Did you just bike here?
A question I get to hear almost every day and it still amuses me how biking is somewhat unusual here in New Zealand. Well, not unusual in terms of sports, but more so when it comes to every day situations like the “going to the supermarket” kind of biking. I remember when first coming to New Zealand years ago. I was living in Auckland and within my first days of getting out and about, I kept asking where I could get a bicycle from. When I explained that I would like one to get to uni and do my grocery shopping, people shook their heads at me.
Growing up in a small village in Germany and living for quite some time in The Netherlands, riding a bike has always been part of my life. In The Netherlands probably even more so than anywhere else (considering there are more bikes than people in the country – roughly 22.5 million for the 17 million people living there…).
Yet, I soon understood that things were different in New Zealand, especially, Auckland. Besides the fact, that Auckland is quite hilly, the amount of traffic makes cycling quite a dangerous act. I tried to adapt and use the bus or walk instead, but when my job required me to be downtown super early in the morning – which means there is no bus going (and no point in paying ridiculous amount of dollars on parking) – I decided to just give it a go and bought a bicycle. What a great decision!
Ahhh how did I miss it I can tell you. It made is so much easier to get from one place to another in a busy city. I have to admit, people are right about the part that it is dangerous. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been knocked into by a car or bus – cycle lanes are not a standard and often you would have to share the bus lane. I have been lucky many many times and learned some good lessons.
Now that we live in a quieter region by the beach, it’s become a bit cruisier and feels more common to bike around. Though I still often get asked if I need a ride, which is lovely, of course, but to be honest I absolutely enjoy biking and it is my preferred option when possible. So being asked many times, I wanted to note down what it actually is about biking that makes it a remarkable thing to do:
- Flexibility: if you don’t have to go crazy distances, going by bike allows you to come and go whenever you want without having to worry about rush hour traffic or planning around the bus/train schedule.
- Freedom: sitting in the car, on the bus or train you can’t feel the wind in your hair, the sunshine on your face, the raindrops on your skin. I love this. I love how something simple as that makes me feel like I am exploring the world and get lost daydreaming. Plus it’s the perfect way to wind down after a full day of work and getting home with a fresh mind.
- Nature: when biking you don’t have to stick to the roads and can go off exploring some alternative routes through countryside and forest; along the beach, river, or lake; or take in the sunrise/sunset from a prime spot. Plus it is a great way of transport to get to the best hiking places if you don’t want to walk all the way.
- Awareness: it’s the same as with going for a walk – you can clearly hear the birds, the wind, you see things you can’t take in when driving by in your car. All of a sudden you recognize the flowers growing on the side of the road; you find yourself smiling at the children running down the street; and maybe even spot people you’ve never realized live close by.
- Exercise: even though I don’t see it as such, but of course, moving your body to places rather than being moved is such a great way of getting some exercise in a very gentle, natural way.
- Environmentally friendly: this is such a bones. Once you have a bike there is nothing else you need. No nasty exhaust and oil drops from vehicles. Of course, a car is a great option and often needed, but what about those shorter distances – is it necessary?
- FUN: yes, the most important aspect I would say. Whether going to work, to the supermarket, or going on a trip with friends and family. Biking is great fun alone or in a group! And you’d be surprised what amazing things you can get up to taking a backpack along.
If you haven’t already considered biking, I highly recommend giving it a go. If every day is not an option, plan in a fun trip out, or try swapping it with car/bus for short distance situations e.g. when popping out to grab some milk from the grocer, visiting your friend close by, going to the movies, picking up your morning coffee…I’m sure there are many more situations you can add to this here 🙂 I’d also love to hear from you and your biking stories. Feel free to comment below.
Have a safe ride!