Freedom: Two wheels are better than four

,Recently I have been spending a really big chunk of my spare time on learning to drive. I passed my test this week so I’m looking forward to having my free time back. I expect most people think now I can drive I should get a car, but that’s not a massive priority for me, really. I’m a cyclist at heart, so what I’m really looking forward to is getting back on my bike and commuting and playing on two wheels again.

Pencarrow Lighthouse

I love the freedom that comes with my bike. I love that it gets me places quickly and means I’m exercising my heart and brain at the same time (double tick). Plus there’s the reality that comes with the bike. It means I’m outdoors and really feeling what’s going on around me. I love beating gravity on the hills, especially here in Aotearoa: amazing heart and lung workouts on the up-hills. I love how beautiful the earth smells after the rain on a hot day, or when the mist is rising on a damp morning. I love how sweet the first warm days of spring are as I cycle to work, or how beautiful and warm home feels when I’ve got back after a cold, dark, wet ride home in winter. There’s things you don’t experience when you’re driving that you do on a bike, yes, yes, the weather, but invest in some good waterproofs and that’s no issue at all.

There’s been two times in my life when I haven’t had a bike.The first was when my daughter was born. I cycled all through my pregnancy, right up to when my waters broke. But when my darling daughter was a tiny baby, I had to wait for her to grow until we could go out on the bike together. I remember the day when she was finally able to sit upright, in her bike seat, with her tiny little bike helmet on. As soon as she could do that we were out in the woods, up the moors exploring, breathing in the sun, rain, and occasional hail storms, and visiting friends. I also walked a lot with my daughter, heaps of my most beloved times with her have been outdoors, seeing her face in the sunlight, sat amongst the buttercups, practising cartwheels on the fairy hill, the utterly beautiful time she spotted deer when we cycled out to Plym Bridge, her face was just so alive. The other time I was bike-less was when I first moved to Wellington. That was so hard on so many levels: then I felt a lack of freedom for sure. One of the first things I bought, when I finally had a job here, was a bike.

Still, living here in New Zealand is different. Everything is so much more spread out than in the UK. When I lived in Wellington, I didn’t really notice; I could cycle anywhere as quickly, or quicker, than the buses, but the buses were pretty good too (except for the number 23!). And the cycling was fun. Racing the buses in Newtown, going through the Basin Reserve on a frosty morning, cycling along the waterfront to the train station, or cycling along Alexandra Road, and down through the hobbitty trees to Majoribanks Street, as a morning commute: Utterly beautiful. (And I am weird; I do love the uphill as much as the downhill, which is good in this country!) But once I moved out to Lower Hutt, I realised just how spread out everything is. Here, in the massive valley, everything takes longer by both bike and public transport, and you can forget walking anywhere, it is just impractical. That’s what inspired me to learn to drive.

But still, even though I will get a car, I will carry on cycling as my first love. And, I hope I still chose to use my feet (or bike) when it is just a ten minute walk to the gym, shops or library, and I want to remember that people are actually pretty good and that it’s fine to walk home in the dark, or wait at the train station at night. But I am looking forward to getting a bike rack, exploring more trails, and doing some road trips with my friends. If this corner of Aotearoa is anything to go by, that’ll be awesome.

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