You don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone.

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone.

Amen. Joni Mithell speaks the truth.

18 months ago, we moved factories and the company’s activities migrated North. Not far North admittedly (17 miles), but North nonetheless. We moved to a valley of high sides and hilltops and wooded splendour. All fantastic as a lunchtime/summer evening playground, but a bit of a showtopper as far as my commute was involved. The new cycle route either takes around 1hr 45 through some serious hills and mud (fun, but not conducive to childcare or presenting in front of staff) or about 1 hour through some beautiful but very twisty and turny country lanes. I have no desire to meet a speeding, bleary eyed commuter at 8am in the morning as they choose the wrong bend to accelerate around. In short, it’s driving and carpooling save for the occasional mountain bike hoorah in fine weather.

So yesterday, I was headed along the Taff Trail, bound South for a training course, I was reminded of all those things I miss so dearly:

The transition from commuter choked road to free flowing path.

  • Sound of birds chattering in hedges, shrubs, tree canopies.
  • Mist difting off a mercury river Taff.
  • Dog walkers. Yes. Dog walkers. I take the time to say hello. Reach out. Smile.
  • Sunlight embracing the fields.
  • Putting infrastructure to good use. These things took campaigning and energy to achieve, significant expenditure to realise.
  • Arriving at my destination, happy.
  • Returning as the city unwinds.

For those of you who enjoy this amenity – or others like it – embrace it, love it, enjoy it, because believe me the alternative – car/traffic/stuttering progress/combative drivers/inactivity/hassle – is no real alternative at all. I spend between 25 and 50 mins (each way, traffic dependent) like I’ve been fired from a bazooka; headed to target as soon as possible with little or no engagement with the environs at all (apart from polluting it). I see nothing en-route. Nothing. Or rather I pass everything, but can concentrate on nothing more than the tailgate in front.  And those things can’t sing.


8 replies »

  1. In your place, I would either move house or change job. I’ve been in your place before and done both. Don’t let work dictate your lifestyle choices!

    • We’ll see! There are some compensations, most notably my lunchtime fell runs and in the summer, an extended mountain bike – traffic free – ride home. The simplicity of my former commute however, is greatly missed.

  2. Hello, thanks for a lovely article. It’s sad that even smaller roads, where in a way cycling should be better, aren’t safe enough for your journey in. Do you think something like an e-bike would help or is it mainly the drivers that make the road route (as well as the distance) so off-putting?

    • Thank you 🙂

      The roads I’m referring to are a narrow, hilly, windy, rat run. I know them very well also – they have a different personality on the weekend and I ride them regularly. So it’s the drivers and amount of time required that is offputting (I’ve a daughter to drop off at school for 8.55 or pick up from after school club).

      The new venue does have an updside though; the hills above are a gorgeous lunch time diversion.

    • Not a bad compromise Gary. One of my complications is the school run (I’m obligated to one bit of it) and my start time. Cycling is by no means impossible, just difficult to plan around with my other commitments (and I’m not a person to stopped easily!). So far I’ve enjoyed cycling to convenient spot for a willing car pooler; again, school run and working hours (for both people) permitting.

  3. I feel like this after a week of not getting my slightly longer commute to work (takes about 80 minutes)

    Fortunately I have usually managed the combination wherever we lived
    – a wife who has accepted that I will go missing in the morning a certain number of days a week
    – employers who accept that I will appear by bike some days and offered showers
    – the ability to get home by train+bike so I am home for family time in the evening

    I didn’t have a minor roads route all the time but to be honest compared to not riding the traffic is an acceptable price – no serious accidents in 33 years of commuting – only a dooring in Cardiff and a stupid fall due to my overconfidence on a country descent in Belgium.

    • The train would be real option Kevin, but sadly it runs once per hour and takes around an hour in journey time. I looked at every possible option when we moved factory and the only one that hits the sweet spot of school run/start time/end time is driving and carpooling when available. Things will get a bit easier when my daughter goes to high school and I can then consider the longer MTB route.

      Just to assure anyone reading this article, I did not give up the bike lightly. In fact, I haven’t given it up at all, I’ve just had to be more inventive in its application and miss out the nailed on regularity of of my former – and rather lovely – commute.

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