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Buses and bycicles

September 27, 2010

An article published on the BBC news channel claims that “the average commuter spends 139 hours a year travelling to and from work”. Discounting holidays, that represents almost 3 hours per week. I suddenly feel very sorry for myself, as I spend about two and a half hours getting from home to work and back every day! But my own miseries and self-pity left aside, I wondered – how do people spend those precious hours?

London is definitely not a good place for the avid car aficionado. Lack of parking spots, expensive congestion charges, and LOTS of traffic make commuting by car an expensive, tiresome and overall dreadful experience. And then we’re not even talking about environmental issues yet. Even for those who love their car more than their new born baby, working in Central London, you’re better off looking for alternatives.

A popular option is rail transport: tube and train. These are usually extremely crowded, and I always feel like a country-girl as soon as I set foot in the stations, getting stressed and wound up simply from the amount of people crawling around. For some reason, when I’m in there I can’t stop thinking of ant colonies.

I usually take the bus myself, as I live in one of those far far away neighbourhoods where even the nearest tube station is a bus ride away. To pray every day no road works are taking place is part of the ritual. The bus does take quite a while even without the road works, but on the other hand, I can usually sit back and relax with my book, until the bus drops me off at the door of the workplace.

But overall, the winner of my best-way-to-get-to-work-award, by far, is the bicycle. Surprisingly, I don’t see many people using them to come to our conference venues. Has to be said I don’t have one myself – I consider my house way too far and the London climate way too cold – but I truly admire those who do cycle to work every day. It is a marvellous invention: one doesn’t pollute the environment, bikes are very cheap to buy, maintenance is close to zero, it’s entertaining and on top of all you get in shape!

But as all good things, even cycling has a downside. A BIG downside. It makes you sweat. Can you imagine sitting in a cosy conference room, all day long, next to a very admirable but oh so sweaty colleague? Hmm, ok, I admit… I am suddenly very happy I don’t see more delegates arriving in their cycling gear. But here goes an idea for the local councils: installing public showers and changing rooms next to the Boris Bike stations might just be what our London Cycling Scheme needs!

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