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Date: 30 June, 2005
'As a straphanger, I rely on the Internet for planning train journeys, even live departure boards.'
Get on your bike! Commuting that keeps you and the environment fit
The average commute in the UK is 45-60 minutes and can cause greater stress than fighter pilots going into battle.
Commuting causes stress, traffic congestion, pollution, and people on mobiles saying “I’m on the train” (well, d’oh! )
Most commuter journeys are by car. There are ways to reduce the impact on the environment and on our health.
Walking and running
Like cycling, walking or running to work, while only practical if you live within a certain distance, are the ultimate forms of environmental travel, using only your energy and a certain amount of shoe leather.
It’s important to make sure you have the right shoes, especially for running, and wear reflective clothing on dark mornings and nights.
This kind of commuting can leave you a little warm and sticky in the summer—if your employer doesn’t have a shower, thick baby wipes are a cheap, cheerful and pleasant way of keeping your colleagues talking to you!
Andrew Chapman has talked about National Bike Week on Surefish, and the health and tax advantages of cycle commuting. There can also be time advantages—cycling to work can sometimes be quicker than driving (and it’s certainly quicker than walking!)
My commute combines bikes and trains, and it’s far more sanity-saving than sitting in a stationary car on the York ring road. Sustrans and Greenways are good places to start for off road routes, and your local council may produce a cycle map of your town or city, and might even have a cycling officer (eg York).
Bikes on trains can be a bit more complicated (which is why I have separate bikes at each end of my journey). Different train companies have different rules, so it’s always worth booking ahead. Watch out that not all peak time services will carry bikes. But many congratulations to Virgin Trains for their great little bike ‘sheds’ on the new trains, next to the quiet coach.
I like travelling by train, and as I work in York, I do get to see the Flying Scotsman now and then. As a straphanger, I rely on the Internet for planning train journeys, even live departure boards. Planning ahead, like pre-booking or using season tickets, can save you masses of money and loads of time queuing, as well as having a few fringe benefits like first class and discounted travel.
Commuting by train can be stressful, but there are at least five reasons to be cheerful. However, if I hear the Crazy Frog ringtone one more time…
Buses are good for shorter journeys, and though they can take longer than trains or cars, they will usually get you closer to your destination, and work out cheaper. And even if they do take longer, why not make the most of your time? Read a book, knit, listen to music on a solar radio, or just people-watch.
Many bus companies have pioneered green (or at least greener) fuel. These include diesel made from natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells, biofuel, used cooking oil, even sheep’s urine (though here I am cheating a bit—it’s actually designed to cut down on emissions).
Coaches work out cheaper for longer journeys, and are another environmentally sound commute. Remember to build in extra time for your commute at busy periods because coaches are limited by traffic, or see if you can work flexibly.
If none of the other alternative work for you and you have to drive to work, to the shops, getting the kids to school, consider carpooling (sharing your car into work) every day, or even just one day a week. If it’s not as simple as just picking up a colleague on your way in, there are a number of websites designed to help you with planning:
See how Janet Powell got on with car sharing in an article for the BBC website (there was also a car to bike swap and a car to bus/train swap).
Good luck with changing your commuting habits—must remember to fix a puncture …before I go home
Suzanne Elvidge is Editor of eChurch Active--effective use of technology for the church.