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My One Thing...

By Ailsa

One thing I have been doing to help the planet is to not use my car to commute to work. Since 2013 I have been cycling around the borough for work (prior to that I worked around the corner and just walked). I am not naturally very fit and I’m not very good at cycling. I have even been overtaken by pensioners on their bikes. I stop at traffic lights – partly because I am law abiding but mostly because I need the break (I sometimes even pray for a red as I approach). I get off and push if a hill is too steep.

riding a bike with an umbrella

When the borough decided to have a campaign and close off some roads to encourage less unnecessary car journeys, it caused a lot of division. People were angry because their journeys were taking longer and some roads were more blocked than usual. I would sometimes go into a shop carrying my cycling helmet and get the occasional comment about being to blame for all the chaos. It made me feel a bit sad that people thought this way because, if anything, I was one less car in their traffic jam.

I think the petrol lobby has worked incredibly hard over the last 60 years or so to make people believe that owning and driving a car is a human right. I understand people feeling disgruntled when driving becomes less convenient – the media is geared up (pardon the pun) to tell us we deserve the smoothest ride in the biggest car. When I was growing up, it was very unusual for a family to have more than one car. (In our street it was Pete the taxi man who had more than one – but that’s because he was a taxi man.) Cars are filling our streets now and there has to be a saturation point. I fear we’ve already passed it.

For 8 years I worked in the children’s ward at Whipps Cross. Seeing children admitted with asthmatic symptoms only increased my resolve to avoid adding to the pollution that would be contributing to it.

Now I work down near Stratford. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling a bit lousy with a cold. As I got on my bike to come home from work, the back tyre was flat. I miserably walked to the bus stop (because I am not only a rubbish cyclist but don’t know the first thing about maintenance). I got on the bus and closed my eyes and listened to a podcast while someone else drove me home. I got my bike fixed a few days later but the bus journeys had been the break I needed from cycling while I recovered from my cold. I decided to continue to travel that way for a while.

It would be very easy for me to drive to work but this is a decision I’ve made – to be one less car in the traffic jam, one less emission of whatever cars emit, one less impatient honk.

That’s my one thing.

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