up to traffic lights and I can zip off when the light goes green. Adding the basket 18 months ago made me love it even more.

Distance

Carrying capacity alone, does not a transport mode make. I love cycling, but sometimes I don’t want to arrive somewhere as a sweaty mess and need to cool down or have a shower. When I worked in central London I cycled in about half the time. The first place I lived was only a 20 minute cycle to the office but when I moved to Walthamstow, it became closer to 50 minutes. Showers and lockers in the office made it a good workout. Free exercise without paying for the commute.

Recently a friend decided to sell his e-bike, so I jumped on the offer. £500 is a steal for an e-bike. Cycling all over with little effort is nice, but if I was cycling longer distances regularly I’d prefer the exercise. The battery is good, and it’s fun to glide along. The furthest I’ve cycled is probably 18km with about 1/3 of the battery remaining.

Longer journeys

When my car had to be scrapped, we were on our way to spend the weekend with friends in Devon. Rather than cancel, we rented a little Seat Ibiza from a HiyaCar and didn’t let our car trouble ruin a good weekend.

Just last weekend, we rented another car through HiyaCar to drive out to a little Airbnb about 2 hours from London. Along the way, we discussed the pros and cons of becoming car owners again. Once we’d talked it through and crunched some numbers, we decided to stick with our setup for now. We don’t do long car journeys that often to warrant spending a few thousand on a car, with another thousand for insurance on top.

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

We went to Rotterdam at the start of the Summer on the Eurostar. Rotterdam is like a nicer Amsterdam. We cycled out of the city and through the Dutch countryside, full of amazement at the bike-first culture that the Dutch have. Other cities are taking notice, like Paris.

If you want to help the environment, one of the best ways you can do that is to get rid of your car. When we had ours, we would drive short distances that we could’ve cycled.

Maybe bikes, and by extension e-bikes, are the real transport of the future. Combined with a solid train network, you can go nearly anywhere. Not flying cars, self driving cars, cars in enclosed tunnels or cars in a vacuum tube.

Published on Saturday, 21 January 2023