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...

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Bicycles: episode 2

On Saturday 30th December I reported my stolen bike to the police at Parkside. The lost cycles department was closed, but I didn't reckon they'd have found it yet anyway. I was not awfully impressed by their "that's Cambridge for you" attitude to bicycle theft. After all, we've lived in Cambridge for five years and had no bicycle stolen from anywhere in the city. Until this one.

They gave me a piece of paper. But I'm not going to claim on the Insurance. It's not worth it. In fact it never is worth it, so I'm not sure why we bother to have insurance cover for cycles. Perhaps if I lost all seven cycles in one go it would be worth claiming something.

Then I went about my life for a few days, went to France, came home again etc etc. But as my return to Norwich approached I figured I'd better do something about it. There are three options: either I find my green bicycle or I replace it or I live without it. So far I'd been managing the third of these without too much difficulty, but there would be difficulties in continuing like that. The most pressing problem was that it had a crucial rear carrier which fits the briefcase that I carry to work. I have two bikes with that kind of carrier, one in Cambridge and one in Norwich (or rather, I no longer have one in Norwich, but used to). If I don't have a bike with that kind of carrier I can't take my briefcase to work, or not easily, and not in such a way as to keep my laptop very happy.

A trip to the police station to search the Found Bicycles department assured me that the first option was not realistic. I also tried a brief survey of Midsummer Common, and realised that it was quite likely that my favourite bike is somewhere in the river Cam. It's a pity (if that was all they wanted it for) that they didn't take Horrible Pink Bike. But they wouldn't would they?

Let's face it. I'm not very likely to recover that lovely green bike, wherever it now is.

Tuesday morning focused the mind, and I decided to go to the bike shop on King Street to see if I could get another bike of the same sort. This is what I got: same style, thin wheels, hybrid frame, straight handle bars, derailleur gears, but this one has ten speeds whereas the old one had five. This one was £55 second hand. The old one was second hand from a shop on the Cowley Road in Oxford in 1999. I paid £69 for it in 1999.

Of course, £55 is not the end of the story. It needs a basket, and brackets for lights (the old one had a fine dynamo, in good working order; but this time I buy brackets that will fit the battery lights I've now got for my Cambridge bike: this might be another topic for later). I decide that the rear carrier appears to be compatible with my brief case, so I won't need a new one. All this will need a visit to my preferred bike shop, Kingsway Motorcycles, who will supply the kind of wicker basket I like, and brackets to match the lights I have already. I deposit the new bike to have these done. Kingsway Cycles (unlike Station Cycles and Pedal Revolution) never send you away saying they're not taking in any work now.

Meanwhile I go to Norwich and try to survive a week riding the Black Mountain Bike every day. I can't think how people can bear these things. It's a bit better since the professor fitted some smoother tyres last time he was in Norwich, so there's a bit less drag on the road, but the posture is most odd and it's very hard work to ride. I keep it in Norwich partly as a spare (in case of emergency) and partly to help with snowy conditions in the winter, because then the strong friction on the road is helpful. It has fifteen gears (just as well, given how hard work it is going up the hills). One very stormy day with strong westerly winds I take to the bus instead, since I got very wet the previous day and I'm hatching a bit of a cough.

Home again at the weekend, I collect my new second hand bike with its new fittings, at a cost of £49 (most of which is for the splendid wicker basket).

Wicker baskets are a lot better than wire ones, because things don't fall through all the time as they do with the wire ones. You can even carry your keys in a wicker basket. Thankfully, the newly fitted bike survives in our back garden till Monday. The plan is to take it to Norwich on Monday morning.

But remember, we still have the Spiffy Bike locked up at the station (I've been checking it's still there each time). It's been there for three weeks. To sort out the logistics of that I should have taken the new bike to the station on Sunday and ridden the Spiffy Bike home, but I forgot to do that. Never mind, we'll sort it later.

End of episode 2.

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