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Blog: Should I replace my car with a bike?

Woman riding a bikeIn part two of her blog on living without a car, motoring journalist Maria McCarthy rediscovers her bicycle. Will the bike become her permanent mode of transport? 

My first two weeks living without a car ended with a work trip to London by train.

But there was no easy 10-mile drive home for me.

As it was a Sunday there was no bus service, so I had to resort to a taxi which cost £20 – ouch.

I'd been using up my food supplies as I knew I was going away.

But that meant returning home to find only a bottle of wine, some yoghurt and a limp lettuce in the fridge.

The local shops were closed and without a car, doing a big supermarket shop wasn't an option.

So I got by on milk from the nearby petrol station and a supper of pasta and bottled pesto sauce.

Food shop 

The following day I cycled the couple of miles into town to buy groceries. 

The shops here are excellent value and we have award-winning butchers and fishmongers which it feels good to patronise.

Having said that, I don't particularly feel like hauling bulkier items like laundry liquid or loo rolls back in my basket.

Instead I decide to place an online supermarket order for those at a cost of £3 for delivery.

One of the positive sides of living without a car is that I'm rediscovering my relationship with my bike.

Two wheels

I bought it for £30, having followed up an advert in a newsagent's window. Although I've used it in the past, it's become far more part of my everyday life recently. 

I do love the flexibility of being a cyclist as there are plenty of free places to secure it and I don't have to worry about getting a parking ticket if I leave it there too long.

I'm planning on participating in National Bike Week,16-24 June, which has a range of fun rides and bike clinics throughout the UK.

However, even with public transport and a bike I have faced two travel challenges – one work and one social.

Transport woes

I needed to carry out an interview 40 miles away from home.

In my car, the trip would have taken an hour, but by public transport it involves two buses and a walk at either end. 

The overall journey took me two and a half hours – that's five hours travelling out of my working day rather than two.

Also, I'd been invited to a Jubilee street party 20 miles away. This time the journey was an hour and a half and two buses away, rather than a 30-minute drive.

This also meant I was limited in what I could offer towards the meal by the fact I'd have to carry it on the bus.

I ended up bringing grapes, biscuits for the cheese and after-dinner mints rather than being able to show off one of my signature dishes.

So far, my social life has involved friends from other towns visiting me, but I realised I couldn't try their patience any more.

So I offered to meet a friend for an after-work drink in her town which is 20 minutes away by bus – but we certainly couldn't make a night of it as the last bus back to my town was at 7.50pm.

Coping without a car

When I began my car-free month I genuinely wondered how I would cope. 

I am extremely fortunate in that I work from home, have good shops nearby, don't need to transport children or elderly relatives and am in good health.

But for many people managing without a car just isn't an option.

I've certainly found it challenging at times, but I've saved £106 so far by not running a car and having to pay for fuelcar insurance and other motoring costs.

And this saving takes into account the money I've spent on public transport as well.

However, I will be buying another car soon, as for work and social reasons it's too difficult to manage without one.

But I am glad to have rediscovered my bike and the pleasures of shopping locally – that's something I'll definitely keep up!

What do you think?

So, while Maria has discovered the joy of two wheels, she's going to go back to four, as she says living in a rural area, near Exeter, a car is necessary for work and social travel.

Whether you live in the city or the countryside, how do you find public transport in your area? 

If transport links were improved, do you think more Brits would opt for trains and buses over cars? 

We want to hear from you! Share your views on our messageboard below.


Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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