Alternative travel

I was sent this from a friend who is also deaf and blind, enjoy.

Kayaks, Unicycles and Rickshaws – July 15, 2008
By Andrew Shanahan – The Guardian

Why travel to work like a sardine squashed into a tin?
Andrew Shanahan meets the commuters who have ditched trains, buses and
cars for less conventional transport
Bill Corr, Software Engineer
When my wife decided to start working again, it seemed like we’d need
to get another car to get the kids to school. We really didn’t want to
because I work at home [but do the school run] and it just seemed like
a waste, so we explored alternatives and I found this rickshaw on the
internet. I showed it to my wife and I thought she was going to say,
“Don’t be stupid!” but she said, “That looks really cool!” which
flabbergasted me. So that set the idea in motion.
We were very dubious about whether it would be feasible because it’s
very hilly in this part of Devon, which is why we chose a motorised
rickshaw, to give me some help pedaling a full load of about 200kg up
a 1:4 hill! It cost us about £5,000, which was pretty expensive but
they have a very high resale value. When it arrived in February it was
quite cold and rainy and I thought that might put the children off it,
but they absolutely love it, and it gets a very favourable reaction
from most people.
On the school run there’s quite a long hill where you have to park
your car at the bottom and walk up. I’ve lost count of the number of
times I’ve given other kids a ride up the hill and then given a load
of mums a lift back down. It’s designed for three adults but you can
get six kids in it.
I definitely think people should look for alternative ways of doing
their current commute. It does make me laugh that people drive a few
miles to work, drive home and then drive to the gym. Why don’t they
just cycle to work? People are stuck in the mentality that a car is
what takes you to work and back.
I have always lived outside of that car-loving mentality simply
because I adore cycling. The other thing we’ve found is that commuting
can be fun. If I’d only bought the rickshaw because of the
environmental benefits and the children hated it, we would have spent
a fortune to make the children miserable. Fortunately, it’s a scream,
it’s cheap to run and I can be smug about the fuel prices rising!
Chris Dawes, Chief flying instructor
On an average day it takes me about 15 minutes to fly the microlight
to work. It would take me about an hour and 20 minutes if I was
driving a car to work, so it makes sense. In the summer I may start
teaching very early and not finish until late – and the last thing I
want to do is get in a car for a long journey home. Flying is quicker
and definitely more enjoyable.
I take off from a field outside my house – for a microlight all you
need is about 150 metres of field to get airborne. So I get to the
field, kick the tyres and get in. As I climb away I take a bearing
straight for an old stone circle. I fly at about 3,000 feet at about
80 knots and there’s even a heater in the microlight – it has all the
mod cons. I don’t listen to the radio because when I’m commuting it’s
nice just to have time for myself without interruptions. Quite often
when I’m flying along I’ll see a traffic jam tailing back on the
motorway – and I always make sure I wave.
The flight is beautiful. In the morning you get a lovely light
slanting across the land far below you, and in the evening when I’m
getting home late the light comes from another angle and makes
everything look different again. People are always surprised by how
close you get to the birds when you’re flying. I see a lot of kites
and buzzards on the way to work.
I’d definitely recommend it as a form of commuting, although it takes
a minimum of 25 hours to get a national private pilot’s licence. What
most people do to get started is buy a share in a microlight. Then you
just pay for it by the hour for the fuel they’re using. You can get
shares in a really good microlight for between £4,000 and £10,000 and
you’re away.
Barry Gates, Computer consultant
I’ve been riding a unicycle to work for four or five years. I take a
car to the station with the unicycle in the boot, then an intercity
into Paddington and then I unicycle to London Bridge. The route’s
quite nice because it takes you into Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace
in front of the guards and into Westminster Square, across the bridge
and past the National Film Theatre and to my office on the river.
There are several reasons why I do it: on a practical level it takes
the same amount of time as the tube – and I’m a unicycle hockey player
in my spare time, so this is a great way of keeping fit for that.
I think there is also an element that it’s a bit quirky, which I
suppose I enjoy. The unicycle is a big 36in wheel and the saddle comes
up to your armpit, so when you’re riding it you’re very tall . Perhaps
I have delusions of grandeur that I’m taller than everyone else when
I’m riding it! It’s also quite a relaxed start to the day because I
weave in and out of pedestrians and the cars don’t give me any hassle.
The reaction from other commuters is really good. Occasionally people
say that you’ve made their day and wave but then other days you might
get attacked! Most people are very accepting and think it’s a bit of a
laugh – and you get dialogue with regular commuters. At the office
people are used to it now, although there’s a lot of Indian offshore
workers in the building and I think they find it very bizarre.
It only costs a couple of hundred quid to get a unicycle and they are
very robust. Having said that I wouldn’t say it was a particularly
safe form of transport. You need a lot of practice to get the
confidence to go on a road. On a standard 20in unicycle you could
probably get to go in a straight line in a week and get to be a
confident rider in about two or three weeks. To get up to a bigger
unicycle is probably about six months. The good thing about that
though is that it means the unicycle is pretty safe from thieves – I
think most self-respecting criminals would get laughed out of town
just trying to mount it, let alone make a quick getaway!
Ricardo Assis Rosa, Assistant architect
I started kayaking to work because I’m lucky to have a garden that
backs on to the river in Bath and the office is only about 80 yards
from the river. Also I have a terrible travel bug and I feel a need to
be moving all the time – this is a way of working in an office but
keeping this part of me happy because it makes it feel like I’m on a
journey or on a holiday every day. I don’t think it’s strange,
especially if you think that 100 years ago the river would have been
one of the main access points into Bath, so it’s just revisiting that
idea that a river can be used for commercial transport.
At work they think it’s great, we have a very environmental focus in
the office and this is just another way of putting those beliefs into
action. I think one of the key things about being aware of green
issues is to actually spend time with nature – with trees and rain and
the river – which makes us much more aware of why we make
environmental decisions.
From a practical point of view there aren’t many problems. When I
kayak, I have my work clothes in a rucksack; fortunately we have a
casual office so I don’t need to crumple a suit. Then I put my phone
and wallet in a Tupperware container to keep them dry if I capsize,
and my lunch in another Tuppperware box. The worst thing is that the
swans can be very territorial, especially during the mating season,
but I take some bread and pay my toll and they’re fine.
It’s funny but there’s one bridge I kayak under where I always see
people stuck in their cars. You look at them and you know that some of
them don’t even know they’re on a bridge and that this beautiful river
is right under their noses. But you do see people peering down
sometimes – and we look at each other and realise that we’re both on
our way to work.

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