In a rare break from the norm I took the family car to work yesterday. No excuses, I was absolutely knackered in the morning and with the kids on summer holiday, my wife didn't need it. The drive in and back weren't even that bad traffic-wise but I still didn't enjoy it more than cycling. There is a big difference between car and bike commuting and to me, it's one of engagement with your surroundings.
On the bike, you can see, touch, smell and speak to what's around you. In the car you are sectioned away from all of that behind metal, plastic and glass. Throw in some music on the car stereo and air-con and the car-commuter really does drive around in a bubble. In their own little world. We then only see other vehicles competing for the road with us and not the humans driving them. We lose connection and empathy with our fellow road-users and they become an adversary - someone to be beaten across a roundabout or overtaken as soon as possible. The unpleasantness of "road rage" is inevitable!
On my bike I feel much more closely connected with my environment, immersed in it and part of it and, because I move at a slower speed than a car, much better able to notice things. Although the railway station is pretty busy each evening (even more so now that the city where I work is hosting some Olympic sports) it is also vibrant. I love the variety of people that I see and sometimes chat to and you really don't get that experience in the car.
For all that, I'm not anti-car at all. We have one for the family and until recently owned two. I sold my old Peugeot (complete with 175,000 miles on the clock) recently as I had not driven it in months and it was going to cost too much to get through the annual MOT test. A faithful old thing but too costly and unused so it had to go. A family car is a necessity for my wife as we live a distance away from down and I'd have had a tough time towing our trailer tent on holiday behind the Dahon!
Cars certainly have their place but as a society we've just become too dependant on them. Jumping in the car has, for most, become the default position and journeys that could be accomplished by another means become just another road-clogging car trip.
I'd love to see more people out on their bikes and using public transport to get to work. Pricing and services (which I don't find too bad personally) will only get better when volume of use goes up. In our privatised world, it's all about supply and demand.
I did enjoy a bit of a physical rest yesterday but I won't be making too much of a habit of car commuting. Been there, done that, had the blood pressure and growing waistline to prove it. So despite being tired at the end of the week, I was very happy to jump back on my bike this morning and head off down the lane to work.