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Miscellaneous

Doing Something about the Climate Crisis isn’t Better than Nothing

I’m not even sure this is true any more

Recently, people often tell me that I should accept any progress that is being made towards sustainability. But I always push back on that. The climate crisis is now so dire that only huge, immediate change can give us any real hope of a future we can look forward to.

We know that we have to get emissions to zero as soon as possible, capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and deploy solar radiation management techniques. That’s what the latest science is saying. Switching to EV ownership, or slowly electrifying bus fleets over decades aren’t things I’m going to support. They’re arguably worse than doing nothing. Because when you don’t understand and consider the whole problem, and just take various measures that aren’t part of a joined-up strategy, you take your focus off of what must be done, and waste precious time as well. Two things we absolutely can’t afford.

Obviously I don’t want to actually do nothing. But if we took the time to understand the full scale of what we’re facing, society would be far more likely to come to the collective realisation that the entire system has to change.

The more I think about this, the more I realise how much of a problem it is. It applies to almost everything. From trying to build bike lanes when in reality the only thing we have time for is banning cars; to net zero carbon targets where planting forests that could later burn is seen as a solution. The entire system we have right now is just trying to present guaranteed future failure as a solution we should get behind.

It’s time we started talking about real solutions. The big solutions. Banning cars, banning domestic flights, cycling, public transport etc. The types of things that can have an impact now, when we really need it. Not in 30 years when it will be too late.

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Miscellaneous

Trapped

Back in the April-May 2020 full lockdown, I felt scared, but I never felt as trapped as I do now. Back then, there was a sense of community. People were taking the stay-at-home message seriously and when I did go out for my 30 minute exercise, people were wearing masks and generally showing some compassion for those around them.

Fast forward to the present and cases are still ridiculously high, we have the delta variant, the restrictions are totally gone, and everyone seems to think the pandemic is over. I haven’t been out on my bike for a couple of months now. I haven’t even left the house. During the Olympics, I did nothing else. I Just dived headfirst into sports all day, every day for 16 days. I didn’t even go outside to relax in the garden.

I still haven’t gone outside except for a few minutes today. I put the deck chair down, but then realised the neighbours (who haven’t taken covid seriously from the start) were sitting in their garden and the wind was blowing from their direction straight towards me. So I gave up and went inside. No way to relax when I’m imagining covid particles floating my way.

You might say that’s paranoid, and you’d probably be right to say that. But living in this country over the last year and a half has taught me to always assume the worst. Assume the pandemic will never end, assume there will be more and deadlier variants that spread easier and evade vaccines. Worry that I’d somehow contract the virus from our selfish neighbour through a garden hedge! It all sounds perfectly logical in this open-air nut house of 67 million.

At least if the roads were empty, as they would be if we took either the covid crisis or the climate crisis seriously (too much to ask of the Tories I know), I could get outside and ride my bike. It would still be unpleasant if all else stayed the same, but at least I would feel comfortable enough. If I lived in a modern country, maybe I could even dream of a nice, quiet bike lane into the countryside. You know, those ones the Dutch have literally everywhere you see a field in their country.

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Miscellaneous

How To Get Worthing Cycling Without Doing Anything

Worthing council is famous for being unwilling to do anything to encourage cycling (aside from literally encouraging it). This is a special post for the powers that be over there. The definitive guide for getting people cycling in Worthing for the lowest possible price: free.

1. Introduce bicycle hire (including electric bike option) with docks everywhere. The Donkey bikes are good but no where near enough.

2. Introduce car free weekends.

3. When people realise the town is better without cars, ban private cars all the time.

You’re welcome.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Build Bikes to Quality, not Price

I’ve written about cheap bikes before several times, but today I want to talk about why it makes no sense to build bikes down to a price which compromises quality.

A rusty old cheap bike in Worthing.

One of the reasons I love companies such as Riese & Muller is because they build the bikes they themselves want to ride. They use the best components they can find that will create the best bike possible, and whatever that amounts to, that’s the price you pay. That’s not to say you can’t make quality bikes for an affordable amount, but what people consider affordable needs to change.

For example, my Dutch bike from Batavus cost me about £600. For that amount of money, you get a workhorse of a bike that you can ride every day, and you don’t have to worry about it. Barely any maintenance is required and it’s the perfect short distance commuter for a flat area. You can get bikes that look similar for around half the price, and they come with derailleurs, lower quality metal components that will rust quickly, and things like tyres will be cheaper and more puncture prone.

You will be a slave to your local bike shop if you buy one of those type of imitation Dutch bikes, and you won’t enjoy your riding as much either. In the grand scheme of things, that extra £300 is not much, and most likely you will save yourself at least that amount because you probably won’t get punctures and you won’t need to replace drivetrain parts. I certainly haven’t done any maintenance on my Batavus in the 2 years I’ve owned it, and I’m not expecting to do much any time soon.

But beyond just the financial and ownership aspects, simply put, cheap bikes are not sustainable. The bike industry, and society would be so much better off if we increase the minimum cost of a bike significantly. You could still sell single speed bikes for less, because they’re so simple. But other types of bikes should really start at around that £600 mark if we’re going to have a sustainable cycling system.

It would also be very helpful for shops to have less cheap bikes coming back for parts and service. We have lost a lot of bike shops in the last several years and more quality bikes going out the door will help give these businesses a bit of extra breathing room to cope with the increased demand we need to see. It would also allow time to scale bike retail up to the kind of levels we see in The Netherlands and Denmark.

Eventually, we’ll get to where the Dutch are now. Average bike sale prices in The Netherlands are about 3 times higher than countries like the UK, and that’s no coincidence. It’s a result of treating bicycles as vehicles. The more respect is shown for cycling, the more money people spend on bikes. That’s the future we want, but we have to start by cutting out the unsustainable junk.