Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Bicycles: episode 1

I have approximately something like six or seven bikes, depending on whether I'll ever see my favourite green bike again.

Just before Christmas, my favourite green bicycle, the one that I used to ride most of the time in Norwich, had a flat tyre. So I brought it home to Cambridge for the Christmas vacation, thinking that I would take it to Cambridge Station Cycles to have the puncture mended. That would have been convenient, because you get off the train at Cambridge station, take the bike to the menders, leave it there to be mended, go back and find your normal bike where you left it before you went away and ride home. Then, when you want to take the bike back to Norwich you ride to the station on your Cambridge bike, lock it up in the racks there, go to the cycle shop, pick up your Norwich bicycle and pay for the repair, and then take it back to Norwich on the train. That's a lot simpler than trying to get to one of the Norwich bike shops with a dead bike (and then get back without a bike at all).

Unfortunately the plan didn't work exactly. I arrived in Cambridge a bit too late. It's true that the station cycles work excellent long hours, and oftentimes they are open. But because I'd had to walk to the station in Norwich I was a bit late and I didn't get back before 8 pm. So when I got to Cambridge the shop was closed. Failure of the first part of the plan.

So I locked up my Norwich bicycle at the station, unlocked my Cambridge bicycle and rode home.

Now this was just before Christmas, as I said, and life was very busy. Off and on I remembered my bicycle still left at the station, but most of the time I forgot it. Eventually, on Saturday before Christmas, I remembered it at a time when I could do something about it, so (on my way to somewhere else) I rode to the station on my Cambridge bicycle, intending to unlock the bike and take it to the cycle shop. But alas, when I got to the station I realised that I hadn't brought the key (which I keep on my Norwich key ring) with which to unlock my Norwich bicycle. So I couldn't take the bike to the bike shop, after all. Of course, I could have taken it there still locked up but I don't think the cycle shop would have been willing to mend a puncture with the wheel still locked to the frame. Actually, there's an interesting question as to whether they would have mended the puncture at all. Many bike shops just replace the tube instead, and since the station cycles became large and busy I'm not sure they still do real work.

Well, what I did do while at the station was look at the shop opening hours. The shop announced that it was to be open on Sunday, Christmas Eve, from 10 till 4. But then it was to be closed from the 25th December to the 2nd January. Was I going to return on Sunday to take my bike in? Chances were they'd say "Don't bring it now: we don't want it until 2nd January". No, I thought, that was going to be quite likely a wasted trip.

Instead I decided to leave my bike there, and fetch it sometime over Christmas, take it home and my husband (whose main role in life, besides baking the bread and being a professor, is mending bicycle punctures) would mend it in the kitchen (or in the garden if the weather was warm). The disadvantage of this was that I'd have to walk home with it from the station. That takes about 20 minutes. But a walk at Christmas time is sometimes a good thing.

So that was what I did. On the 27th December I rode to the station on bike number 3 (Spiffy Bike: I'll give you more details on the list of bikes in a later post). Locked up Spiffy Bike at the station, unlocked Norwich bicycle (I'd remembered the key this time) and walked it home. Later that day the professor mended its puncture. Then we left it in the back garden along with four other bikes (two of mine, one belonging to Annie and one belonging to the professor). The lock was in the basket.

Two days later the bike disappeared from our back garden without warning (apparently while we, and three of the other four bicycles, were out with the family for a meal on my birthday). This is odd because we have lived in Cambridge for five years, and always left the garden full of bikes, all of them unlocked. There's never been any evidence of bike thieves in the area before, as far as I'm aware. And it's such a shame they took it after the professor had gone to the trouble of mending the puncture (though fortunately I'd decided to wait till after the winter before replacing the chain and block which were very worn and giving trouble).

So by this stage we had the Spiffy bike still locked up at the station, and nothing to take back to Norwich.

End of episode 1.

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