The type of work we do often feels very seasonal. There are times of the year when I spend hours writing while at other times of the year I am forever trapped in meetings and at others elbow deep in oil seems to be the routine of every day. Right now it feels like we’re in meetings season and I'm no fan of it. Last Wednesday I had a meeting with four other people. We’re all busy so we’d agreed to meet at a good central location share lunch and plan while we eat. Few proposals could have been more simple; or so we thought.
With a little advanced planning it takes me twenty five minutes to cycle from my home to the centre of town. The meeting was due to start at 12 noon prompt. I’d been slightly distracted by my research for our Tour De France blog series and so I left home bang on 11:35am.
I arrived at our agreed venue, locked my bike up some 15 metres away from our agreed meeting venue, and headed for the front doors only to find none of the other attendees were anywhere to be seen.
Had I got the wrong time, wrong date, wrong venue? I’ll be honest; it wouldn’t exactly be the first time!
I pull out my phone and check the calendar.
The date is correct, the venue is correct, even the time is correct.
Confused I stand and wait.
It is possible that Armageddon has struck and I’ve been left behind, that does however seem unlikely; I know the guy behind the bar and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t still be here.
12:10 and one of our party arrives, looking hot, stressed and disheveled.
“Hey Andi, sorry I’m late. . . how did you get here?”
“Wow you’re brave!”
Between 12:15 and 12:35 two more of our party arrive.
“Hey Andi have you been here long?”
“mmmmm, half an hour or so. . .”
“Really sorry we’re late”
“How did you get here?”
“Wow you’re fit!”
A further ten minutes of our meeting is taken up with stress comparisons, rants about excessive parking charges and the berating of a bus service which is endemically late, over priced, hot, crowded and generally unpleasant. 12:40 and the final member of our party rings to ask if any of us have change she can use for the parking meter (£2:30 for half an hour).
The temperature of my fellow delegates cools, sweat is wiped from their respective brows' and our minds slowly focus on the business in hand.
45 minutes of our allocated time have been wasted, but here’s the odd thing.
Whenever my traveling to and from our meeting by bike is mentioned it is greeted with curiosity if not out right amazement. So much so that I begin to wonder if I did in fact travel by bike or if I trekked six days across the Himalayan mountains fighting with wild beasts, circumnavigating plagues of insects every inch of the way and did the whole thing bare foot. The bewildered greeting of my friends fails to make any sense of what has actually happened.
My fellow commuters have spent their hard earned money on extortionate parking fees, they have burnt up huge amounts of stress fueled adrenaline competing from their hot and sticky cars for every spare inch of congested road space having left their workplace with no real idea when they would arrive at our meeting or will indeed arrive back at their respective placeas of work (See Steven Polzin's blog article on Wasted time).
As the meeting ends I roll up my trouser leg, throw my bag over my shoulder, stroll 15 meters to my bike and pedal a predicable 25 minutes back to the desk. I am of course not only ‘odd’ but apparently ‘missing out’ on the fully modern life experience.
I am not particularly fit, my heart probably could not cope with the stress of congestion and parking. I pay no gym membership but I have to admit that I do feel great.
"Cycling is one of the most effective treatements for stress"
Neil Sah, Director of Stress Management Society
I am of course failing in my duty as a citizen and do not contribute to the ever excessive parking fees inflicted upon my fellow citizens.
I feel a slight sense of shame that I am insufficiently generous to spend any more than is absolutely necessary on crippling insurance costs, road tax and the constant maintenance of a car.
"The average UK driver spends £3,500 per anum keeping a car on the road"
I am not brave enough to contend with an excess of traffic in a congested space when I can do two thirds of my route on a cycle path.
So while my fellow delegates stand in awe of my cycling I wince with embarrasment. The truth is I don't have what it takes to travel any other way.
Tell us why you cycle and the difference it makes to your well being.