Thursday 10 January 2013

The Road Less Travelled

Below is a map extract showing my route from home to our local Waitrose – well, this is Haslemere, after all, and we do have a Tesco too, and a Co-op, but the Big W is the one at the toney end of town. 

View Waitrose in a larger map

The distance is about 2 kilometres, and I can do this on my bike in about 10 minutes, which might sound quite a lot but the terrain is quite undulating and you always lose more time going uphill than you can recover going downhill.   In my car, it would probably take less than 5 minutes but by the time I have circled the car park looking for a space, walked to the ticket machine, walked back and placed it in the windscreen, and then walked to Waitrose, it will probably have taken me 15.

So, not only can I feel virtuous (sanctimonious?) about travelling sustainably and reducing congestion and pollution, I am smug in the knowledge that I have multi-tasked, and got some exercise at the same time as running an errand, saved 80p on parking (but still got that knocked off my bill at Waitrose, because they just assume you must have parked a car) and it hasn't even taken any longer. 

I can carry a remarkable amount of shopping in the two Basil baskets  I hang off the rear rack – a man of my age needs a step-through frame to make this possible, as the usual motion of swinging your leg around behind the saddle to mount a standard man’s frame is tricky with the baskets in the way, and lifting my leg over the top tube is beyond me these days – and in any case if you buy any more from Waitrose you will probably need to visit a mortgage adviser first.  Certainly ingredients for two family meals, a few luxuries and the newspaper  - a normal day’s shopping in other words – is entirely possible.

The other delights of the town centre are just another 100 metres or so further on, with the Post Office and a pizzeria further along West St, and "Hemingways" independent barista, Boots, the local independent newsagents  in the High Street.
There are a few Sheffield stands around to lock up to, and some plantloks outside Waitrose, so I am adequately served as long as not too many of my neighbours get the same idea.

Haslemere's public cycle parking - all of it. Not that it gets much
busier than this
Half of Waitrose's cycle parking - two Plantloks.  Usually only
slightly busier, although the Plantloks are also handy for tethering dogs

Which is the problem really.  As a bicycle visitor to my town centre I am generally quite alone, which is no surprise as Haslemere is radically different from my childhood home Gosport, in that it is more highly car-dependent and really makes little effort to appeal to people on bicycles.  It doesn't have to be this way. As you can see the whole area is mainly a patchwork of lightly-used streets and lanes, with relatively little in the way of major roads - the coloured ones on the map - and while the terrain just to the south is fairly steep, to the north of the centre is entirely manageable on a decent hybrid.   What can be done?

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