By Sarah Fox
This January I decided to start the New Year by trying out sustainable travel. In a month rife with New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, save money and generally look after yourself and the world around you a little more, I decided that this was my chance to give sustainable transport a go.
The benefits are easy to see; certain travel options were cheaper if not free, I could improve my fitness and by not taking my car to work I was helping to cut back on greenhouse emissions. Even better, research has shown that walking to work improves happiness and wellbeing, cycling can burn up to 600 calories in an hour and taking the bus helps to reduce CO2 levels.
So what did I do? On my first week back to work I tried a different method each day, starting with the bus (my usual way to get to work), followed by walking and then cycling to work. Car sharing was my final sustainable transport option but I chose not to try this as I live less than three miles from work and tracking down people to car share with over such a short journey was difficult.
Day One: Bus
As Mondays go, the first day back to work after the Christmas break was always going to be tough.
Add in that it is lashing with rain and pitch black when I leave the house and the setting is a little bit grim.
But luckily for me the bus stop to my local Metro service is a minute’s walk from my house. According to the timetable there is a service roughly every ten minutes.
Unfortunately I have just missed a bus but in what felt like no time the 8:05 double decker came along. I get a seat and the journey takes twenty minutes and drops me off one street away from my office. Quick and easy!
On the way home I have a slightly different experience. The 17:50 bus is a few minutes late but the traffic is horrendous. Due to a serious road collision in the area, traffic is bumper to bumper and through no fault of the bus, it takes me 35 minutes to get home, nearly twice as long as my journey in.
Verdict: Overall I quite liked taking the bus. It was nice to be able to read or flick through emails on the way in to and home from work. The traffic on the way home was frustrating though and I was tempted to get out and walk. Because I used a smart card to pay for both of my journeys, I saved myself a bit of money as well, with my total cost being £2.40.
Day Two: Walking
Tuesday brings another wet morning but after wrapping up in my coat, hat and scarf I am ready to go. The walk in takes me about 35 minutes that sees me mostly walking along the main roads.
Other than the rain it’s lovely to stretch my legs and get a bit of fresh air and I arrive in the office feeling fresh and ready.
The walk home is dry thankfully and again it takes me around 35-40 minutes, walking at a leisurely pace. I feel much more alert by the time I get home than if I had taken the bus.
Verdict: Walking to work was definitely the slowest way to travel although I did arrive feeling more awake and alert than usual. Getting 30 – 40 minutes of exercise by walking to work is a massive bonus and it’s free! I did swap my work shoes for trainers but other than that the only thing I think you really need to walk to work is a good umbrella.
Day Three: Cycling
I was really looking forward to cycling to work and with the lend of a standard road bike and a helmet, I was ready to go.
It took me about twenty minutes to cycle to work and that included me stopping for a few pictures on the way. I left my house at 8:09, cycled through a local park, along two different cycle paths and over the cycling bridge at the Titanic Quarter to be in my office for 8:30 on the button.
Cycling blew the cobwebs out of me on the way to work and I arrived feeling fresh and alert. Luckily the weather was dry and because I had cycled at my own pace I wasn’t sweaty – always a concern for those in office jobs with no access to showers.
After checking all my lights were on and swapping into a pair of flat shoes (I have and can cycle in certain pairs of heels although I prefer flats) I was ready to go. My cycle home took me just under twenty minutes as I pushed myself a little faster and again I arrived feeling a lot more lively than if I had taken the bus. I definitely wasn’t cold either.
Verdict: Cycling was a fun way to get to and from work which didn’t feel like a commute. It was the most reliably quick way to get to work, as well as having the added bonus of providing me with a daily bout of exercise and getting me some fresh air. The weather can be a concern for some people but UK cyclists have a 97% chance of staying dry on their cycle to work and luckily I was one of them.
It’s also worth saying that I passed seven other cyclists on my cycle in to work and even more on the way home.
If you fancy giving sustainable travel a go, why not check out nidirect.gov.uk/travelwiseni for more information on all the methods of transport, or take a look at facebook.com/travelwiseni. Let us know how you get on!